Working in animal welfare can be both physically and emotionally draining. Whether you work or volunteer in a shelter/rescue or a related organization, the animals in our lives tend to come first. But in order to perform at our best and to avoid burn out or compassion fatigue, we must first take care of ourselves.
"Self-care is about finding ways to restore a balance between the negative and the positive by cultivating aspects of our lives that support us when the going gets (and stays) tough. It’s about making a commitment to caring for yourself as deeply and seriously as you care for the animals. Because if you don’t, if you allow yourself to become mentally and physically run down, mired in negativity, sadness, and anger, then you can’t do your job all that well." - Jessica Dolce, Self-Care is Not Optional: How Burnout Ended My Career at the Shelter
Make sure you take time for yourself. If you need a break let a co worker know that you need a break. Physical time outside helps me just decompress. Family is also very important to me. So spending time with them is important also. Remember you need to come first. It is a tough job but can also be very rewarding.
Listening to our classical radio station and playing any music that I feel like hearing (must be melodic and include a wide array of instrumentation) especially for my cats benefit. They are my therapy. I use the music therapy in the shelter for the cats when I visit. It does wonders for their emotional state and believe it contributes to their socialization process immensely. I stay mostly with the classical in the shelter or an alternative I find is excellent is acoustic or classical guitar.
I second Steve's music therapy. Reggae works well for me :-) And, I am diligent about cherishing my time away from work to recharge. It is challenging but important to have boundaries in that regard.
I try to take a bubble bath every week (usually with a glass of wine and a good book ) and stick to an exercise schedule that involves working out at least 4x during the week. Depending on how I'm doing that day or week, I might do a realllyyyy chill yoga class or a quiet walk with my dog because my muscles are already sore, or I might do a more-intense body-combat video or class because I feel like hitting something! But I have my scheduled work times either way.
*scheduled work out times
Also, my partner also got me a gift certificate to a spa for Christmas, so I actually have a massage scheduled for tomorrow! I'm very excited for it.
To be honest, I don't get the appeal, but apparently this coloring for grown-ups is a relaxation technique. Best Friends just sent out some pages. See attached.
The AAWA has an interesting 5-part series coming up..."Going through Hell? Keep Going!" It's insight on how to prepare for emotional responses. (CE credit available for those who need it)
I hold yoga and tai chi classes during lunch two days a week at our shelter. We watch YouTube videos and it is very effective in reducing stress.