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Avoid Burnout: Can a Helper’s High be Addicting?

  • May 15, 2019
  • Lis Williams

🎁 Giving is good for us!  It’s that simple. The research confirms it… Giving activates regions of the... Continue Reading

🎁 Giving is good for us! 

It’s that simple. The research confirms it…

  • Giving activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.
  • We feel more grateful when we give, and gratitude leads to happiness.
  • Our health improves by reducing stress and strengthening our immune system.
  • Altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain – such as oxytocin – producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”


But can a helper’s high be addicting?

Yes! And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as we’re remembering the importance of self-care and taking steps to replenish ourselves, the risk of over-giving is low.

If, however, you find it difficult to know how much is too much, you might be at risk for burnout or “compassion fatigue” as it’s called in the industry. The reality is that burn-out is common among volunteers and professionals in the non-profit arena. Why?

Non-profit organizations have limited resources. Both financial and human capital are hard to come by and there just never seems to be enough of either. That’s why non-profits depend on a robust supply of volunteers to fill in the gaps.

If you volunteer, you might have experienced this. My clients tell me it can be challenging to feel like you’re already giving so much and then be asked for even more – whether time or money. You want to say yes, but you’re afraid if you do they’ll just keep asking.


So, who’s at risk of burn-out or compassion fatigue?

You are

That is, if you’re already feeling overwhelmed by having too much do. Adding more stuff, even if it’s good stuff, can lead us to stress and frustration.

You’re also at risk if you’re an empath. Empaths are people who are high on the empathic spectrum and actually feel what is happening in others in their own bodies.

As a result, empaths can have incredible compassion for people, but they often get exhausted from feeling “too much” – unless they develop strategies to safeguard their sensitivities and develop healthy boundaries.


How do you avoid compassion fatigue?

The best (and easiest) solution is prevention. Here are some suggestions to keep you in prime form for healthy giving…

  • Do a self-assessment before you give to be sure you’re in a good place financially and emotionally.
  • Choose a cause you’re passionate about, so the time and commitment are meaningful and fulfilling.
  • Share your natural gifts and talents, rather than agreeing to do something you don’t enjoy.
  • Be clear up-front about how much you’re willing to give.
  • Learn to say “no” and establish healthy boundaries.
  • Be sure the positives of giving outweigh any negatives.
  • Practice “compassionate detachment” – maintaining some distance between you and the cause or people served.
  • Recognize when you’re beginning to feel frustrated or burnt-out and take a much-needed break.


Giving in any form should be something that results in meaning
and fulfillment – even though it can be challenging at times.

Making giving a way of life doesn’t mean you need to give until it hurts. We need you healthy, happy, and whole in order to make your AWE-thentic Impact in the world.

The need will always be there. Will you?


Be Bold. Be Daring. Be AWE-dacious!