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Preventing Burnout with Compassion Resilience

Self-care always feels like an assignment I know I'm going to fail.

Have you ever felt that way?

The good news is we can take care of ourselves in our everyday, ordinary moments.

Recently, I had the opportunity to Keynote at the Ninth Annual Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services Trauma-Informed Care Summit. In it, I talked about the different ways we can move from Empathic Distress (previously known as Compassion Fatigue) along the spectrum toward Compassion Resilience (brain and body connection).

Here are three simple ways I choose self-care in my ordinary moments in order to prevent burnout:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. I keep mine on my TV stand, and try to write in it everyday. I might read a previous entry if writing that day feels like too much.

  • Consider one way I used my gifts to making the world a better place, no matter how small. For example, I picked up a piece of litter. I helped a worm get into the grass on a sunny day. I smiled at a child in the grocery store.

  • Make a compassionate wish. As Tania Singer teaches us, empathy is feeling with someone, compassion is feeling for someone. Empathy is necessary to get us to compassion, and compassion is what prevents us from getting overwhelmed by negative or painful emotions (burnout). When I’m working with someone and they’re still in a place that’s not as safe or comfortable as I would like, when I leave I will make a compassionate wish. For example, “May what they’re experiencing be used to contribute to the greatest and highest good.”

Promoting healing and hope in those we serve, our staff, each other, and ourselves requires that we develop a sort of endurance that reduces our distress. When we do, our highest hope of serving others can live on.

In light and healing,

Mary Vicario

Singer, T., & Engert, V. (2019). It matters what you practice: differential training effects on subjective experience, behavior, brain and body in the ReSource Project [Review Article]. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 151-158.

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