Compassion Fatigue Are you at Risk?

If you find yourself emotionally and physically exhausted, easily irritated and blaming others for problems on a daily basis: you could be suffering from compassion fatigue.

There are many resources for how to recognize, prevent and treat compassion fatigue. I would like to focus on the coaching approach to dealing with this chronic and debilitating condition. Coaching is unique in starting with examining your personal operating beliefs.   Your beliefs drive your actions on a daily basis. Reflection and examining your beliefs is the key to changing your actions. If you believe that putting the needs of others first is important, then your actions will reflect that belief. If you believe that you are totally responsible for healing an injured animal than you will take on all of the pain and disappointment if that animal fails to thrive. If you believe that you must be perfect with every task at work, than you will consider any misstep a personal failure.

A strong identification with weak, suffering, helpless animals or people contribute to higher levels of compassion fatigue. Caring to much and taking on all the emotional blame for any outcome is part of a belief that you need to care more than any one else in order to help others.

So the reason that many people are attracted to a caring, helping profession is also the reason they are at higher risk for compassion fatigue.

Check your self against these common symptoms:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Reduced sense of personal accomplishment or meaning in work
  • Poor habits of self-care
  • Excessive blaming
  • Isolations for others
  • Physical exhaustion and chronic fatigue
  • Compulsive behaviors such as overeating, overspending or binge TV watching
  • Substance abuse to mask feelings
  • Pent up emotions
  • Difficulty concentrating or making basic decisions

How does Spiral Coaching help with compassion fatigue?

Coaching is based on self-learning, self-compassion and reflection to make adjustments in your normal patterns that support a healthier, happier you. Resilient people practice self-care, exercise regularly, eat healthy and have strong support systems. Do You?  Practicing self compassion is a way to recharge your emotional batteries. Using a journal with a coach gives you a guide for faster results

.Sign up for your free on line journal

How would you rate your stress level today? Do you have signs of compassion fatigue?

What are you willing to do about improving your life right now?

What beliefs drive your actions? Do those beliefs support a healthy lifestyle?

These are basic coaching questions that start the process of moving in a direction of creating positive changes for you.

If you don’t like where you are, you must be willing to take action before your life will change.

Take a step forward today. Contact Coach Gwen Veterinarian Services – go to your page

Click to schedule a 30 min complimentary coach call

The Habit of Completion will simplify your Life

 

The Habit of Completion

Who feels good about checking off something on your list? It seems like a small satisfaction to know you have completed a task. Yet those some acts of completion help motivate us to keep moving forward with goals, projects or just the steps of everyday life. What stops us from completing projects?

Time. Lack of time is what everyone says prevents them from getting things done. I would disagree. I have found with my clients that when drilling down how they spend time, there are things they could stop doing, give away or spend less time on. This change would then gain some valuable time for personal projects.

I challenge you to reflect on how you spend your time and look for areas that you can make a change. Consider how these three steps might help you develop a habit of completion.

 

Step One: Learn How to Say No

Practice saying no to demands on your time and energy. Only say yes to things that make the best use of your time and bring you energy.

 

Step Two: Get Rid of Clutter

Start with a small area and create a clutter free zone- on your desk and in your home. Use this area to work on projects or planning where you are not distracted by other items that might claim your attention. Clean out closets of items you do not use or do not fit and find them a home with someone else who could use these items.

 

Step Three: Chunk it Down

Take any project that is too big or overwhelming and break it down into steps. Decide what five actions you could take to start on the big project and do those. Pick a time period between 20-40 minutes and just commit to spending that amount of time on the project every week or every day.

 

The habit of completion can be improved when you focus on small steps along the way. Give yourself credit for each step, so you avoid that feeling of overwhelm that prevents you from even starting on a new project.

I am planning on spending the last few days of this year cleaning out files, clearing up loose ends and clearing out the clutter that allows me a fresh start to 2017. Need help? I won’t physically come to your office or home, but I can give you some practical ideas on how and where to start your new habits for 2017.

Responsibility- Is this Mine?

When did I first learn that I was responsible?  Some where in the lesson of responsibility – I twisted up what I was responsible for. I took on the belief that I was responsible for all others first, that I was responsible for other people. That I was responsible for happiness, feelings, outcomes, being perfect, doing it all.

That other people’s feelings and needs came before mine. I used to think that doing things for others was important and I was not important.  Now I reject that belief and have let go of my idea of being responsible for the entire universe.  Are you really in charge of the universe today? Only when I ask myself that out loud does it sound silly.

Responsibility is a habit that is difficult to sort out at times. I am at heart a responsible person. It is the order of my belief that has changed. I cannot be helpful, compassionate or caring when I am overwhelmed or carrying the weight of all responsibility around with me. What happens if you pick up every task or problem that you see? How many of these problems or rocks can you carry and still keep moving without impacting your own health?

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On good days, I will gently hand you back the responsibility you attempt to pass over to me. On bad days, I will say yes to anything asked of me, and then get angry or upset when I realize I have taken on too much responsibility again. When I carry around things for other people, there is no space in my life for me. I am important. I need to be responsible to me before you.  Another lesson to be learned.

When I do forget and slip back into that outdated idea of what is mine, I am able to remind myself by asking better questions.  Is this really mine? Pause. Say no before yes. Who does this belong to? Why would you ask me that? Is this mine?

I am responsible.

I am responsible for my own happiness.

I am responsible for self -care, honoring my feelings, being kind to myself.

I believe that self- care is critical to self- development and growth.

I am responsible for me.

The Emotional Roller Coaster

The Emotional Roller Coaster- Cancer

What are your options when you know your emotions are running your life and you really need to find a center balance point to be there for your loved one?

How do you be the support person when your friend is upset and having difficulty dealing with loss or grief ?

I wish I could give you the right formula that would help you every time.

I can only share what I learned about accepting my emotions without letting them take over my life.

I now view my emotions as waves. Emotional waves can be large or small, expected or unexpected. You can learn to swim with your emotions by accepting them as just your feelings of the moment.

I hate crying, yet I have cried more the last 30 days than the last 30 years. I hate not having the answers, yet there are some questions that have no answers. I like having a plan and knowing what will happen next. Cancer of a loved one does not give you that option. Making plans is a waste of time and energy. Living on an emotional roller coaster is exhausting and unsustainable. So what do you do?

Most of us have tried two things, ignore your emotions or stuff them away to deal with some day. Some day never comes, so that is the same as ignoring them.

Ignoring emotions allow them to build up to a crisis where you are likely to explode over trivial things. Learning to accept and work with your emotions will allow you to accept them as an experience instead of a stress trigger.
Here are three ideas that have helped me stay steady and calm.

First: Accept the fact that you have emotions and they will show up unexpectedly.

Second: Recognize your feelings and acknowledge them. I do that my naming them.

Third: Ask yourself “what do I need right now?” as a way to focus on actions that support you in time of chaos.

Self-care will take many forms. I thrived on reading, exercising and focusing on small daily routines that brought me comfort. Judith Oeloffs’ book Emotional Freedom was useful for my handling this sudden change in my life. She describes emotional freedom as a chance to become better. “ To make this a reality, you must begin to see each event of your life, uplifting or hurtful, earthshaking or mundane as a chance to grow stronger, smarter, more light-bearing. “ My definition has been simpler. Emotional freedom means to flex your emotional muscles on a regular basis until you accept them as part of you. Do your current strategies work for handling emotions? Reach out and start stretching those emotional muscles by connecting with other people, a trusted friend, a coach.

 

Are you a critic or a coach?

I have had clients who feel or believe that pushing themselves harder is the best way to get good results. They strive for perfection and are overly critical of the outcomes even when it appears that they are successful. I recently read a good description of this pattern in Leaders Playbook* by Reldan Nadler. Nadler asks if you are on your side or on your case?

Here are the consequences of being your own worst critic

  • You are never satisfied with your performance-which leads to low self confidence
  • You are disappointed in the outcomes which leads to feeling unhappy and miserable
  • You unconsciously –  treat others the same way you treat yourself- being very picky, negative and never satisfied

All of those results lead to a frustrating cycle with no end in sight. Consider how you could instead focus on learning and ongoing improvement acting as you own coach.

What are the indications that you are acting as your own coach instead of a critic?

A coach would focus on what you learned from the day along with your results. How could you improve is important but not the only factor. A coach is encouraging and challenging expecting your best effort to be something to be celebrated.  A coach expects you to reflect monitor and adjust your actions to keep moving towards your expected goal. As  a coach here are some questions to ask yourself that will develop the habit of ongoing learning.

  • What did I learn today?
  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Where could I improve ?
  • What to I want to focus my efforts on next?

Start by just being aware of how you talk to yourself through the day. Are you realistic or overly critical about your actions?

Check that your expectations and goals are realistic.  Be your own coach instead of a critic.  See how that impacts your feelings and ability to recover and move forward.

 

Inner-Critic

* Nadler, R. (2007). Leaders Playbook- how to apply emotional intelligence keys to great leadership. Santa Barbara: Psyccess Press

Just Hang on

Have you ever had a week or a series of weeks where your schedule was so packed full that you had to keep moving between events without thinking or pausing to wonder how it got this way?

I am in the second week of such a schedule with 4 days left of jam packed commitments.  I have stopped long enough to figure out who did this to me?  Me. Why did I think it was a good idea to have only one day off a week for two weeks in a row and then schedule that day with activities that had to be done. How did this happen? You might understand, another clinic was shorthanded so I offered to pick up a few extra days.  Who hasn’t offered to fill in when needed to help out another person who needed to be off? So how do you survive a schedule that gives little or no time for rest or recovery? How do you get through it? I had time to prepare. I cooked ahead and froze healthy meals. I still make time for exercise even if it is a 15 minute walk. I hold myself to shutting down by brain and computer by a set time at night. I find I need some decompression time before going to sleep, so my brain can wind down from a busy schedule. The good things that come from a busy schedule:

  • I get absolutely clear on what is important or critical to get done
  • It becomes easy to say no to anything extra
  • I have asked for help more often
  • I hold my sleep time as essential
  • I resolve to not allow this packed schedule to happen again

What have you done to hang on when your schedule gets crazy? Do you recognize when you have too much going? How much time to you have to just to nothing? If you have something scheduled for every minute of the day- it might be time to step back and readjust. Just hang on- is a good motto for survival weeks. I prefer to have a daily motto reflects a healthy balance of work, fun and play. What can you do to hold your schedule to reflect what you need in life?

Try blocking out times for you. Amazing things happen when you hold open space for your own life to unfold.

Why Solitude is Important

Have you ever just craved some quiet alone time?

Little girl with a book

I have had two clients last week who brought up the issue of needing some more space and time to themselves. The hectic pace of their lives and the sheer volume of interactions with people in their own home were becoming an irritation instead of a joy. This brought up the discussion of the effect on not getting quiet time as an adult. This I understand. I was the kid who climbed up into a tree to read- so no one would bother or interrupt me. My mom understood this need for quiet time- because she pretended not to notice where I was- even with all three of the family dogs sat patiently under the tree waiting for me. Now I understand the term introvert and how well that fits me.  According to Susan Cain one our of every two or three people out of the population are considered introverts.  Cain has a TED talk and a book-Quiet- on The Power of Introverts. Yet how many quiet spaces are there in your work environment? Most of our work spaces are designed for interaction and extroverts. In a busy household with different schedules and tasks that need doing- where is the quiet conversation? If solitude is part of what matters to you- then finding the time to be quiet is important to your ability to cope with the rest of the day.

What are the benefits of solitude? Solitude allows you to unwind and rest your brain. The absence of stimulation allows your brain to slow down and stop processing information. Solitude gives you time and space to consider your own needs and choices- rather than just going along with the group. It is easier to focus and concentrate on a specific issue or project with no outside distractions. You think more deeply about a topic when you are alone. I consider solitude the antidote to too much outside stimulation. I avoid big box stores partly because of the noise, lights and general level of activity there. Am I a hermit? No. I like social settings with friends where you can talk and interact. I am not as comfortable in a loud, crowded environment where you have to talk over loud music. Solitude for me is a choice that allows be to replenish and recharge my brain, my energy and my emotional levels.  If a quiet space fits your needs- then make choices that give you that space to recharge.

  • Schedule time alone
  • Walk outside at lunch for a change of environment
  • Swimming- or exercise outside can provide solitude
  • Get up early
  • Meditate
  • Pause before you start on weekend projects- enjoy your morning coffee outside

I have found the simple solution for me is to drink one cup of tea alone in my office without doing anything else. Just sitting and doing only one thing is enough to provide a calm  start to my day. This week – be aware of where you can find moments of solitude and enjoy them for what that quiet moment gives back to you.

If you have trouble finding a calm space- contact me for more ideas.

A responsible brain gets to rest

What being a perfectionist and very responsible person has done for my productivity.

I like to get things done- and feel like I am moving forward with projects and goals- who Doesn’t?

What I have been experimenting with is using an online tool called Todolist- I was afraid it would make things too complicated- instead- I am not searching for pieces of paper where I captured my thoughts last night on what needs to happen this week or today. Like anything else it only works well if you set up things in sequence- for any program- here are my best practice tips

  • Break down every project into individual steps
  • List out every step as an action to be taken
  • Give yourself enough time for each step
  • Not all projects have to go on your schedule- some just sit there until you are ready  to start
  • Only schedule things that you actually have time to do each day-
  • this one is the toughest one for me to learn- I get excited about working on something and want to get it all done right now.

A good reality check for me is to write down how much time I will allot to each task or project

Remember to allow time to exercise, get outside and take brain breaks. This keeps me feeling good about life and not chained to the to do list. So far I am liking my new tool and enjoying the satisfaction of having my stuff all together in one place. That reduces the stress of feeling like you might miss something or forget something,

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That for me is the key – ending each day feeling good about what I got done. I like the feeling of having things sorted and set up for another day. That makes it easy for me to let go of work and move into play. This is really important when you work from home- having a mental process that closes your office door for the day and lets you be refreshed and recharged while still in your home.

Find out what works for you- how do you switch gears? What makes it easy for you to close your work brain down for the day?

Just Hang On

Have you ever had a week or a series of weeks where your schedule was so packed full that you had to keep moving between events without thinking or pausing to wonder how it got this way?
I am in the second week of such a schedule with 4 days left of jam packed commitments. I have stopped long enough to figure out who did this to me? Me. Why did I think it was a good idea to have only one day off a week for two weeks in a row and then schedule that day with activities that had to be done. How did this happen? You might understand, another clinic was shorthanded so I offered to pick up a few extra days. Who hasn’t offered to fill in when needed to help out another person who needed to be off? So how do you survive a schedule that gives little or no time for rest or recovery? How do you get through it? I had time to prepare. I cooked ahead and froze healthy meals. I still make time for exercise even if it is a 15 minute walk. I hold myself to shutting down by brain and computer by a set time at night. I find I need some decompression time before going to sleep, so my brain can wind down from a busy schedule. The good things that come from a busy schedule:
• I get absolutely clear on what is important or critical to get done
• It becomes easy to say no to anything extra
• I have asked for help more often
• I hold my sleep time as essential
• I resolve to not allow this packed schedule to happen again
What have you done to hang on when your schedule gets crazy? Do you recognize when you have too much going? How much time to you have to just to nothing? If you have something scheduled for every minute of the day- it might be time to step back and readjust. Just hang on- is a good motto for survival weeks. I prefer to have a daily motto reflects a healthy balance of work, fun and play. What can you do to hold your schedule to reflect what you need in life?
Try blocking out times for you. Amazing things happen when you hold open space for your own life to unfold.

De-clutter your brain

De-Clutter your Brain
Do you ever wonder how you will know when your brain is too full to store any more information? For me, it happens when I get stuck with so many small tasks and details swirling around that I cannot decide what to work on where to even begin. We have so much information coming at us on a daily or hourly basis-too much to gather up and keep. If your brain was great at tracking and storing information- you would always remember things when you needed to and not an hour or a day later. Have you ever come home from doing errands and then remembered the one item you forgot to pick up? Of course you have.
Your brain is not a good storage unit; too many good ideas get lost or come up as a distraction when you are in the middle of something else. Your brain is being wasted as a storage unit. It is much better at problem solving and generating ideas than just holding all your thoughts in place until you need them. So here is an idea to de-clutter your brain. Get all that information out of your brain and into the next steps of doing something with it. You can call this a mind dump, a brain clearing activity or just a way to get clarity on all the stuff you think you need to do.
Take the time to sit down and write down every single thing or task that is taking up space in your mind. Keep writing out any idea, thought or action that comes to mind without trying to sort or go into details. The best practice I have found is to write each thing on a separate piece of paper. This allows me to sort them into categories easily as the next step.
Now I sort the list into areas that make sense to me. All time related items go on my schedule as an action or a reminder of an upcoming time related deadline. I have a great idea folder or pile- things that are interesting that I don’t have time to dive into right now. I have a someday maybe pile of things that would be nice to do but are not really important or a priority. Once they go into that pile, I don’t have to keep thinking about them anymore.
My biggest value from this exercise is pulling out projects- any collection of things I am working on which require more than one step- are considered projects. They each get a page or note on my computer- so I can track them and move them along with actions one step at a time.
Once I have a good list of all the projects I have going- it is much easier for me to manage them and I get much better at saying no to new things. This alone saves me from getting overwhelmed.
I give credit to the mind dump idea and many of my organizational systems to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done Fast. I think you need to make any system one that works for you and that you use on a regular basis. I do a mind clearing exercise at least once a week to keep me on track.

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