Winnie's Blog

April 2012

Compassion Fatigue ~ Part One

You used to love your job.

All your life you wanted to have a "helping? profession, doing something noble that serves others and makes the world a better place. Now you?re tired, impatient even cynical about your work and you?re wondering what happened to your compassion.

If this is what you?re feeling, you might be experiencing "Compassion Fatigue?. Dr. C.R. Figley, author of Compassion Fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized, described Compassion Fatigue as "the cost of caring? for others in emotional and physical pain. Whether you work in health care, policing, social services, ministerial professions or other caring fields, constantly pouring care into the lives of others can take a toll on your health and well-being.

Compassion Fatigue Specialist, Francoise Mathieu writes, "It is marked by increased cynicism at work, a loss of enjoyment in our career, and eventually can transform into depression, secondary traumatic stress and stress-related illnesses. The most insidious aspect of compassion fatigue is that it attacks the very core of what brought us into this work: our empathy and compassion for others.?

(The following symptoms are taken from Cameron and Mathieu Consulting Conferences "Running on Empty: Compassion Fatigue in Health Professionals?)

Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?


?Reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy

?Anger and irritability

?Increased use of alcohol and drugs

?Dread of working with certain clients/patients

?Diminished sense of enjoyment of career

?Disruption to world view, Heightened anxiety or irrational fears

?Intrusive imagery or dissociation

?Hypersensitivity or Insensitivity to emotional material

?Difficulty separating work life from personal life

?Absenteeism ? missing work, taking many sick days

?Impaired Ability to make decisions and care for clients/patients

?Problems with intimacy and in personal relationships

The good news is there are solutions. Find out more about Compassion Fatigue by visiting: www.compassionfatigue.caor by taking a self-test at

If you?d like to talk to someone personally about the Compassion Fatigue you may be experiencing, feel free to contact me. The next blog post will offer some things that can be done to prevent it. Stay tuned and be encouraged.

By: Sharon Osvald in collaboration with Winnie Visser

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Special Moments


With Easter just wrapping up, holidays and special occasions are a great source of joy and pleasure for many people. What if you are not one of those people?

What if your family doesn?t match the picture perfect image shown on television commercials and magazine articles? What if your family is broken through death, divorce or prodigal children? What if you just plain don?t get along with the personalities in your extended family or in-laws? What if you sit around a table that used to be full of children, parents and grandchildren that is now empty? How do you get through holidays like Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays without sinking into that gaping hole of loss and grief?

Here are some ideas:

?Reach out. If you are alone or more alone than you want to be during holidays, reach out to the people around you. Find a neighbour, a co-worker, an older friend and invite them to your home. You will be surprised how much lifting up someone else will lift you up.

?Make amends. Sometimes relationships are toxic and damaging to your health (mentally or physically) and we just CAN NOT re-build bridges with the people in our lives. If that is the case you may need help from a therapist to help you make peace with yourself and move on. However, often times we can make moves, offer apologies or accept forgiveness from people in our lives.

?Serve. Like the suggestion of reaching out, holidays and special occasions are lonely for many people. Consider helping at a soup kitchen, offer to visit seniors through Community Care or volunteer at a homeless shelter or pregnancy centre. Again, it will help others and help you too.

?Restructure. If you have experienced loss this year, facing a first of any familiar event is difficult. I suggest doing something different this year. If dinner was always at your house, go to one of your children?s places or a friend?s. This might even become a new cherished routine for you in the future. Trying to do what you?ve always done might just emphasize your loss.

?Make new Traditions. If you can no longer do the things that used bring meaning to holidays and special occasions, begin new traditions. Think of something meaningful to do that could commemorate the holiday. I heard of one Christian family who wrote out the whole Easter story from the Bible and placed a few verses on each person?s plate. Before eating turkey, they went around the table and each person read their verses. This was very meaningful to this family and it was requested by those around the table that this should be done each Easter. Creating new traditions can be meaningful and bring closeness to families.

?Stop wallowing. This sounds tremendously harsh but sometimes we allow ourselves to wallow in self pity and this gets us nowhere. I?m not saying to deny our sad feelings. I?d be the last person to say that. But I also know what it is to create more anxiety for ourselves. Don?t allow yourself to be stuck in self pity. Get up and do something. Take a walk, bake a cake for the neighbour, go to a neighbouring church service, visit someone in the hospital...........etc etc.

?Be thankful. Joni Eareckson ? Tada had a terrible swimming accident that left her a paraplegic. So an elder came to her hospital room and challenged her to start everyday by listing the things she was thankful for. She was some angry at the elder because she was wallowing in self pity at that point. So she tried the exercise......she began to list the things she was thankful for in the day. This went on for some time and she was amazed that her attitude changed.


May you and your loved ones enjoy many of those special moments in your future.


By: Winnie Visser in collaboration with Sharon Osvald

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Principles for Real Living:

  1. I am responsible for my own attitude
  2. My attitude affects my actions
  3. I can not change others, but I can influence others
  4. My emotions do not control my actions
  5. Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I'm a failure
  6. Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world

Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1998, 2008