Compassion Fatigue & Burnout
Following on from my last post: Veganism & Mental Health I wanted to write a post on ways to manage and keep on top of your mental health if need be.
I feel like now for me is a good time to write this after spending the evening last night bawling my eyes out over a post I saw of pigs screaming out for help inside a gas chamber. It broke my heart and ruined my evening. This happens a lot. But I choose not to bury my head in the sand and I expose myself to these things because it reminds me why I will forever fight for the animals. The pain I feel from seeing this footage will never compare even minutely to the pain and suffering that they go through.
Compassionate people need to practice a great deal of self care so they do not burn out their beautiful flames. A great activist I follow on Instagram – seb.alex wrote this:
”Dear activists, let’s talk about compassion fatigue and burnout. Because not doing so is dangerous.
Compassion fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension & preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to a degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practising self-care, destructive behaviours can surface resulting in apathy, isolation, depression & bottled up emotions.”
I am not claiming to be a huge activist, but I can really relate to what is being said here. Being vegan is not just a dietary choice. It is a way of life. You become hyper-aware of the suffering we impose as humans on other species and our own kind too! I would describe it as a “switch” that has been turned on inside you and you are suddenly “wide awake.” Supermarkets become morgues. Pet shops become cruel places. Zoos become prisons. Fur trims become murder. Leather becomes the skin of someone that desperately wanted to live. The list goes on!
A trip to Rome last year was tainted for me because the streets are littered with horses and carriages and for every one I saw I felt that familiar pang in my heart. I watched the horses stand there for hours on end. They are just slaves to humans. Waiting endlessly for the next passengers they will have to drag up and down the busy streets with their heavy harnesses on. Over and over again. Day after day. That is their miserable life. Nobody else seems to notice them at all. But to me they are screaming out and it is times like this we need to know how we can be mindful of our mental state.
So how can we practice self care??
THIS ONE IS KEY: Understand that People’s opposing opinions are not a personal attack on you. It is more often than not a lack of knowledge and understanding and a lifetime of being brainwashed by society. Humans are creatures of habit and don’t welcome change easily. If they have been told their whole life that they need milk for calcium and meat for protein then by telling them this is simply not true will always be met with some resistance. If you’re the one telling them you will get the resistance.
REMEMBER: you too were once not vegan (well most of us). That doesn’t mean you were a bad person. You just didn’t know any different or maybe didn’t care to know at that time.
You may be out with friends for dinner and simply don’t want to discuss why you won’t eat animal products. That is perfectly fine. Keep your answers short such as “I’m just trying to be the best version of myself I can be” and change the subject. It can be draining feeling that you have to defend your choices all the time.
Connect with like-minded people. The biggest positive about social media is that you can connect with people from all over the world who think and feel just like you do. So get following tonnes of vegan accounts. Even better go to vegan festivals, restaurants and meet people in person.
Ignore negative comments. The biggest movements in the World have always been met with the greatest resistance. Martin Luther Kings dream of a World with racial equality is gradually becoming a reality where it once seemed impossible. So too can a World where animals walk with us and not for us.
Remember you are blessed! Blessed that you have such empathy. The world doesn’t need more successful people it desperately needs more people who care! So go you!!
Get out in nature. Go for long walks. If you ever feel down the best remedy is to just get outdoors and look at all the beauty around us.
Work out! There’s nothing better than a good sweat sesh in the gym or outdoors to get those happy endorphins flowing.
Practice mindfulness. Learn how to meditate. Do yoga or Pilates. They are all great ways to relax the mind and improve your mental wellbeing.
When stumbling across animal abuse in every day life. A great example was the horses & carriages in Rome I mentioned earlier. Instead of letting it ruin your day. Make a little note of it somewhere. Then at another time, if you’d like to, you can go back to the issue and research ways you can help. Maybe write a post on social media to raise awareness or donate some money to a charity that helps the cause. In that moment breathe, let it go and enjoy your day.
Not everyone is kind. That is life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to them. Sometimes they are the people who need it the most.
Vegans sometimes put a lot of pressure on other vegans to be activists. If you don’t want to that is just fine. Just by being a vegan you are making a huge impact. People see that you are a perfectly happy, healthy, functioning human being and are taking note. If you feel activism just isn’t for you maybe you’d like to donate to an activist that you really respect and admire. Often they need funds to aid them with vigils and protests etc.
Take breaks from social media. The pictures you see of animal abuse might be getting all too much and weighing heavy on your heart. So take a break. Or maybe make the decision to not follow such accounts if it is getting too much for you.
Don’t be afraid to let go of people who don’t support you. That doesn’t mean they have to have the same views as you. But they should always support you. Somebody who says “I admire what you do. It’s really kind of you. But it’s just not for me.” Is still supporting you. Whereas someone who says “Oh go and get a burger down you. I don’t know why you care so much?!” Is not supporting you. They are trying to belittle you. That is a form of bullying. Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don’t love you and help you grow. Love yourself enough to let go of them.
I hope that that helps a little. Remember you are just one person. You are doing the best that you can. You are enough! Look after yourself and never give up!
Peace & Love
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)