Is Caring Too Much Hurting You? How to Cope with Compassion Burnout

Upsetting daily news. Thousands of petitions to sign everyday. More causes to care for than we have the time for.

Life can sure get you down if you’re a compassionate person. Add to that a job or a personal situation where caring for ailing individuals is part of your daily reality and you’ve got yourself a combo that might lead you to burnout.

Compassion burnout‘ or ‘activist burnout’ is a very real thing. Recognized by psychologists as compassion fatigue, the phenomenon can make you feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. In fact, being preoccupied by the suffering of humans or animals you care about can go as far as to give you secondary traumatic stress.

How to Deal with Compassion Burnout

Here’s what you can do to help yourself cope when ‘caring too much’ is hurting you.

Establish Clear Boundaries

Taking a step back to honor yourself may be easier said than done, but it’s essential.

After coming to terms with the fact that you do have compassion fatigue, you have to create a divide between what it is you care for and yourself. Not doing so will only let your emotions pile up and prevent you from processing them.

Whether it is taking a temporary break from work or shutting out the news for a few days (whatever your personal situation is), giving yourself space to heal is a good first step.

Seek Help

Once you’ve had a little time to go through your emotions, it’s time to speak up. Talking to friends or co-workers who might be experiencing similar feelings but aren’t opening up can help everyone. It’s okay to have a bad day and vent about it!

Having just one focused and meaningful conversation a day can make all the difference. Research on compassion fatigue reduction suggests that internal support, such as a mentor or close friendship, can help you build more resiliency.

It’s also important to reach out to a licensed professional, if your feelings are getting in the way of normal daily functioning.

Be Patient with Yourself

Caring for others comes with a load of personal responsibility and self-imposed pressures. Setting time for yourself to heal from your compassion fatigue can lead to feelings of guilt. Being patient with yourself as you slow down your pace to deal with everything is essential.

It takes time to build yourself up again to a point where you can successfully manage and balance your altruistic nature with the secondary stress it brings.

Practice Self Care

Adopting and practicing healthy lifestyle habits go a long way to improve our mental health in general. As such, it should be your number one focus. A healthy diet coupled with a regular exercise routine has been shown to help people manage their stressful environment.

Pursuing hobbies and creative endeavors are also good ways to relieve secondary stress caused by compassion fatigue.

Want more self-care tips and advice on how to reduce stress? Check out How to Practice Self-Care in the Face of Triggering Headlines and our 11 Ways to Reduce Stress in 5 Minutes or Less.

Photo via Unsplash.


Alexandra Richards

Thank you.

Sophie A
Sophie A5 days ago

thank you

Janis K
Janis K15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Helen E
Helen Ers15 days ago

Abandoned Canteen

Carole R
Carole R16 days ago

I do think empathizing too much can be hurtful and dangerous.

Diane E
Diane E16 days ago

Do what you can but leave some time for yourself. You are doing great things for others. Stay fit and you will be able to achieve more.

Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago


Chad Anderson
Chad A18 days ago

Thank you.

Lindi Smith
Lindi Smith18 days ago

Yep that self-care one is the clincher.

Sharonsick R
Sharonsick R18 days ago

Thank you.