While writing my book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I discovered the impact Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, a/k/a STS or Compassion Fatigue, has on many across the globe. But I had no idea that its stealthy grip affected so many working in death investigation, emergency services, and law enforcement. If this describes you, I can assure you, there’s no need to feel alone—you are not the only one who is struggling.
Whether you are currently affected by this insidious issue or not, the following tips can help you live a happier, more balanced, healthier life. Sometimes, all you need is intentionality to overcome.
10. Laugh out loud! Watch a comedy, play a game with your family and/or friends, recall a time when you belly-laughed, and try to remember in detail what made the situation so funny.
9. When mad, irritated, or frustrated, ask yourself if there is a deeper issue causing fear, which usually drives anger.
8. Remember that real people with real lives and real families are involved in every case you work.
7. Keep a daily gratitude log—write down three things that you can be thankful for. (Putting your thanks in black and white proves to be much more powerfully effective than a mental list.)
6. Hunt for a “safe place” to vent your bottled-up emotions. This could be a friend, family member, colleague, counselor, or even through prayer.
5. Coordinate with a group of your industry peers to process your job with people who understand the rigors you face on a regular basis. (But protect your marriage by ensuring you do not get involved with any individual who could cause issues between you and your spouse.)
4. Get a physical and get physical—see a doctor and start a regular workout program. Studies are proving that trauma sticks in our muscles, so working to the point of muscle tremor and/or sweating actually releases built up tension and trauma.
3. Schedule things to look forward to—a vacation, a weekend getaway with your family, a day out with your spouse, or lunch with a friend.
2. Become intentional in switching your emotions on when you are off the job. Remember that you likely did not turn them off overnight, so it will take practice and may feel awkward during the phase where you exercise those “feeling muscles” again.
1. F.E.E.L. Focus on facts, exhale and inhale deeply, empathize with others, and remember that every action adds to your legacy—so make it a positive one.
Don’t let Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder steal your contentment and possibly even, your joy. You can break free from the effects of Compassion Fatigue and rekindle the sense of connectedness you’re missing. Freedom is not complicated, but it does require persistence.
Commit yourself to taking some of the actions listed above every day. And if you’d like more STS Healing Strategies, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you a free digital document.