Caring too much can hurt. As animal rescuers and caregivers we have learned it the hard way. Witnessing the suffering of homeless animals day in and day out, rescuing animals that have been abandoned, neglected and abused and trying to help them overcome their traumatic experiences can be truly overwhelming. Moreover, we’ve had to deal with very sick and wounded animals that couldn’t make it and euthanasia was the only option. Over the years, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we cannot save them all but the emotional burden led us to a secondary traumatic stress disorder known as “Compassion Fatigue”.
We want to share with you what we have learned about Compassion Fatigue on our path to wellness.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
“Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.» Dr. Charles Figley
In a world where every tragedy is instantly broadcast live directly into your smart TV, computer and mobile devices, compassion fatigue no longer affects only professionals such as nurses and vets; it can affect anyone who cares.
How can you prevent Compassion Fatigue?
• Show compassion to yourself first!
• Be grateful for what is good in your life.
• Keep your faith in humanity. Read amazing stories of people who work for a better world such as animal welfare activists and human rights advocates.
• Accept the fact that suffering is a reality of life over which we have no control.
• Limit the amount of daily news you watch on TV or read about on newspapers.
• Limit the number of videos you watch on social media that show graphic content, violence or abuse.
By being aware of the warning signs of compassion fatigue, you can prevent it and continue to work for a better world; make a difference with one act of kindness at a time.
Are you already suffering from Compassion Fatigue?
Learning to recognize some warning signs is the first step toward healing.
Some warning signs are:
• Feeling extremely affected by the suffering of others
• Feeling emotional exhaustion
• Physical and mental fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating
• Insomnia or poor sleep and frequent nightmares
• Turning to drugs or alcohol to numb your feelings
• Feeling hopeless or powerless
• Loss of self-worth
• Poor self-care
Awareness and Healing
Enhance your awareness with education. Compassion Fatigue can affect any deeply caring individual but that doesn’t mean you have to stop caring; you just need to learn how to practice healthy self-care to successfully care for others.
Healing takes time, patience, and most importantly, commitment.