For animal lovers, there is no greater calling than to rescue dogs in need. But the emotional stress of the job can often be underestimated. Let’s take a closer look at the psychological effects of being a dog rescuer and what can be done to manage the stress that comes with the job.
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a Dog Rescuer
Rescuing dogs is an emotional roller coaster. There are the highs of seeing a dog find its forever home and the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference in that dog’s life. But there are also the lows of dealing with sick or injured dogs, saying goodbye to dogs that have been in your care for months or even years, and constantly worrying about finding enough resources to keep your rescue running.
It’s no surprise, then, that dog rescuers often experience compassion fatigue, which is defined as “the emotional drain from caring for others who are suffering.” Compassion fatigue can lead to feelings of isolation, cynicism, and even depression. If not managed properly, compassion fatigue can put your health and well-being at risk.
How to Manage Compassion Fatigue as a Dog Rescuer
The first step to managing compassion fatigue is to recognize the symptoms. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or just generally drained, those are all signs that you may be experiencing compassion fatigue. Once you’ve identified the symptoms, there are several things you can do to help manage them:
- Take care of yourself physically. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all important for maintaining your physical health.
- Make time for yourself emotionally. Set aside time each day to do something that makes you happy and helps you relax. This could be reading, taking a yoga class, or spending time with friends and family members who understand what you’re going through.
- Connect with other dog rescuers. It can be helpful to talk to others who understand the challenges of the job. There are many online forums and support groups specifically for dog rescuers. Sharing your experiences with others can help you feel less isolated and more connected.
- Seek professional help if needed. If you’re struggling to cope with compassion fatigue on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.
- Take a break if necessary. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a break from rescuing altogether. This doesn’t mean giving up on your passion; it may just mean taking a few weeks or months off to recharge before diving back in again.
Dog rescuers play an incredibly important role in society but often at great personal cost. If you’re a dog rescuer, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of compassion fatigue and take steps to manage them before they become overwhelming. With proper self-care, you can prevent compassion fatigue from jeopardizing your health and well-being—and continue making a difference in the lives of dogs in need.