CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — 2020 has been a roller coaster and many people are ready to get off the ride but don't know when it's going to stop. This can have a strain on one’s empathy and compassion, but there are ways to fix it.
The last six months of 2020 have been intense to say the least. At this point, it may be so overwhelming for some that shutting parts of the world out seems like the only option.
Associate Professor Michelle Hollenbaugh from the Counseling Department at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi said while that may not be the best option, it's not surprising because many people are dealing with trauma.
“I’ve noticed that when people say goodbye they say, 'stay safe,' or you might hear someone say, 'I hope you're staying safe,' and that's common now,” Hollenbaugh said. “Really, what the underlining implication of that is that our safety is always at risk and that's huge and that is really traumatizing.”
That -- on top of everything else going happening in a person’s life -- can result in what Hollenbaugh calls compassion fatigue.
“So, it's not only having empathy but then also wanting to help others but hearing so many difficult stories and having so many things going on around you that you do burn out,” Hollenbaugh said. “It's hard because you do feel disconnected from your emotions. You can feel disconnected from the emotions of others.”
Hollenbaugh said the best way to combat that is by practicing mindfulness. A skill where you can learn how to control your thoughts in the moment.
“For example, if you're watching TV and seeing something distressing you'll be mindful and say, 'oh, I’m noticing my chest is starting to hurt. I'm noticing I’m starting to have anxious thoughts. I’m going to take a moment and I’m going to self sooth or I’m going to do something that makes me happy,” said Hollenbaugh.
Texas A&M University Corpus Christi offers counseling services to students as well as the public through their clinic.