This article was submitted by Taylor Outler (Chi).
How are you choosing to serve yourself? As servant leaders, we are constantly being molded to serve others and never leave people feeling empty. We make a difference, a real difference that is truly phenomenal. However, when you go home at night are you also fulfilled or are you drained, empty, and unfulfilled. There can be numerous reasons why but the most common is compassion fatigue. What is this you ask? The indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering experienced due to the frequency or number of such appeals. I see this definition and think constantly pouring out of your cup to others but never filling yourself up. This is a hazardous thing to do; it has long-lasting effects on you.
You may hear this definition and think burnout. What is the difference? They are similar but compassion fatigue has the preoccupation with absorbing trauma and emotional stresses of others, and this leads to secondary traumatic stress in you. This is something I definitely struggled with throughout my time in Omega Phi Alpha. I am very much so a helper, I am super emotional and have a strong empathic connection with everyone I meet. After a while of dealing with projects where you really can connect with people, hear their stories, and why this so meaningful for them, it really gets you. So, if this is you as well, I hear you, I see you and I am here to help.
How are you able to fix it? Glad you asked! Self-care is the answer, solution, and everything in between. This is not simply doing a face mask or treating yourself to cake. This is investing in yourself, what you need, and what you like to do. It can sometimes be difficult to start so start small with things you may already be doing just not doing frequently. Here are some things I started with that can hopefully be helpful for you.
You must rest, you must recharge, and you must relax. If you are not sleeping, your body will constantly be exhausted, making traumatic events stick even more.
2. Put down the phone and connect with REAL people!
During the Covid-19 pandemic, this can be EXTREMELY hard! Be safe, smart, and conscious. If you can’t put down the phone, then video chat with your friends, call your family or do anything that makes you smile. If anything goes outside for a little bit, sit on some grass, or just take a walk.
3. Say No
This was something I personally struggled with, and why I was getting so fatigued. You have to say no to others and yes to yourself. You must know your limits, you have to understand when something is too much for you.
I started with these three things, this by no means is where you have to start. Do what feels right for you and what you know will become a practice. If anything remembers this, “Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” Katie Reed. Being a servant leader doesn’t mean you only need to serve others, you must also serve yourself. You are just as important as everyone else that you serve, so invest in yourself!