Many may be suffering from Compassion Fatigue

For the world, July 19, 2018 is just a date on a calendar. But for a specific group of people, in Marshalltown, Iowa, it is not just numerals, but characters that remind us of a specific moment that altered the course of our hometown. This date will be branded in our memories. The EF-3 tornado that rampaged through our community changed the landscape of our hearts and souls. This transformation is visible in the city’s infrastructure to the deep-rooted trees that no longer provide shade and shelter to the traumatized mental and emotional lives. Yet, in the aftermath of this disaster, our comm“unity” compelled by an innate desire to “love thy neighbor as yourself” chose to act. Neighbor helping neighbor; churches united; businesses halted to take care of others; compassion for each other was felt and experienced.

One month post-tornado, our initial crisis relief efforts are mostly complete. Many individuals jumped in working collaboratively with all those impacted by the disaster. Government, churches and non-profit agencies, local, state and national, have put “boots on the ground.” They came, they saw, they helped, some left, others stayed and some will come back again. We were “all hands on deck” post-disaster. We did well and we continue to persevere in our longing to help each other. The art of helping others has been demonstrated, yet taking care of ourselves through this traumatic experience is also highly encouraged. We need to monitor our compassion, our empathy, our kindness. We need to be attentive to compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is when we give so much of ourselves to others that we are not taking care of our own needs which filters into our family and other parts of our lives leading to the burned-out state of no longer caring. We become irritable and moody; we are less and less empathetic with our circumstances; we become careless in our decision-making; we lose interest in helping others and feel guilty about it; sleeping issues, personal relationship concerns and a poor work-life balance can be indications of compassion fatigue. Cultivating a high level of self-awareness and understanding of how we are feeling will be important moving forward helping ourselves and others.

Here is a short list of tools to use when experiencing or on the brink of compassion fatigue:

• Improve self-care through rest when needed, good nutrition, regular exercise and good sleeping habits.

• Set boundaries by remaining compassionate, empathetic and supportive of others without becoming overly involved and taking on others’ pain. Build up emotional boundaries as it helps maintain a connection while honoring the fact that we are a separate person with our own needs.

• Create a balance of work and play. Enjoy a bike ride, go for a walk or go to the gym. Be with friends, enjoy a campfire, laugh with one another and enjoy “me” time by participating in activities that bring us contentment.

• Increase our resiliency by implementing coping skills and strategies to adapt and become stronger through our tragedy and daily struggles. We cannot ever underestimate the strength we have within ourselves to overcome obstacles.

As a community, we are moving into the long-term recovery process. We have provided and/or made available immediate response and relief for all those impacted. Now, we move onto the next level of rebuilding. This is a long process yet our resiliency is strong. Let us listen to each other. Let us understand one another. Let us validate and affirm our neighbors. We will rise again. We will not be defeated. We will rebuild. We will be restored. We are Marshalltown Strong.