Managing emotional fatigue – how to stay on top of it 

Between one third to half of healthcare workers will experience emotional fatigue. The nature of our job makes us more susceptible to this kind of fatigue. There are different types of emotional fatigue, some of which we may not even realise we are experiencing. These include: 

  • Vicarious trauma – a profound shift in world view that occurs in health professionals when they work with clients who have experienced trauma 
  • Compassion fatigue – emotional and physical distress caused by treating and helping patients who are deeply in need 
  • Burnout  a syndrome of emotional exhaustion and reduced personal value 

We can manage potential emotional fatigue by identifying if we are at a higher risk, what the triggers are, and keeping an eye out for symptoms. In doing this, it is important to turn your mind to both your work environment and your personal life. You can find more information about triggers and symptoms in Lauren Stapleton’s presentation on this topic. Lauren is Clinical Psychologist and Psychology Discipline Senior with expertise in Adult Mental Health and Young Persons Mental Health.  

Incorporating methods of management in both your workday and personal life is important. In her presentation in the Thursday Employee Forum, Lauren mentioned that often we forget that emotional fatigue doesn’t stop when you leave your work environment: 

“While we have this caring role, we then go home to what can be considered the ‘second shift’. Be mindful of that.” 

There are several things we can do, in both our personal and professional lives, to combat emotional fatigue. Some areas Lauren suggested focusing on include: 

  • time management  
  • self-reflection 
  • relaxation and mindfulness 
  • seeking support – at work or at home. 

Small steps such as regular exercise, practicing mindfulness, and making sure you take some time during your day to rest, can work towards achieving and maintaining a level of satisfaction when experiencing emotional fatigue. Even if it is 10 minutes in your workday or some more time at home, implementing these small steps will work towards alleviating emotional fatigue.  

If you missed Lauren’s presentation at the Thursday Employee Forum, you can watch the presentation and past events here. There are further resources for employees on the Monash Health COVID-19 website, and services such as Call a Psychologist and the EAP available to employees. 

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