Intentionally living a life of kindness and with the strong belief that everyone’s needs matter means that sometimes I can feel drained and that I have no more to give. Empathy burnout can happen when I’m spending so much of my time caring for and thinking about others that I forget to care for myself. When I start to feel like this, I know it’s time to pull back and find ways to fill my cup and nourish myself. Here are five ways that I avoid empathy burnout.

Prioritise Sleep
I make sure I’m unplugging at least an hour before sleep time, so I have time to wind down and slow down enough to ensure a good sleep. By unplugging, I mean no TV or devices. I get ready for bed an hour before I want to sleep and make sure my bedroom feels peaceful and comfortable. Then I hop into bed with a book or listen to music. Sleep expert, Matt Walker, has some great tips on how to improve your sleep:

Exercise and Nature
Walking and other forms of exercise can do so much to replenish my energies and capacity for the world. Even better is to go for a walk in nature – at the beach or in a forest or park if possible. Exercise makes our bodies release endorphins – hormones that boost our positive feelings and reduce pain.

I regularly debrief what’s going on in my life with close friends and family. This helps me to feel like I’m not dealing with things on my own. I also regularly see a therapist which for me is just like getting my car serviced, part of my wellbeing maintenance program.

Know Your Limits
Having experienced empathy burnout a number of times now, I’m much more aware of my limits. I won’t be of any help to anyone if I burnout to the point of collapse and non-functioning. One practice I find useful is when I’m not sure what to do in a situation is to ask my body. “OK body, (decision I’m trying to make), YES or NO?”. My body usually has a clear response. “No” feels like a contraction and pulling away. “Yes” feels like an opening and leaning in.

Have Fun
Life needs to be enjoyable too. Visiting friends, watching a movie, playing music, dancing, whatever works. Even when times are tough, it’s important to find some simple and healthy ways to have fun and lighten the load.

I can’t save the world, I can only do my bit: the best I can with what I’ve got from where I am. I’m no use to anyone if I’m lying in bed unable to care for my children or be there for my nearest and dearest ones. Knowing my capacity means I have more to give over the longer term and it’s more sustainable.

The Compassion Lounge Newsletter

The Compassion Lounge Newsletter

Subscribe to keep in touch with The Compassion Lounge events and updates. PLUS get your FREE Compassionate Communication charts to support your journey and take the first step in learning to be kinder to yourself and others.

"I found your honest sharing so informative and helpful and the charts even more so. Wow the timing is so fortuitous Filippa. I'm so grateful, thank you." Sheree Lepper

WELCOME! Check your email for our welcome email and your FREE charts.