Wednesday, September 17, 2014
3 Major Warning Signs of Pastoral Caregiver Fatigue
3 Major Warning Signs of Pastoral Caregiver Fatigue You wake up one morning and you don’t feel like going to work as a hospice chaplain. You’re tired, feel overwhelmed, and feel you can’t make it another day. What is the problem? You might wonder if you’re coming down with the flu, wonder if you’re depressed, but conclude you’re just emotionally fatigued. In this post, I want to suggest that there is an early warning system built in to our emotions. However, ministers are the worst at listening to that early warning system. We are so overly committed to our work that we fail to listen to one doing the work … ourselves! Early Warning System Alert #1: Forgetfulness—Forgetting the car keys or a pen or something minor happens from time to time. Forgetting a patient visit and then another is something in a different category. Have you done this lately? The reality is you have your visits on your Scheduler and still miss them. Heed Alert #1. Early Warning System Alert #2: Irritability—Ok, so you got up in a bad mood. We all to that sometimes don’t we? We work out of it by mid-morning and enjoy the rest of our day. After all, we can’t act irritable toward our colleagues, right? Well, Alert #2 suggests that we are irritable toward those colleagues and our family. Nothing satisfies us. We’re in what seems like a permanent bad mood. It seems we’re mad at the world. Heed Alert #2. Early Warning System Alert #3: Decline in productivity—Your caseload has grown and you’re having trouble managing it. You just dread making phone calls anymore. You’re good at it, but not now! You’ve gotten lost in the caseload. Your productivity has declined markedly. Heed Alert #3. If you heed the Alerts mentioned above, then here are the steps you need to take: 1. Speak with your Spiritual Care Manager. Do not wait until you are so far out of compliance that it will take weeks to catch up. That is endangering the company and your position. Nip it in the bud. Keep in mind that self-awareness was a fundamental of CPE. Your SCM will understand and assign a PRN Chaplain to assist. 2. By all means, take some PTO. When you experience this type of fatigue, your body, mind, and soul is crying out for rest. 3. Review recent events in your life. For how long a period of time has this been building? Are you burning the candle at both ends? Are you trying to do too much with your time? Some Chaplains are also bi-vocational pastors. The sheer magnitude of psychic energy expended in both positions can be very draining. Even Elijah needed to rest and eat good food. 4. What are you doing for self-care? Are you getting enough sleep? What about your diet? Are you eating a healthy diet or are you eating on the run and high carb lunches at that? What about exercise? What are you doing to work your body into some short of healthy condition? When was your last physical? 5. If life has you weighed down and you sense you are depressed, get the EAP number from your office. Contact the EAP people, set the appointment, and go. There is no shame in this. We all need help from time to time. 6. Keep your manager informed. Communication is vital at this stage. Spiritual caregiving is not a walk in the park. That you are fatigued confirms this. Get rest, get well, stimulate your spiritual disciplines, do what you need to do for you. Bless you, Chaplains, for who you are and what you do.