Quote of the day

I believed that prioritizing one’s own needs over those of others was selfish and unethical; certainly, acting differently would guilt-trip me. It took me some time to realize that taking care of myself is perfectly acceptable.

DMK

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Reflection

For leisure and, more importantly, self-reflection, I went on a short weekend getaway. Taking control of myself and shutting out the rest of the world was immensely therapeutic. It is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I have a lot going on — from meditation to journaling to evaluation with curiosity, to name a few. I came upon a waterfall throughout my trek that expressed more with its silent sounds. This is the poem I wrote when self-reflection collided with a deafening wall of quiet.

WaterFall

The cascading sound of a waterfall
It pierces louder in the forest.
Between the trees,
It summons me, whispers my name.
The nearer I come,
The more ferocious the splashes.

The amorphous form of its host
The ground’s fortitude in the absence of gravity 
to contain the never-ending flowing water  
The randomness with which each droplet
finds its way to the entire body

The profound tranquility it exudes
Even if you have a restless soul
The sounds of a waterfall can lull you to slumber.
The halt in time that its presence creates,
The attunement of self it mirrors
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

(Daisy M. Kiyemba)

Taking care of your mental health is important, therefore don’t hesitate to do so. Despite the busy schedule– find the time, make the time. You matter.

Photo by Sachin C Nair on Pexels.com

What is compassion?

Compassion entails empathizing with another person’s suffering and wishing to do everything in one’s power to alleviate that suffering. Compassion literally translates as “to suffer with another person.” It is defined by emotion researchers as the emotion that occurs when one is confronted with another’s pain and feels driven to alleviate that suffering.

Despite the fact that the ideas are related, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism. In contrast to empathy, which refers to our ability to understand and experience the emotions of another person, compassion is defined as when those feelings and ideas are accompanied by a desire to assist that individual. While compassion can be felt without resulting in action, altruism is the kind, selfless activity that is typically triggered by such feelings. However, compassion can be felt without resulting in action, and altruism is not necessarily driven by compassion.

Scientists have begun to trace the biological foundation of compassion, which suggests that it serves a deeper evolutionary purpose than many people realize. Cynics may dismiss compassion as sentimental or irrational. Researchers have discovered that when we feel compassion, our pulse slows down, we release the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and parts of the brain associated with empathy, caregiving, and pleasure light up, which frequently leads in our desire to engage and care for other people.

Types of Compassion

Compassion frequently manifests itself in one of two ways, each of which differs depending on where the feelings are aimed. Compassion for others is a virtue. In order to have compassion for other people, you must first understand their suffering and then work to find a strategy to alleviate that suffering. As a result of these feelings, you are compelled to take action and do everything in your power to improve the situation.

The other is Self-Compassion— Compassion for oneself means treating oneself with the same level of kindness and compassion that one would exhibit to a friend or family member. When you’re not berating yourself for past transgressions, you’re accepting of who you are and your imperfections. 

Compassion Fatigue

Nonetheless, It is possible that continual exposure to the suffering of others will result in what is known as compassion fatigue, which is a severe side effect of compassion. The term “vicarious traumatization” or “secondary traumatization” is also used (Figley, 1995). Working with folks who are suffering from the aftereffects of traumatic experiences can leave an emotional residue or pressure on the individual. It is distinct from burnout, but the two conditions can coexist. Compassion Fatigue can emerge as a result of exposure to a single case or as a result of a “cumulative” level of trauma experienced by a group of people.

Compassion fatigue is that feeling that you have– no more empathy left to give.

When Mother Teresa wrote to her superiors about her plans for the nuns, she made it clear that they were required to take a year off every four or five years so that they might recuperate from the stress of their care-giving responsibilities. She deeply understood the manifestations of Compassion fatigue.

According to F. Oshberg, MD, the first thing you should grasp is that it is a process. Not only do you wake up fatigued and devoid of any physical or emotional energy on one day, but you also wake up exhausted and devoid of any physical or emotional vitality on the next day. Compassion fatigue develops gradually over time, requiring weeks or even years to manifest itself. For most people, it’s an inability to see the good in others, whether you work at home or in an office. Through over-utilization of your compassion skills, your capacity to experience and care for others gradually deteriorates. You might also suffer emotional blunting, which is when you react to things in a way that is different from what you would expect.

References

Kindness Combats Compassion Fatigue – Think Kindness. (2014, September 15). Think Kindness. https://thinkkindness.org/uncategorized/kindness-combats-compassion-fatigue/#:~:text=Mother%20Teresa%20advocated%20strongly%20for,effects%20of%20their%20caregiving%20work..

Compassion Fatigue: Watch for These Warning Signs | Banner. (2021, June 11). https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/watch-for-these-key-warning-signs-of-compassion-fatigue#:

Boyd, D. (2017, January 4). Compassion Fatigue. The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/military/for-practitionersleaders/compassion-fatigue.

What Is Compassion?. (2021, November 1). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-compassion-5207366.

Compassion Definition | What Is Compassion. (n.d.). Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/compassion/definition.

Am I growing cold?

For a long time, I could empathize with others to the point of stopping my daily routine or activities until they are okay. When someone was in such agony, I felt it in my heart as well. I would absorb people’s emotions to an alarming degree—whatever they felt, I felt as well, regardless of whether it was a crowd of strangers. Occasionally, I’d break down and sob over the well-being of someone else. And what’s even more interesting is that the person wasn’t shedding a tear. I was unable to discern my emotions from those of others.

I had the sensations of their pain and emotions as my own. I’d question myself, “Why am I like that?” especially that the emotions/feelings don’t belong to me. It was so awful that I was constantly exhausted and drained myself to the point of self-abnegation. But why did I feel responsible for their issues or distress if there was nothing I could do? Although I am an empath, I had to learn to discern my own sensations from those of others. Why was my empathic capacity unhealthy to a certain degree? – It had reached the point of continual burnout and I simply couldn’t handle it any longer. I was constantly emotionally depleted. I needed to find a way to balance the external influences, or else I risked dealing with my own mental health.

What is Empathy?

According to Merriam Webster, Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

Affective empathy and cognitive empathy are two distinct types of empathy that are studied by researchers. Affective empathy refers to the feelings we experience when we are able to relate to the emotions of others. There is a possibility that other people’s emotions could be transmitted: If they appear to be happy, you are happy; if they appear to be unhappy, you are unhappy; if they appear to be in pain, you are in pain. You may also become more sensitive about the welfare of others because of your ability to detect their emotional states. Affective empathy, on the other hand, can sometimes heighten your own distress when you face suffering, preventing you from effectively providing support.

Cognitive empathy is the ability to comprehend the thoughts and feelings of another on a mental level. For those who don’t like the idea of constantly absorbing other people’s negative feelings, some argue that cognitive empathy may be more advantageous. Somatic empathy, according to some, is the third type of empathy. In this case, a person can feel the bodily sensations that another person is feeling.

Who is an Empathy?

An empath is someone who is extremely sensitive to the feelings as well as emotions of others. Their capacity to discern what someone else is feeling extends beyond empathy, which is defined simply as the capacity to understand another’s feelings, to actually taking on those feelings; experiencing what the other person is experiencing on a deep emotional level.

As described by Dr. Judith Orloff, an empath is someone who soaks up the joys and stresses of the world around them like “emotional sponges.”  Emotional and energetic stimuli, good or bad, can’t escape from empaths, according to her book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” which she published in 2012. This is explained further by Kim Egel, a San Diego-based therapist—Empaths are more sensitive to external stimuli such as sounds, large personalities, and hectic environments.  They bring a great deal of heart and concern to the world, and they are extremely sensitive to what is going on around them.

Empaths who neglect their own well-being can have a negative impact on themselves and those around them. I had to learn how to regulate my emotions and, more importantly, how to take care of myself as a result of the constant emotional drain and distress. Accepting that there is nothing I can do and learning how to let go without feeling guilty or distressed was a major part of my process of self-awareness and self-acceptance. I needed to establish boundaries to protect myself– Establishing boundaries around emotionally taxing situations helped me reduce the risk of reaching my breaking point.

Empaths have a hard time turning off their high level of emotional sensitivity. People’s emotional energy around you can cause stress or depression in some people. You can’t help but feel this way about your loved ones. However, recognizing and letting go of them can have a significant impact. You do not have to “lessen” your capacity for caring — you can increase your resilience while also cultivating concern for others.

Now that I’ve mastered the art of distancing and regulating my emotions from those of another– I’m able to experience what they feel while still shielding myself. It feels incredibly good–I have practiced and mastered emotional regulation, and I will never stop practicing because there is always something new to learn and improve upon. However, there are instances when I feel as though I’m growing cold, particularly in situations where I can’t do anything other than feel what is but also avoid dwelling too much on the situation. At moments like this, I have to keep reminding myself to practice mindful acceptance. It’s okay to be incapable of assisting– it’s okay to preserve oneself.

References

Creative Consultant | Licensed Therapist | North County San Diego, CA. (2022, January 5). Kim Egel. https://www.kimegel.com/.

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. (2021, August 9). Judith Orloff MD. https://drjudithorloff.com/empath-survival-guide-description/.

Are You Highly Attuned To Other People’s Emotions? You Might Be an Empath. (2021, June 17). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-an-empath-and-how-do-you-know-if-you-are-one-5119883.

Fisher, R. (n.d.). The Surprising Downsides Of Empathy. The surprising downsides of empathy – BBC Future. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200930-can-empathy-be-bad-for-you#:~:text=Yet%20in%20recent%20years%2C%20researchers,them%20into%20aggression%20and%20cruelty..

Empathy. (n.d.). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy.

What Is An Empath? 15 Signs And Traits. (n.d.). What Is An Empath? 15 Signs and Traits. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-an-empath#major-empathy.

Fisher, R. (n.d.). The Surprising Downsides Of Empathy. The surprising downsides of empathy – BBC Future. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200930-can-empathy-be-bad-for-you#:~:text=Yet%20in%20recent%20years%2C%20researchers,them%20into%20aggression%20and%20cruelty..

Even the strongest struggle to catch a breath– sometimes

When I had a mental breakdown, I can remember exactly what happened to me at the time. It was so awful that I was afraid I would pass out. In the kitchen, I was preparing my usual breakfast of oats and two sun-cooked eggs. A sudden burst of tears rolled down my cheeks as I struggled to finish preparing my morning meal— I attempted to push through, but it felt so out of control that my chest began to ache, making it difficult to catch my breath. This time around, though, my resolute declarations to myself, “You’ll be OK, just take a deep breath” were so insignificant compared to what was going on. The other issue was, I had no idea what was truly happening, which terrified me. “What is going on?” I asked myself. Why is this happening? As my cries grew more ferocious, my inquiries grew more complex, and there were no answers to the simplest of them all, I felt increasingly out of control.

On that particular morning, it was my father’s birthday, and I remember waking up really eager to facetime him. In fact, I had awoken–I had texted him and planned to call him later, given how early it was. That did not happen– he ended up contacting me since he perceived it as out of character for me to not call him on his birthday.  I didn’t pick up the phone, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want to spoil his day or even talk about what was going on– especially given, as I previously stated, I had no idea what was going on. In retrospect, even though I couldn’t place the source of my furor, I could see how repression, coupled with anything contemporary, must have been a trigger. It was more like something that’s on the verge of detonating.

Typically, I’m able to deal with things quite well, but this time it hit different. I was so terrified by this incident that I immediately dialed the mental health hotline and also contacted one of my trusted confidants. A lack of words and a dwindling supply of breath left me unable to speak at the time; as a result, I requested them to be on the phone with me as I lay down to try to fall asleep. I recall my confidant terrified saying– “Omg, I’ve never heard or seen you behave this way; what the fuck is going on with you?” I couldn’t possibly answer that question.

With my breath back under control, I took a moment to try and not think about anything– but you know how that goes, the exact opposite happened instead. But this time, I was in charge of my thoughts, or at the very least, I was able to organize them. I decided to take a break from everything in order to regain my composure and address the situation head-on. After a few days, I decided to talk to someone, and in the process, I broke uncontrollably–I understood that my suppression was much deeper than I had previously assumed. I had no idea how much had been suppressed until that moment. “I have so much rage and I’m not sure where it’s coming from,” I recall telling the assistant. In general, I’m a patient person who doesn’t become easily irritated. So where was this furiousness coming from?

Why did it choose that particular moment to occur? The body could no longer take it– It’s strange how the body works, but it does communicate when enough is enough. It does signal when we should rest and regain our composure. It does alert us when there is a problem. And occasionally, in fact, most of the time, triggers can serve as a stimulus. Despite our attempts to remain in denial and push it to the back of our minds – more along the lines of will process that later and get on with what is – the mind and body fight to give you what you ask. That does not imply that it has been forgotten.

What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown (alternatively referred to as a mental-breakdown) is a term referring to an extended period of mental or emotional stress. The person’s stress level is so high that he or she is unable to carry out everyday tasks. A nervous breakdown is not caused by a single factor. It can be triggered by anything that causes an excessive amount of stress. Feeling stressed and unable to deal with it can make it difficult, if not impossible, to go about your typical daily activities.

Stress is a natural aspect of life. However, when feelings become very overwhelming, they can precipitate a mental breakdown. Being overwhelmed by the responsibilities of life is not an unusual experience for humanity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, speak with someone — this might be a family member or a friend, your therapist, or even your doctor. Allow yourself to explore any and all emotions that may be running through your mind. Mental breakdowns are not time-bound; they can occur at any time and to anyone. Communicating with another person can empower you in processing your thoughts and developing solutions to reduce your tension and anxiety. Always remember that it’s okay to feel it all– take care of yourself.

How do you deal with stressful situations/events?