Posts Tagged ‘compassion fatigue’

10 easy and inspiring acts of kindness for animals

I recently wrote about random acts of kindness—which got me thinking, what about random acts of kindness toward the animals of this world, specifically? Here are 10 easy and inspiring ways we can all be kind to the beautiful creatures sharing our world. Remember, kindness is contagious, so pass it on …

1. Choose cruelty-free products. Each year, 100,000-200,000 animals around the world suffer and die in laboratories due to cosmetics testing. Choosing to spend your hard-earned dollars on products from compassionate companies is one small act of kindness we can all do to support the rats, bunnies and guinea pigs commonly used in testing. Use PETA’s search function on its website to determine if the products you use are animal-friendly or not and find alternatives. (LUSH, a cruelty-free business with amazing beauty products, is a favorite of mine!)

4 questions to guarantee happy volunteering

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a dream come true for so many of us. But just like any job, the first shelter you come across may not be the right fit for you. Due to the time commitments involved and the level of devotion required by volunteering, it’s important to find the right “match” ahead of time to ensure the best experience possible.

With that in mind, here are four vital questions to ask the shelter (and yourself!) in order to guarantee the happiest experience possible:

1. Is it a no-kill shelter? If not, are you comfortable working with animals that may have to be euthanized? Are you comfortable being present with these animals, perhaps at the time of transition? It’s important to let the volunteer coordinator know your comfort level with discussions surrounding euthanasia at the shelter where you volunteer. It can prevent an uncomfortable or emotionally charged discussion at a later date.

2. Will they require you to complete a training program? If so, how long is the program, and what are the requirements? Once you have completed the program, what minimum hours per week will you be required to volunteer, and how long-term of a commitment do they expect? (Some shelters require at least a year.) What duties will you be expected to assist with? What percentage of your time will you be able to devote solely to the tasks that interest you the most?

3. Which staff member will you report to directly? Which person will be involved in helping you with the animals or giving information about which animals to work with? Will this person be notified of your volunteer role at the shelter? If not, make sure to introduce yourself to the staff and volunteers when you meet.

4. Are you prepared to handle the ups and downs? Volunteering at an animal shelter has its magical moments—the first time you bond with a cat that hides from everyone else, the older dog who finally finds her forever home—but there will be plenty of heartbreak as well. Ask yourself how you will cope when you witness innocent animals recovering from abusive situations, see cats and dogs suffering and in pain, know that the animals “no one wants” are being euthanized, or even miss your favorite animal once he or she is adopted? Unfortunately, those who dedicate their lives to caring for others (human or animal) must watch out for compassion fatigue, a traumatic stress disorder and occupational hazard for shelter volunteers which I wrote more about here.

What questions do you always ask before volunteering at an animal shelter?

{Adapted from The Animal Reiki Handbook: Finding Your Way With Reiki in Your Local Shelter, Sanctuary or Rescue by Kathleen Prasad}

Symptoms of compassion fatigue (and how to cope)

Did you know that those who work with shelter and sanctuary animals are highly vulnerable to compassion fatigue? Not surprisingly, helping (and opening your heart to) abused, unloved and neglected animals on a regular basis is extremely stressful and traumatic. Those involved in euthanasia of such animals also experience grief. Compassion fatigue, therefore, is unfortunately an occupational hazard for those working with traumatized animals.

According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project (CFAP) and the American Institute of Stress, the symptoms of compassion fatigue vary but can include any of the following:

  • Excessive sadness or bottling up of emotions
  • Isolating oneself
  • Losing your sense of humor
  • Neglecting your appearance
  • Abusing substances to cope
  • Feeling mentally and physically tired
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced sense of meaning or purpose in one’s work

If you think you may be suffering from compassion fatigue (but aren’t sure), you can start by taking this self-test.

Healing from compassion fatigue doesn’t happen overnight, but there are pro-active steps you can take. CFAP stresses the importance of Self Care during this difficult time and offers the following tips: being kind to yourself, clarifying your personal boundaries, vocalizing your needs and more. The entire list can be found here.

Another option is meditation. In my work with animals, I’ve found that meditating and practicing Reiki can help us to stay centered, strong and balanced amidst all the chaos we observe, sense and feel. If you lack the energy to sustain a long, drawn-out meditation, these mini meditations are a good starting point.

Connecting with the following two Reiki precepts in particular is another way to help guide you down the path to wellness:

1. Be grateful. This precept is really about remembering the positive. Sometimes in difficult situations, we forget that every cloud has a silver lining. Figure out what your silver linings are for the animals that you work with. Perhaps a fearful animal you have worked with is showing progress. Maybe an animal who was abandoned finally found a forever family. Even in the case of an animal who died: Were they given kindness in the last moments of their life? Or perhaps their life has illuminated cruelty in a way that will teach and inspire people to help? If we take some time and look deeper into situations, we can always find things to be grateful for. In fact, some of life’s most difficult teachers are also the most profound.

 2. Be honest. Reach out to fellow rescuers who know what you are going through or to your Reiki friends who share an empathic view of the world. My nonprofit, the Shelter Animal Reiki Association, is a group of more than 400 people around the world who spend time with rescued animals and use the practices of Reiki for support. If you can find people who not only understand, but also offer you a positive and encouraging word, all the better!

The Reiki precept “be honest” also means understanding your boundaries. What part of your rescue work is the most gratifying? Which parts are the most overwhelming? Spending time becoming more aware of how your time with rescued animals affects your inner state will help you to move toward balance.

CFAP offers a host of resources to help animal caregivers suffering from compassion fatigue. The Wrong Side of the Rainbow also offers information on Self Care as well as links to pet loss forums and a counseling service in Canada. Talking to a therapist can help, too; a simple Google search will lead you to a variety of animal care compassion fatigue specialists, such as Anne Lindsay of TACTdogs.com.

Remember, there is always hope. You are not alone. You are as strong as the earth and as expansive as the sky. All will be well. Take some time to meditate and practice Reiki, and watch both you and the animals you care for shift back into wellness.

Have you or someone you love experienced compassion fatigue? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important issue.

New food trend: faux fish

Dear friends, what are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow and Sunday I am excited to be teaching Reiki 2 at BrightHaven (though we will miss little Joey so, so much). Here are a few interesting and important links from around the web of things I’m grateful for today:

1. A vegetarian alternative to fish: Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, overfishing and mercury levels are real problems when it comes to consuming your favorite fish, whether it’s ahi, bluefin or even unagi. Now enterprising chefs and companies across the nation are experimenting with savory, visually appetizing alternatives to your favorite fish dishes. Vegan options and veggie-based foods like “tomato sushi” (which looks and supposedly tastes like the real thing) are starting to roll out. Though demand is still small, I love this idea and can’t wait to try some of these products. Read more here on the flourishing faux-fish trend.