Here at TEND, we are fortunate to encounter some wonderful people who work in a wide variety of fields and professions. One of those wonderful people is Jessica Dolce.
Jessica’s work focuses on helping animal care and welfare professionals navigate compassion-related stress, as well as cultivate resilience in their work and life. She’s a Certified Compassion Fatigue Educator, coach, writer and dog walker, as well as the creator of Dogs in Need of Space.
Jessica joined us for our Train the Trainer course in 2015, and we’re so excited to see her bring the discussion of compassion fatigue into the world of animal welfare.
We love Jessica’s playful and edgy style – one of our favourite messages of hers is that of #CompassionateBadassery:
Today, we’re excited to share one of Jessica’s blog post as featured on HeART’s Speak. She discusses the intersection of animal care and compassion fatigue, as well as shares strategies to help manage compassion fatigue-related stress.
Ask anyone why they volunteer or work with animals and you’ll probably get the same answer: fast cars, fame, and heaps of money. Oh wait, that’s why people want to be rock stars! People who work with animals do it because they care. Because it is their heart’s work.
So let me ask you something, just between us: When was the last time you thought about how the work you do with animals is having an impact on your heart?
As a volunteer or a staff member at a shelter or rescue, you’re exposed to so many animals and people who are in need of help. And all day long you collect their stories, take their photos, and care for them through your compassionate actions. At the end of the day, where do all those stories and worries go? They’re gathered in your heart (and your body and your mind).
That’s a heavy load to carry.
Compassion fatigue, according to Dr. Charles Figley, is the natural consequence of stress resulting from caring for traumatized people and animals. In other words, it’s the physical and emotional exhaustion that arises from the constant demand to be compassionate and effective in helping those in need and who are suffering.
Here’s the thing: Compassion fatigue is a normal, predictable result of doing this work. We can’t help others without being affected by it at some point. It’s an occupational hazard.
So why aren’t we better prepared to deal with it? When you first began your work with animals, did anyone pull you aside and tell you that you needed a game plan to cope with the emotional and physical challenges of doing this heartfelt work? Were you given any tools or strategies to help you cope? For most of us, the answer is no.
So many of us are experiencing compassion fatigue symptoms without ever having heard about it. So let’s talk about it a little here, ok?
HeARTs Speak is an international nonprofit organization that’s uniting art and advocacy to increase the visibility of shelter animals. You can learn more about them on their website, or check out this feature article by consumersadvocate.org, HeARTs Speak – Because Every Voice Matters.
Interested in joining the team of Compassion Fatigue trainers? Check out Compassion Fatigue: Train the Trainer – an online course starting February 2019.