There’s a difference between burnout and compassion fatigue.  Burnout in the workplace is a more general term that relates to anybody in a stressful situation, while compassion fatigue is a phenomena that specifically relates to those of us who are professional caregivers.

Being that funeral directors are susceptible to compassion fatigue AND have an uncontrolled work environment, we are especially vulnerable to burnout.

Here are five strategies to avoid burnout as advised by the Handbook of Thanatology:

1.  Practice responsible selfishness, recognizing one’s own needs as important as the needs of others.  The external demands imposed on the professional helper coupled with the internal belief that one’s own needs are secondary to those of others can significantly drain a person’s emotional energy.

2.  Separate work from home.  Use the transition time between work and home to “emotionally decompress”, or “shift gears.”  Techniques such as mental imagery, e.g., visualizing the pressures of work evaporation; distraction, e.g. listening to music during the drive home; or getting physical exercise, can be helpful.

3.   Develop positive support groups, either formal self-help groups or informal empathetic groups.

4.  Remember to laugh.  Laughter offers tremendous benefit and can provide a powerful antidote to the toxicity of chronic stress.

5.  Redefine “success.” For professionals who are passionately dedicated to their work and have a strong desire to be successful, a sense of personal failure is a tremendous source of stress and burnout.  (from page 384).

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