Caring for the Self

by Erin Swenson-Reinhold, DMin, LCSW

Caring for the Self

The mind/body/spirit connection is a powerful triad.   When in alignment, it can run like a finely tuned machine; however, it takes a mere kink to throw off the balance and for problems to arise.  The therapeutic process offers the opportunity to examine each aspect of this triad and to identify our strengths and challenges?

When we neglect our physical bodies, we feel the consequences as they manifest through symptoms such as illness, weight loss/gain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties.  If our spirit is neglected, we begin to suffer the effects of empathy fatigue, spiritual loneliness, and isolation.  With the neglect of the mind, anxiety and depressive symptoms are tangible reminders that the mind is not being cared for in a healthy manner.  

In Mark Stebnicki’s book, Empathy Fatigue (2008), he describes how caregivers experience empathy fatigue as “a state of mental, emotional, social, physical, spiritual, and occupational exhaustion”.  This experience is created as the caregiver walks with the other person through their “chronic illness, disability, trauma, grief, loss, and extraordinarily stressful events.”

If you are in the midst of this fatigue, you may be experiencing symptoms such as hopelessness, anxiety, or depression.  You may also have difficulty concentrating or completing tasks.  The fatigue may also manifest itself through feelings of incompetency or self-doubt.  

An attitude toward life that incorporates a sense of humor, self-confidence, curiosity, focusing on the positive, and feeling gratitude help fight empathy fatigue.  Additionally, support, supervision, balancing work and private life, relaxation techniques, and Sabbath time are useful in maintaining a healthy life.

The therapy process offers personalized tools and techniques to identify and execute a successful self-care regimen thereby reducing the harmful effects of empathy fatigue and burnout.  Those of us at The Center or Pastoral Counseling of Virginia look forward to accompanying you in your journey towards health and wholeness.

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