Self-Care Tips For Rescue Pet Parents
Rescuing animals is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Knowing that in some cases you may have saved your animal from abuse or abandonment is an indescribable feeling. But after the thrill has worn off, there’s a lot of work that goes into helping your newly rescued pet adjust.
Everyone involved in rescue, from the rescue workers themselves, who have seen some terrible things, to the foster parents and permanent parents, does it from a place of love and caring. We’re here to get involved, no matter how hard it gets. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t slowly wear you down.
The stress of working with a rescue pet and teaching them to trust again can slowly wear you down. If you aren’t careful, you can develop compassion fatigue. This is a reaction to the stress of helping others, sometimes ignoring your own needs to do so, which is very common with rescue workers and those that work in animal care, like veterinary employees.
We’re here to remind you to take care of yourself to help prevent burnout and compassion fatigue. We’ve put together some self-care tips for rescue pet parents, both permanent and foster. With these tips, you can help combat compassion fatigue and stay on top of your game for yourself and for your pet.
Rescue Pet Parent Self-Care Tips
Journaling can seem intimidating, but the more you do it, the better you get at expressing your feelings. Just start with a few sentences a day. Write your frustrations, your fears, why you’re aggravated. If you had a great day, write about that too. If writing isn’t your thing, try some voice journaling. There are apps that allow you to record your thoughts. It’s amazing how much better you can feel getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper… or into a recording.
Journaling doesn’t need to be one more task on your to do list if it’s something you choose to do. Make a journaling space for yourself. Light a candle, make yourself a warm drink in your favorite mug, and cozy up with a blanket. Make it a meditative and relaxing part of your day. It might feel forced, at first, but as you get into a routine, you’ll find it’s something you look forward to.
Practice Mindful Movement
Take a walk, go on a bike ride, hit the treadmill, or even just turn on the radio and dance it out. Introducing mindful movement into your day is a great stress reliever. Mindful movement is meant to make you feel strong and secure in your body. Focusing on movement removes all the things cluttering your brain and gives you time to decompress. Don’t go into it trying to work out as hard as possible, instead, use movement as a way to remind yourself that you are confident and capable.
Sometimes dealing with the challenges of a rescued animal can make us question ourselves and our decisions. Grounding ourselves and focusing on just our bodies and the way they move reminds us of all the things we are capable of accomplishing.
Sometimes talking to our families or people who don’t understand working with a rescue animal can be an exercise in frustration. They just don’t get it. Build or find a group of people who actually understand what you’re going through so you can offer support to each other. It doesn’t have to be a traditional support group. Try to build friendships with other rescue parents and people involved in rescue. Invite them over for a coffee and vent session. You’ll be amazed at how relieving it feels just to hear that other people are going through the same thing you are and that they understand your frustrations.
Make your coffee chats with your rescue pals extra special with mugs that remind you of why you do what you do. A little retail therapy can be fun too.
Get Some Rest
Being a rescue parent is probably not your only facet. You may have a job, or human kids, or a dozen other obligations. All of this together can quickly lead to burnout if you don’t take time to rest your body. It’s easier said than done, but sleep is essential to good mental and physical health. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and the more tired you are, the worse your performance in all facets of life.
Getting rest may require that you learn how to say “no”. It’s okay to admit that you’re overbooked or that you just don’t have the energy to give at this time. It's okay to grab your comfy fleece blanket and go take a nap. If you are well rested, you will have more energy for the challenges you are facing.
Every type of parent feels mildly guilty for spending money on themselves and instead, directs it all toward their children - furry and otherwise. This seems like a minor thing, but it can mean running around in ill-fitting clothes, possibly with weird stains. You can end up feeling like a mess and somehow, like less of a person. It’s okay to spend money on yourself and buy something that makes you happy. If your pet has all the latest toys, is eating well, and has a top-notch trainer, its okay to get yourself a candle, or a bath bomb, or a new t-shirt.
If you still have problems justifying it, get yourself something that goes to a cause that you care about. A t-shirt from Brindle Market helps support rescue groups. By treating yourself, you’ll be helping animals that came from situations like the one you saved your pet from. You’ll be practicing self-care while rescuing animals. What could be more satisfying than that?
Positive self talk is important, so Brindle Market’s Feelin’ Good tee is another must-have for any rescue pet parent going through it. Plus, you’ll feel so good about the difference you’ve made. The dog version of this adorable tee gives back 10% to Muttville, and the cat version gives back 10% to Biscuits and Breadsticks!
Signs Of Burnout
Even while practicing self-care, you may be rapidly reaching burnout and compassion fatigue. This is especially likely if you participate directly in rescue efforts as part of a task force, veterinary team, or a shelter. If you have any of these symptoms, please look for professional help:
- Lack of emotions, or overwhelming emotions
- Negative thoughts
- Feeling no enjoyment in things you used to like
There is no shame in practicing self-care or needing to speak to a medical professional. Take care of yourself, the same way you take care of the animals you are rescuing!