Compassion | Emotional Check-Ins
Last summer, I remember being flat-lined… emotionally, mentally, and physically. I felt like I had nothing left in the tank, and I was frustrated with what felt like a hamster wheel in my career. I wasn’t staying up late, I wasn’t drinking too much, I wasn’t eating too poorly, AND I was no longer studying for exams every day… I should have been feeling great. I was so disappointed with my lack of energy, and level of exhaustion.
A quick chat and a little insight from a good friend who moved away a few years ago turned on a light bulb that really helped to shift my energy at that time. She had texted me out of the blue one day and genuinely checked in, as she does. I admitted that life after school wasn’t quite feeling like the euphoria that I had been anticipating. I was irritable, burned out, feeling anti-social, and just generally low... ‘an irritable zombie’ was how I put it. “haha- I bet!” she said. “Sharing so much of yourself and knowledge with people all day. A break must be needed after a long day.” As usual, from the outside perspective, it was obvious. I was getting a taste of compassion fatigue.
As a naturopath, I have the opportunity to take a fair bit of time with each of my patients. We typically take 45 minutes for initial visits, and 30 minutes for follow-ups. In this time, I get to have deeper conversations and learn a lot about my patients, which facilitates connection and attachment. It necessitates clear boundaries and constantly checking in with yourself. We all know how it feels when we have a friend who spends your time together only talking about themselves, without thinking about seeing how you are doing… it can be wearing. My work is intentionally one-sided, but having a full day of these conversations one after another, can take time to adjust to. The emotional drain can happen easily if we don't actively show compassion and care for ourselves along the way.
Last summer I hadn’t clued into where my energy was going. I was too caught up in the judgment of how I was feeling, which only further exhausted my energy. Simply acknowledging the emotional weight these conversations were having on me, was enough to create a subtle shift in my mental energy. I wasn’t going to change how I practiced, or what kinds of conversations I would welcome with my patients, but I could at least have a bit more compassion for myself when I felt the effects of it. It was a valuable lesson for me, realizing that I could have those same compassionate check-ins with myself, and support my own mental and emotional energy.
Without sympathy, pity or judgment, or need for solution… Compassion is actively listening to someone’s story. It doesn’t mean withholding opinions or validating someone’s (potentially) false truths. It simply means being open to understanding another’s experience OR our own. It’s easy to forget to apply compassion toward ourselves as we get caught up in our hamster wheels, but those emotional check-ins make all the difference in how we feel and where our energy goes.
-Dr. Brett Simpson, Naturopathic Doc