The animal abuse photo, video of shooting victims, and my own local police
department photo of a pedestrian hit and run all stormed my senses while I
was leisurely scrolling through my Facebook feed.
How did this leave me feeling?
I logged on to Facebook in an upbeat mood and logged off feeling helpless
At this time in human history we are faced with more incoming information
than ever before. In just the last year we’ve been inundated with divisive
political news, hurricanes, flooding, wild fires, earth quakes, mass
shootings and a looming threat of war just to mention a few. Discord,
devastation, and destruction – all assaults on your nervous system – even
if you’re not directly involved you can feel it.
If you’ve been paying attention to these new stories or followed along,
they may be effecting you more than you realize.
You may be experiencing compassion fatigue and/or vicarious trauma
you may be unknowingly exposing others to these conditions.
“If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete.” Jack Kornfield
Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are most common in the helping
fields such as counselors, nurses, paramedics, 911 operators, teachers,
police officers, animal rescue workers, hospice care, elder care, etc.
These are all fields where listening and caring for others in distress is
part of the work. And even though most people in these fields love what
they do ( I do!) in assisting others, the trauma they tend to can have a
physical and emotional effect on them if they don’t take care of
Compassion fatigue occurs when a caring person does not take time to refuel
and recharge themselves through healthy self care. There’s an imbalance in
caring for others and caring for self.
Vicarious trauma occurs when you’re taking in an external trauma through
any of your senses; this includes online, television, radio. You absorb
the information through your body and process it through your brain;
which over time can become fatigued, fearful and anxious.
You don’t have to be in a helping field to experience this. If you’re a
caring, empathic person, the trauma YOU pay attention to effects YOU!
Some symptoms of compassion fatigue/vicarious trauma can include insomnia, anxiety,negative and cycling fears , depression/hopelessness,
emotional exhaustion, reduction of empathy, a focus on death/dying/the
deceased, and hyper vigilance just to name a few.
Here are some indicators to pay attention to:
* You feel worse after you leave Facebook than when you logged on.
* You feel “triggered” by certain people and what they post.
* After viewing a horrible image on FB, you continue to see this image in
your mind throughout the day; this is called intrusive imagery.
* Feeling helpless, hopeless, fearful, jealous, angry about what you’re
viewing or reading.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
A Strategy for Healing
If you feel you may be on information overload, experiencing compassion
fatigue or vicarious trauma, it’s time to take back control, reset some
boundaries and create a self care plan to rejuvenate. Here are some ideas
to get you started:
1) Hide or unfollow posts from people who you want to remain connected to
but don’t want to see their posts.
2) Utilize Facebook as a place for sharing positive, uplifting, funny
moments in your life with your friends and family. Be mindful and
thoughtful about what you post and how it could create a trauma reaction
for someone else.
3) Limit your news intake and news organizations you follow, or unlike
them. Be aware, but not consumed. This can keep you up at night as your
subconscious swims in confusion.
4) Increase your in person connections. Call your friends, make a lunch or
coffee date. Have people over to your house, entertain the old fashioned
way, in person!
5) Get outside and play. Play is underrated as a way to reduce stress and
steer your mind into a positive, creative place.
These are all strategies I’ve put in place, and I can share with you, they work. I find myself being less anxious when I check social media and I’m connecting eve more with people in my life in person which leave me feeling filled up. This is where true connection occurs.
“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” Harriet Lerner