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Dedicating yourself to helping animals is a noble cause. Sharing videos of gruesome slaughterhouse footage, rescuing a dog from the side of the road, volunteering at your local animal rescue, and helping people make the connection that animals are here with us, not for us, is a virtuous position to take in a world that isn’t always kind.
For many within the animal advocacy world, experiencing what is known as “compassion fatigue” is common. Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS) is a condition where people feel hopelessness, stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness and/or nightmares. Many become cynical or isolated. Of course, it’s not limited to the animal advocacy world and can affect anyone who works directly with trauma, such as nurses, first responders, and psychologists.
As you can imagine, this is not a condition to take lightly. A mental health survey for veterinarians revealed that one in six has contemplated suicide. In another study, animal control workers have a suicide rate of 5.3 per one million workers, a high suicide rate shared by firefighters and police officers.
When someone suffers from compassion fatigue, they tend to “shut down” and are unable to express their grief and exhaustion with others. You may have friends, family, and co-workers who could provide a safe space for you to talk, but you are simply unable to bring yourself to talk about why you are feeling sad.
When you’re not properly taking care of your mental health and well-being, that is not good, of course, for you, but also for the animals. You may think you are helping more animals by constantly working, but once you burn out, animals lose one of their biggest cheerleaders, and animal abusers rejoice.
So, how can you find a way to prevent compassion fatigue from happening? Here we share some top tips, and if you have any of your own, please share them in the comments below!
How to Fight Compassion Fatigue
- Take care of yourself. As Hannah Shaw, otherwise known as the Kitten Lady says, self-care is animal care. Take a vacation, read a good book, go for a walk, play with your pets, get a good night’s sleep, hang out with your friends … whatever you enjoy that will recharge YOU!
- Know your boundaries. This one is really important! Know your limits. If you already have a lot on your plate and you know that one more task will overwhelm you, say NO. Only take on a project that you know you can handle!
- Stay hydrated and eat well. Your blood sugar controls several different hormonal responses in the body, all of which contribute to your energy, your mood, as well as your hunger levels. Eating a whole food, plant-based diet can improve energy, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. It’s recommended that you drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Food is directly related to how we feel, so make sure you take the time to choose healthy foods!
- Write. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to express your feelings. You could write a daily journal, write a letter to yourself or to someone else, or perhaps try out your creative juices by writing a short story. The important thing is that you are finding an outlet to express yourself so that your feelings don’t bottle up!
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” writer Audre Lorde beautifully said.
Animal rights organization, In Defense of Animals (IDA) is aware of the importance of preventing compassion fatigue and offers a confidential Animal Activist Hotline for those who need to talk. It offers emotional Support, self-care tools, and useful resources. If you or someone you know could benefit from the hotline, click here to find out how you can email or call a professional. There is also an online support group you can attend. It’s okay to ask for help!
Please SHARE this important information within your activist community to help spread awareness far and wide. We can help animals while ALSO taking care of ourselves!
Lead Image Source: Free-Photos/Pixabay