You’re a helper. You take pride in your work with others. You know that when you show up, you impact lives in a positive way.
Nothing can beat that. You can’t be replaced by a system of automation because you are connecting on a human level.
Providing that connection requires empathy, of which you have a never-ending well. You look into the eyes of those you help and feel their pain, you connect with their story. In some cases, you are a part of their story.
But then, you start to notice that you’re more tired when you come home. You binge a TV show just to disconnect from the feelings of the day.
Even your energy for self-care starts to plummet. You decline invitations for social outings because it’s just too much. Your friend texts you about a problem she’s having at work, but you don’t seem to have any energy to respond.
If any of those feelings feel familiar to you, you might be experiencing compassion fatigue.
Definition of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue focuses on those individuals who provide support to those suffering with physical and emotional pain—crisis and trauma counselors, Red Cross workers, nurses, doctors, and other caregivers who themselves often become victim to secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD) or “compassion fatigue” as a result of helping or wanting to help a traumatized person (Figley, 1995).
That definition, while still relevant, doesn’t account for the rapid spread and accessibility of information we have available at our fingertips that can sometimes be harmful and harder to anticipate or avoid.
Now, it’s not only healthcare professionals and caregivers who suffer from compassion fatigue, but also those who watch the news or spend time scrolling their social media feed.
Every day, we’re exposed to the suffering of others. It’s only human to feel empathy, but as part of our coping mechanism, we can become numb to the overwhelming tragedy and trauma.
Our Personal Experience and Solution
Sarah Hill, CEO of Healium, began searching for a solution to her own compassion fatigue after experiencing panic attacks and sleepless nights from her work as a news reporter.
“Hours of listening to a police scanner, seeing dead bodies, covering conflict, natural disasters, and stepping inside the stories of families who lost children weakened me in a way I didn’t expect,” Hill says.
Compassion fatigue is not a disease, but rather, a symptom of stress. The first step in managing your symptoms is to care for yourself as much as you care for those around you.
As helpers, we tend to prioritize others but this can leave your tank feeling empty. Self-care isn’t a trend. It isn’t selfish.
Just like the flight attendant asks you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others, self-care allows you to show up with your best self so you can continue to give compassionate care to others.
Five Tips for Healing from Compassion Fatigue
Here are five self-care actions that you can take today to start healing from compassion fatigue.
1 — Limit your media intake or choose a medium that you can control. For example, read the newspaper instead of turning on the TV for updates.
2 — Journal your feelings at the end of the day to unpack your thoughts. If you’re not sure where to start, try this prompt: List three things that happened today that you’re grateful for.
4 — Speak with a licensed counselor. There is no shame in seeking professional help. Telemedicine is making it easier than ever to connect. Additionally, many counselors are open to offering a sliding scale to pay for services. You just have to ask.
5 — Establish or reassess your personal boundaries. Sometimes, we have to let people know what our triggers are or what we will allow into our lives. If you have a friend who frequently starts the conversation with, “did you hear about this on the news?” now is a good time to gently let her know what you’re comfortable with for conversation.
Compassion is an important part of what makes you special. It’s what allows you to help others and improve their lives. Don’t give up hope.
Start shifting some of that compassion to yourself and begin to see the positive changes in your life.
Developed by StoryUP Studios in 2015, Honor Everywhere is a virtual reality alternative for terminally ill and aging veterans who aren’t able to physically travel to see their World War II, Vietnam, Korea, or Women’s Memorials in Washington, DC.
For Veterans who are no longer able to physically travel on Honor Flights, these virtual tours are the next best way to see their memorials.
Now, this technology is even more accessible. For the first time since launching in 2015, Honor Everywhere has been developed as an augmented reality (AR) app available on IOS and Android in the App Stores.
Through their smartphones, iPads, or tablets, veterans are able to visit their war memorials.
Viewers can bring an airplane portal door to life in the comfort of their own home. Instantly, they can step inside the World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Women’s Memorials in Washington, DC.
Additionally, veterans can also experience a 360-degree story aboard the USS Nimitz in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. These stories use augmented reality and 360-degree storytelling to give viewers a sample of an Honor Flight.
Hear Bob Wieland, a Vietnam veteran, lead an inspiring speech in front of the Vietnam war memorial. Wieland lost his legs during the conflict and at one time was zipped up in a body bag and left for dead.
June Radcliff, first lieutenant, army nurse during the Korean War tells her story of how she met her husband who was a wounded patient at the hospital where she worked. Her twin sister also served alongside her. Radcliff and her daughter visit the memorial together. Experience these stories and more in the new app.
Honor Flights are free experiences for terminally ill and aging veterans to visit their memorials in Washington, DC. With your support, we are able to continue that commitment. Honor Everywhere Portal App is a free app and has no in-app purchases.
If you’d like to support your local Honor Flight hub, please visit https://www.honorflight.org/regional-honor-flight-hubs/
There is NO replacement for a real Honor Flight. Honor Everywhere VR and AR is a last resort for veterans who are physically unable to visit their war memorials.
Thank you to our sponsors and volunteers who make Honor Flights for our veterans possible.
The benefits of meditation are endless. Better sleep, increased concentration, impulse control, and more.
But when we talk about “seeing your feelings”, what do we really mean and why is that important?
Your feelings are measurable.
The first step in controlling your feelings is measuring them.
Feelings have physiological effects on the body which are easily measured. For example, a calm feeling appears as slower brainwave activity in the frontal lobe and a lower heart rate.
Neuroscientists use an EEG to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.
Luckily, consumer wearables, such as an EEG headband are more widely accessible in order to gather an overview of brain activity. These consumer headbands cannot capture all areas of your brain like a full 19 sensor EEG cap and can also be subject to artifacts like blinking or forehead tension. So while not giving you a complete picture, these headbands can give you a helpful snapshot of your brainwave patterns.
Apple Watch is available for heart rate monitoring. While the data from a consumer wearable is not diagnostic, it is valuable as a self-awareness tool to better understand how your brain patterns and heart rate react to your thoughts.
Healium AR can be paired with an Apple Watch or EEG headband. Healium VR can be paired with an EEG headband.
The headband has three sensors that are located on the strap that go across your forehead, essentially monitoring your brain’s electrical activity.
Through this neurofeedback connection, a representation of your brain patterns is displayed visually in near real-time within the Healium’s VR and AR apps.
For focus, you want your slow brain waves (theta) to go down and your fast brain waves (beta) to go up. Ideally, the frontal lobe needs to be engaged.
For calm, you want the opposite; you’re trying to reduce fast, high beta activity in the frontal lobe.
The algorithms built into the app take these ratios into account. Inside the Healium app, you’ll see a firefly go above the baseline when this criteria is met, meaning you’re successfully meeting the mark for calm, focus, or a lowered heart rate.
Neurofeedback tells you it’s working.
If you’ve ever attempted meditation before, you might have given in to the distractions around you or found it hard to focus.
With feedback displayed to you in real-time, you know whether or not you’re hitting the mark. Are you recalling a calm memory? Are you letting your mind wander?
Feedback lets you know if the experience is working. This can lead to an advanced mindfulness practice with an enhanced awareness of your mind / body connection.
The ability to be guided back to the goal makes it attainable and encouraging when you’re doing well. Many Healium users report the same experience.
Ellen, who has been a subscriber to Healium for several months, says, “Healium is my first real VR experience and it’s easy to use for what I call my own self-care. As someone who has managed with anxiety and depression my whole life, the experiences are calming, lovely, peaceful, and truly relaxing.”
As an added psychological boost, you’ll feel rewarded when you maintain your firefly above the baseline.
Perception of changes
Interestingly, our perception isn’t always accurate. In a study conducted by the NeuroMeditation Institute, users reported how they felt before and after using the Healium AR app.
Everyone reported decreases in negative emotions and increases in positive emotions, regardless of whether they were using biofeedback or not. However, participants using biofeedback showed changes in their physiology whereas the other group didn’t.
That’s where biofeedback can help improve your experience with meditation and stress relief.
What you’re thinking you’re feeling vs what you’re actually feeling isn’t always connected.
Feelings can be controlled. They don’t happen to us. But with biofeedback you can control anything you can measure. Remember that your thoughts have power…in the virtual world and in the real world as well.