According to neurosurgeon Jim Doty, mindfulness and compassion must go hand in hand.
KN: How do we find a balance between feeling burned out by compassion and being detached from others’ pain?
JD: People who are markedly empathic and people who are attracted to the caring professions, like doctors and nurses, oftentimes do have difficulty with this. In some ways, there’s almost an overwhelming amount of suffering, and none of us has the capacity to alleviate all of that suffering. So the most important thing is to recognize that fact and also set realistic boundaries for yourself and reasonable goals in terms of your own capacity to give.
We’re now seeing an epidemic of compassion fatigue (although some people don’t like to use that term), of burnout among health care workers or those who are in caring jobs. We at CCARE as well as others have been working on techniques that are scalable that give people the resources to understand the reality of giving too much, and a toolbox that allows them to step back and gives them support and a variety of techniques that protect them as they continue on the job.