Is Caring Wearing You Out?

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

Are you surrounded by loss, pain, or grief on a regular basis? From natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma or the wildfires in Montana to long-term issues like caring for an elderly parent, sick spouse, or raising children, examples abound.

The day in, day out stress of caring can become overwhelming. The technical name for this is compassion fatigue…and it’s real.

Leaders are especially vulnerable to compassion fatigue as they set aside their own needs to care for others. Over time, they may not even remember they have needs of their own.

It is a sign of strength to set boundaries, to be refilled before being emptied again.

LEAD is launching a NEW MOVEMENT called The Courageous Community for leaders who want to stay strong as they care for others.

The Courageous Community will begin as a safe space for leaders dealing with the disruptive realities of a natural disaster. (It is our hope that it will expand in the future to support other needs as we recognize the many stressors that leaders face when they serve.)

One of the most effective ways to prevent the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Compassion Fatigue, and Survivor Guilt that can follow the shock of a natural disaster is to be in community with people who understand the day to day pressures and realities of recovery work. Instead of being paralyzed by exhaustion from caring for others, it is possible for deeply connected, courageous leaders to build resiliency and creativity during these times of great stress. These leaders develop new skills for mission through their commitment to serving within a caring community where their own personal needs are being met, resources are available, and people understand their reality. We can, in fact, experience Post Traumatic Growth.

Pastors, deacons, church staff, and other full-time caregivers are extremely vulnerable to the long-term impact of responding to a natural disaster. While every leader has different needs, experience and research have taught us that the faster first-responding caregivers can engage in safe communities, the more likely they are to emerge stronger after the disaster.