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  • Writer's pictureLeona Black

Supporting the self-care of those supporting animals

People who support animals are usually, by definition, caring people who value and enjoy putting the needs of animals first. However demands and emotional challenges can be overwhelming.

As a coach supporting people working with animals, I see the importance of putting yourself first and remembering that self-care is a necessity.

The demands of the job, witnessing animal suffering, and advocating for their rights can lead to compassion fatigue, burnout, and emotional exhaustion. This is where self-care can act as a lifeline, ensuring the well-being of animal welfare professionals.

Practicing self-care allows individuals in this field to replenish their physical, emotional, and mental reserves, whilst enabling them to provide the best care for the animals they serve.

Here's why self-care is essential for those working in animal welfare:

Recharging Emotional Resilience: Caring for animals in need can be emotionally draining so it is really important to find the ways that work for you to recharge, and it may be that you are not entirely sure what these ways of recharging are just yet – it took me a long, long time to work that out and I still do some of the things that do not recharge me and can take away.

Setting Boundaries: Animal welfare professionals often go above and beyond, sometimes at the expense of their own well-being. Self-care encourages the establishment of healthy boundaries, ensuring a balance between work and personal life. Prioritising self-care prevents exhaustion and promotes sustainable compassion.

Engaging in Physical Self-Care: Animal welfare work can be physically demanding. Prioritising physical self-care through regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest supports individuals to have the strength to care for animals effectively.

I think this is one is one of the hardest to do! It can be so difficult to get the motivation sometimes, even to go for a walk. But who ever came back from a walk saying: “I wish I had NOT done that!”?

Practicing mindfulness / meditation: The nature of animal welfare work often requires quick thinking and problem-solving, and you need concentration to do that. When you are rushing from one thing to the next, you may lose focus and miss important things in your work.

Incorporating mindfulness or meditation practices, such as deep breathing, or simply taking moments of pause, allows professionals to centre themselves, reduce stress, and approach challenges with clarity and composure.

I used to think that mindfulness as a waste of time, believing that it was only good for you in the time you practiced it, but someone told me that maybe I just hadn't found the right mindfulness guidance yet. So I persevered.

I then found and can highly recommend Jeff Warren’s “Mindfulness for Beginners” which is a 30-day programme on the #Calm App. You don’t have to think about it – just put on the next day’s session and spend ten minutes for yourself. I have found my concentration has improved outside of the sessions, as well as helping me to remain calmer.

I have said this before, but I will say it again: self-care is not a luxury but a lifeline for those of you working in support of animals, nurturing your well-being and sustaining your vital work.

But if you need some help in maintaining this, drop me line – I would love to hear from you.

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