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Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you just may be struggling with compassion fatigue. It is important to consult with a mental health professional, especially if you are having thoughts of suicide or death. A qualified therapist also can help you process past traumas (both personal and professional), rule out any possible mental conditions, such as depression, and help you develop healthy coping skills.

In addition to getting support — whether it’s from a professional, a trusty co-worker, or a good friend — self-care is the other piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing compassion fatigue. Because many animal care workers have a hard time focusing on themselves, it’s helpful to think of self-care as a way to recharge your battery. People I’ve met and worked with in the animal welfare field often feel guilty when they even think about taking time for themselves. But Eleanor Brown once said, “Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Let me tell you from personal experience, it’s true.

Self-care can take many forms. If you are an introvert like me, you probably need to recharge by spending some time alone; others may need to hang out and socialize with friends to get energized.

Here are some ideas for self-care:

  • Soaking in the tub
  • Going to a movie
  • Listening to music
  • Going to the gym
  • Watching a comedy
  • Working on a vehicle
  • Taking a vacation or daytrip
  • Walking or jogging
  • Reading
  • Spending time with friends
  • Playing games
  • Going for a bike ride
  • Taking care of plants
  • Playing with the kids or pets
  • Practicing yoga
  • Going swimming
  • Exercising
  • Playing or watching sports
  • Learning something new
  • Going to or hosting a party
  • Watching TV or DVDs
  • Going camping
  • Playing an instrument
  • Singing or dancing
  • Praying
  • Going rollerblading
  • Doing arts and crafts
  • Driving or riding motorcycle or ATV
  • Cooking/baking
  • Going hiking
  • Writing or journaling
  • Getting a massage
  • Meditating
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Gardening
  • Getting a haircut
  • Going to a play or concert
  • Getting a manicure or pedicure
  • Woodworking
  • Photography
  • Going to a museum or art gallery
  • Being in nature
  • Going bowling
  • Shooting pool

Are you ready to recharge your own battery? Choose something from this list or add your own. It doesn’t matter, just as long as you make self-care a priority, along with finding a good support system. In doing so, not only will you be better equipped to keep compassion fatigue at bay, but you’ll also be better able to fight for those who don’t have a voice.


Figley, C. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Joinson, C. (1992). Coping with compassion fatigue. Nursing, 22(4), 116, 118-120. (As cited in Boyle, D., (Jan. 31, 2011) “Countering Compassion Fatigue: A Requisite Nursing Agenda” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 16, No. 1, Manuscript 2.

Larkin, M. (2015). Study: 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide. Journal of the American Veterinary Association. April 1, 2015. Retrieved from

Tiesman, H.M., Konda, S., Hartley, D., Menéndez, C.C., Ridenour, M., Hendricks, S. (2015) Suicide in U.S. workplaces, 2003 – 2010. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Vol. 48, Issue 6, 674-682. Retrieved from

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Jennifer Blough, LLPC

Jennifer Blough is a psychotherapist, certified compassion fatigue specialist, certified pet loss grief recovery specialist, and the owner of Deepwater Counseling in southeast Michigan. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, she presents compassion fatigue workshops to local animal welfare organizations. She is the author of the upcoming book, To Save a Starfish: A Compassion Fatigue Workbook for the Animal Welfare Warrior. She shares her home with her husband and their eight rescued companion animals.

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APA Reference
Blough, J. (2018). Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 17 Jun 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.