Compassion Fatigue is huge in the animal welfare and veterinary communities. Signs can be depression, anger, anxiety, sadness, and more.
People who work in shelters and rescues often say it’s the hardest job they ever had. But they stay there because the animals need them. They are passionate about their work, but there’s only so much help they can offer as an individual. And the heartbreak that they experience becomes what is known as Compassion Fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the first study that examined veterinarian mortality rates in America. The results were grim: the suicide rate among veterinarians is between 2 to 3.5 times higher than the national average. The animal welfare community (sanctuaries, rescue groups, shelters) represent another area of concern. The stress of animal work can affect morale and how they view their job.
Psychotherapist J. Eric Gentry told the Sacramento Bee: “Animal care professionals are some of the most pain-saturated people I have ever worked with. The very thing that makes them great at their work, their empathy and dedication and love for animals, makes them vulnerable.”
Signs of compassion fatigue can include:
Sudden outbursts of anger
Feeling cynical or numb to what’s happening around you
Feeling isolated from family and friends
Difficulty sleeping just to name a few.
There are techniques that can be hugely effective for combating this syndrome though.
1. Talk about experiences with someone we trust, and in enough detail to connect emotionally with them again.
2. Learning mindfulness is proving extremely useful for people who suffer from compassion fatigue. Research shows that mindfulness reduces activity in the amygdala--that part of the brain that reacts to fear and anxiety.
Mindfulness increases empathy and serenity among animal care givers. Mindfulness emphasizes staying in the present moment, being non-judgmental, and striving toward an attitude of acceptance.
Research abounds on the benefits of mindfulness with:
Improvement in depression, anxiety and coping skills
Significant decrease in stress.
Improved self-compassion, serenity and empathy
3. Journaling about our feelings can be extremely helpful when feeling stressed, anxious and fearful. Therapy journaling can improve mental health and is also an excellent method of self-discovery, for overcoming challenges, changes and hardships, healing wounds, relationships and illnesses. And getting insight into what you want and who you are.
4. Spending time in nature: Forest bathing is spending time in the forest exploring. Nope, no jumping into the stream, instead bathing our senses in all there is to explore in the forest–what we see, hear, smell, touch, taste. It's even better when done using Mindfulness!
A substance called phytoncides are produced by trees to protect them from insects and germs. Also helpful for people, this essential oil even helps increase our ‘killer cells’ that fight off cancer. People report lower blood pressure and an overall feeling of well-being even a week after they've spent time doing forest bathing. There’s a lot of mindfulness in forest bathing too.
And to all the animal welfare people reading this, are you ready to once again love the work you loved? (word count 522)
(Bio 30 words)
Michelle McKenzie is a certified intuitive life coach and Reiki master/teacher. She teaches Animal Reiki, Mindfulness, Journal therapy, and nature therapy. You can learn more or contact her at www.MyPurposePath.com