For those of you who aren't familiar with Compassion Fatigue, it's what can happen when a caregiver (of humans or animals) focuses on others without taking care of themselves.
A few years ago, Wayside Waifs flew in an expert on Compassion Fatigue. I know it's not the same as being there, but the presenter, Jana Svoboda, has also written about it on her blog, and there's some really helpful information there.
Here's how she describes CF:
"Animal shelter workers and other workers in fields where needs outweigh resources, and where empathy is a crucial part of the call to service are at high risk for compassion fatigue.
"Like burnout, CF can suck the joy out of doing important work. But while one can burn out at any job, compassion fatigue is associated with jobs in which the worker is exposed to suffering and trauma.
"Also known as secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma, one doesn't have to be the victim of life's precariousness to feel the effects of witnessing it. "
She goes on to talk about something she calls the Troublesome Trifecta that we need to be aware of, and manage for our own mental and emotional health. This Trifecta a combination of three traits: what she has labeled Big Radar (the ability to take in everything), Big Sensitivity (you just feel everything in a big way) and Big Brains (the need to analyze everything).
If this sounds like it describes you, read on:
The Trifecta can be a double-sided coin when you're engaged in a mission to help save the lives of animals. On the plus side of that coin you'll find a deep empathy, curiosity and creativity. On the other side, however, is the ability to be wounded deeply, feeling overwhelmed and not feeling adequate to meet the needs of your particular calling.
As Jana says, "It's important, beautiful, essential we don't give it up learning how to navigate these beautiful, dangerous waters." Finding balance in our own lives every day will allow us to avoid Compassion Fatigue, and will in the long run, be better for those sweet animals we so long to help.
I know this is a short Blog the Change for Animal post, and it redirects you to another site, but I feel this is important. And I hope passing this info along can help someone else as much as Jana's lecture helped me.