941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

You see the emotional and physical pain people are going through every day. As a medical professional, you may see injuries caused by one’s own doing, or inflicted by another. As a court professional, you see the injuries your clients cause other people and the broken backgrounds many of them come from. As a therapist, you also see the effects a broken background can have on a person. As a first responder, you see the emotional and physical pain people are going through in the moment they are going through it. And you all think that you are so strong; that seeing this day after day will not impact you. Or maybe you know that it can impact you, but you don’t know what to do to prevent it from burning you out. Or you just stay in denial about the whole thing. Whatever the case, you are here reading this because it has impacted you.
Unfortunately, at this time, seeing people’s pain day after day has taken its toll. You feel like you are going to cry at the drop of a hat. Life doesn’t seem to have the same excitement it once did. You still make plans, but you don’t enjoy following through with those plans the way you once did.
For awhile you were able to ignore the issues. You pushed aside the feelings, ignored the impact, made excuses for it, hoped it would just go away and pretended everything was ok. Now it’s gotten to the point where not only did it not go away, it’s gotten worse. You are not sleeping as well anymore. You are not eating as well. You have to push yourself to do just about anything, even the things you once really enjoyed. Even going to the gym feels like a chore.
Perhaps it came on slowly, over a period of years. You may not have even noticed when it all began and when you look back, you cannot pinpoint when you started to feel this way. You remember “years ago” you weren’t like this…but cannot figure out when it changed exactly or why. This is frustrating in itself because nothing “happened.” If nothing happened, why am I feeling this way? Many people don’t think about the effects of accumulated stress. Many medical and court professionals as well as first responders don’t think of their jobs as traumatic, but the reality is, the brain takes in the other person’s suffering as our own and the brain makes an imprint of it along with either the real story, or one we make up because we don’t know the real story.
As you saw more and more suffering, your brain started connecting these people’s stories until they became a strong, hard mass of negative memories. Change takes a lot of time; it does not happen overnight. You do not know when you started to feel this way because of the slow process of the brain making more and more connections over time.
Unfortunately, if you do not stay on top of this slow transformation, all it does is make you wind up in a place of despair, unhappiness, and discontent with everything in life. It can be a very dark place. The truth is, it is a natural process of our brain to make this transformation. The more negative we hear, the more negative we feel. The more positive we hear, the more positive we feel. It is completely normal to feel jaded or unhappy when 8+ hours a day we live negative (this does not include what we see on the news, or hear about from our loved ones jobs, or things going on in our own lives that are not working well).
It is normal to feel unhappy and like you just want to cry at any moment. It is normal to have no energy or desire to do anything. It is normal to feel the way you do.
This apathy may or may not have started to impact your family. However, if we can learn just three tips to help us feel happier in our daily lives, we can prevent it from impacting our families, we can start to re-engage in life, and we can continue to do the career we were called to do. When we make just a few tweaks to our daily lives, it is entirely possible to feel happy and enjoy life again.
You are currently feeling apathetic, tired, worn-out, and irritable
The biggest downfall to not overcoming this downward spiral is that it will not only take you down, but your family with you. As you and your family spiral down, it often gets worse faster and faster. Everyone brings their own backgrounds to the table and as stress builds up, our interpretations may be very different and often make the situation worse.
Take for example, Tracy, whose parents divorced and she heard more than she should have about her mother’s feelings regarding the divorce. As an adult, Tracy worries that her spouse, John, is going to leave her. It almost never bothers her, but when they argue, she gets a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach. John, who is a critical care giver, is starting to get a bit cynical. As a result, he was more sarcastic for awhile. Then he just started to withdraw more. As he was withdrawing more, Tracy thought he was upset with her or their relationship. She started to get anxious. She asked questions that made no sense to John, and he answered them more sarcastically and irritably because “what in the world is she talking about?!” His tone of voice confirmed her fears and she started spiraling, looking for help for their marriage and stressing about him leaving her even though this was never the issue. Tracy and John were on completely different pages due to Tracy’s background and John’s job. Because they were not on the same page, their relationship struggled significantly.
At the very least, it drains you daily. Your energy level gets less and less as the days go on. This is often the beginning of compassion fatigue which then leads to burnout. Professionals who work with others’ pain have a very high burnout rate in their fields (this includes therapists, nurses, doctors, probation/parole officers, police, fire, EMT, 911 dispatchers, etc).
Continuing to live this way is exhausting. We only have so much energy every day and the more negative that we see, the less energy we have. Our brains are set to protect us. As we see pain day after day, the brain is processing a lot of very difficult input, which is taking a great deal of energy to “file away.”
You want to feel energetic, excited, and ready to take on the day
Although you struggle with low energy and apathy, you have the potential to get your drive back. This does not have to be what life looks like for the rest of your career. There is a way out of this mess. When we choose to take just a few new steps per day, there is a huge possibility for you to find joy in your life again. You have the opportunity to live the life you want, even if your job does not change.
Imagine feeling rejuvenated when you come home from work. Imagine having energy to do what you enjoy on weekends. Imagine not feeling so irritable at the end of the work day. This is all possible with just a few changes to your daily routine.
3 tips for professionals seeing people’s daily pain increase happiness in their own lives
Whereas you might currently be feeling hopeless that you will be able to find joy in your own life again, this is so far from the truth. The truth is there is no reason why you cannot feel fulfilled in your personal life despite the demands of the job.
The key to achieving happiness in your own life is to tweak just a few parts of your daily routine. It isn’t quite as hard as you think because you do not need to make huge shifts or take a large amount of your precious time away by making these tweaks.
Take a look at these 3 tips to see how you can feel happy in your daily life again
1. Feeling like you are going to cry at the drop of a hat.
One of the reasons you struggle with happiness in your own life is because between your personal and professional lives, you are so overwhelmed you don’t know how to relax anymore…and if you do relax you feel guilty about it because there is so much to do.
It makes sense that you want to cry so frequently. Crying is a great outlet and releases a great deal of pressure in our bodies and minds. When we’re not letting the stress out in other ways, it wants to come out this way.
Try this instead: When you want to cry, stop what you are doing for a moment. Take some deep breaths to center yourself and turn logic back on in your mind. Identify everything that is going on right now; everything you are currently doing. Ask yourself, is it feasible to do all of this? Is it necessary right now? What can I let go of? Who can I delegate some of this to?
Even if you do not let any of it go, by stopping and thinking like this, you are allowing your brain to refocus, which will help you feel les stressed. Together, with my clients, we often go through a timeline of their day to identify everything that they did that day, then prioritize it – what was important, what wasn’t? What could they have delegated and what couldn’t they have? Etc.
2. Life doesn’t seem as exciting as it once did
When the brain is stressed or depressed or anxious, we are set to survival mode. We cannot enjoy what is happening if we are about to die. The chemicals released in the brain associated with happiness are not active when we are stressed, depressed or anxious.
This is why it makes sense that when you are chronically stressed, you do not feel as happy as you once did. The brain is set to survive, not relax.
Try this instead: When you are doing something you used to enjoy, but are not currently enjoying, take a moment to be in the moment. What do you see? Say it to yourself: “green leaves, blue sky, white clouds,” etc). What do you hear? Again say specifically what you hear to yourself: “car went by, airplane in the sky, birds chirping,” etc. Do this with what you smell, taste, and physically feel. After you go through all of your senses, go through again with something tangible (hold a blade of grass for example) and tell yourself what this blade of grass feels like, smells like, looks like. Then get back to what you are doing and do the same thing. Just notice and just let whatever other thoughts come to mind go as you focus on your senses.
Here at Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC, we will often do this technique together, comparing notes when we are done. This makes sure that we both pay as much attention to the object(s) as possible.
When you really stay in the moment, you will start to notice feeling a bit lighter. You might start to notice a sense of calm pretty quickly or it might take some time. You may not notice feeling “happy” immediately, but the light, calm feeling will transition over to happiness as you allow your chemical receptors in the brain to reactivate.
3. Feeling tired and worn-out
As I said above, it takes a great deal of energy for the brain to process what you see and hear day after day. This constant stress takes a toll and you end up feeling worn out and tired. It starts at the end of the day, but eventually it seeps into the next morning until you’re feeling worn out before you even start your day.
The daily accumulation of stress and negativity wears everyone down. Some people get worn out faster than others, but this is a normal feeling when we see human pain every day.
Try this instead: Choose how often you want to do this throughout the day, but remember the more you do something, the faster you’ll see results (the more you stick to your diet, the faster you’ll lose weight). Several times throughout the day stop, close your eyes, lean back, and rub your head, neck, and jaw with your fingers. As you do so, tell yourself a couple things you are grateful for right now. (You can use the same ones all day if you’d like).
Adding this to your life will help you to balance the positive with the negative in your day. Also, the massage will be reminding your body to let go of the stress while you are thinking of good things. The thoughts along with the physical relaxation work in conjunction to help re-energize you throughout the day.
When you schedule a session with me, we come up with a daily plan that will incorporate these skills. It does not take much time to do them. Our thoughts guide our emotions. If we think “This is impossible” we may feel hopeless. If we think “This is incredibly difficult, but not impossible” we may have a bit more drive as we don’t feel quite as hopeless about it.
Just a few tweaks to our thoughts throughout the day can have a huge impact on our emotions and our happiness with our own lives. Achieving a sense of happiness when you once thought it was impossible is such a gratifying feeling. You absolutely can have the life you want without feeling drained and irritable. Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC can help because I specialize in people just like you: first responders, medical professionals, and court professionals move from internal turmoil to internal control every day.
You were called to your profession and I was called to help you maintain your passion.
Call me today: 941-462-4807 to schedule an appointment! I look forward to working with you to get your goals in life met.