The Results Are In With Dr. Sanjay Gupta | Compassion Fade
This is a guest post by WWSG exclusive speaker, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
The news can be a lot to take in. Whether it’s a global pandemic, a war or another shooting, we want to have empathy for each other’s suffering. But it can also be exhausting.
This is a concept known as compassion fade or fatigue.
I first talked about compassion fade during the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the number of people affected starts to grow, not only is our compassion divided among all of them, but our overall amount of compassion goes down.
We’ve talked about protecting our own mental health during tough news cycles, but how do we also make sure our compassion doesn’t fade?
Start by figuring out what level of engagement works for you, advises Dr. Rebecca Sachs, a clinical psychologist based in New York City.
“It’s figuring out what is the level of engagement that can still lay a foundation for you to do valued actions to do something meaningful,” she says.
I like the idea of a “valued action.”
It’s easy to feel like you can’t help or contribute when tragedy is happening, especially from far away, but choosing an action can help us focus on our empathy for others rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Finding a support system is what Dr. Charles Figley, the Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health at Tulane University in New Orleans, recommends during this time.
“One of the most important things is to find a buddy who is in a similar kind of situation and who also wants the same thing that you want in terms of feeling better.”
It’s a version of self-care.
Sachs adds that it’s OK to take time to have fun or relax. If you feel guilty about it, that’s OK too, because it’s part of balancing your emotions.
“There are going to be times where I am going to really feel that suffering,” she said. “And then there are going to be times where I’m going to do things for myself and feel guilty that I’m not sort of bombarding myself with the suffering that comes with the human condition.”
Sadly, it feels like the threat of compassion fade may always be present, but keeping those sparks of empathy alive helps us remember that we are all in this together.