Now that you have a better understanding of your self-compassion level and have identified any symptoms of compassion fatigue that will probably interfere with your ability to help others, it is time to look at solutions that you can easily adopt to make a difference.
1. Reducing personal stress. Your stress is not only the result of your efforts to help someone else and concerns for them, but also your perception of the situation. Identify and develop coping strengths. Make use of any support that is available to you. Be objective and get professional assistance for your loved one when needed. Take time off to care for yourself and destress.
2. Setting goals. Decide what you would like to accomplish in the next three months to a year. Remember to schedule breaks and pleasant activities. Break larger goals into smaller action steps. Identify resources and skills that you need to accomplish each step. Monitor your plans regularly and adapt your goals when appropriate.
3. Seeking solutions. Caregiving is, in essence, seeking a solution to a complex problem. Identify and define the problem with an open mind. List possible solutions, e.g. try a different perspective, ask for help, get professional input or from others in a similar situation, or different routines and activities. Brainstorm solutions together. Don’t be afraid to try out alternatives. Evaluate results and fine-tune where needed.
4. Communicating constructively. Use the guidelines in the previous session all the time. Always be clear and constructive and respect others’ rights and feelings. Remember to listen reflectively and motivate the other person positively to change.
5. Asking for and accepting help. Be honest with others and accept help when offered. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and exhausted. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength. As much as possible, make sure that your requests are small and reasonable. Be specific and don’t take hesitation or refusal personally.
6. Talking to a professional. Make a list of your problems and concerns and prepare questions ahead of time. If you feel uncomfortable or anxious, take someone with you to the appointment. Be clear and assertive about your needs.
7. Starting to exercise. Begin with everyday activities such as gardening or walking. Exercise has many health benefits, including promoting better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. Include activities that you enjoy into your daily routine and take your partner, family member, or friend with you to enjoy the benefits too. If you have not done so yet, try mindful walking as explained in a previous session.
8. Learning from your emotions. As we have explained before, emotions are the messages of your body and mind. Learn to recognize and acknowledge them. Explore and correct underlying causes or simply let them come and go with a mindful attitude.
If you apply these and previous guidelines and practices, you are sure to improve your state of mind and ability to effectively help someone. Next, we introduce a second mindfulness exercise; this time focusing on self-compassion.
Next, we introduce another short guided meditation exercise to help you restore self-compassion.