Mother Teresa and Compassion Fatigue

compassion fatigue

In doing a little research recently, I came upon a site that talked about Mother Teresa’s philosophy on the work of helping others.  Her plan indicated that she understood compassion fatigue based on her recommendation that her nuns take a year off from their work every five years to allow them time to heal from their work of care giving.

The effects of living with someone who suffers from a mental health disorder, substance use disorder or is otherwise ailing can become debilitating for the care giver.  The effects of providing compassionate care to another person year after year can eventually begin to negatively affect the caregiver.  Like the build up of a relapse, compassion fatigue is a process that over time accumulates to the point of exhaustion emotionally and physically.  This buildup can eventually result in a state of numbness that short circuits an otherwise caring and loving person’s ability to fully experience emotion and feel connected to others

How does a person know if they are at risk?  To the degree that an individual is exposed to situations that over power one’s ability to cope or that cause strong reactions on a repeated basis are indicators of the need to maintain a plan for self care.  Signs of compassion fatigue include the following:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Having little tolerance for others and becoming irritated easily
  • Becoming overly involved with others
  • Feeling as though little is accomplished but working harder than ever
  • Feeling ill and/or having physical pain
  • Wanting to avoid work
  • Feeling disconnected from others
  • Upon waking the feeling as if you did not sleep
  • Stress response to situations that feels traumatic
  • Difficulty with boundaries with others and with one’s self
  • Becoming indifferent or lacking compassion for others

Tips to help:


  • Find a confidante or therapist and talk to them regularly
  • Write a daily gratitude list
  • Look for fun activities and hobbies and do them
  • Take vacations and mini getaways
  • Eat healthfully
  • Exercise daily
  • Meditate
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs to take off the edge
  • Identify personal strengths
  • Take daily breaks to step out of the situation, breath, wash your hands, walk the block, stretch
  • Acknowledge your on feelings




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