Compassion Fatigue: 10 Steps to Heal Myself

Everyday I give part of myself: my heart, my mind, my energy, my soul.  Everyday my heart aches for others.  You know the feeling.  Over time, I have experienced what most call compassion fatigue.  To me, compassion fatigue is the point where I can feel myself "not caring as much" because "I've already seen and felt too much pain".  Sound familiar?

The truth is, all of us, probably feel loss of compassion at times.  People with kids, people with spouses, people with animals, people who volunteer, people who's job it is to heal and save others, people who build their own business, etc.   It's important to rejuvenate.  It's important to find what fundamentally makes you happy, and do that often.  This will give back to your heart, your mind, your energy and your soul.  It will make you whole.  For me, I am fundamentally happy when with animals and doing exercise, sometimes alone, sometimes with others.

When I start to feel even one sliver of negativity towards myself or others, this is what I do, and I do at least one of these daily:

  • Write a Gratitude List: I write down three things that I am grateful for that day.  I store the list on my phone notes, so that I can access often during the day.  I repeat to myself, "Thank you for (number 1 on list), thank you for (number 2 on list), and thank you for (number 3 on list)." while taking a few deep breaths.  Yes, quite often, my Roomba makes this list!  Those of you with cats, understand the daily hair tumbleweed battle.

  • Write a Love List: I write down three things I love that day, and then tell those people or things that I love them out loud.  Yes, I tell my cats I love them.  By saying it out loud, it easily bring intention behind the words.

  • Meditate: I clear my mind, so that no emotions cloud my mind.

  • Connect with Universal Consciousness: I ask for guidance from my higher self, spirit guides and God after meditation.

  • Ground Myself: Simply put, I just go outside and touch nature.  I go on a walk, volunteer with my community or if I'm short on time, I just touch a tree on my way out the door.

My Dad and I on a nature walk.

My Dad and I on a nature walk.

  • Play with Makeup: Yes, play. For me, my mind wanders when I apply my makeup.  It is a creative outlet that I can wash off every night and try something new the next day.  Fresh  makeup = fresh ideas = happy mind.

Trying the dramatic red lip here.

Trying the dramatic red lip here.

  • Workout: I love to workout, and for those of you who know me, know that I have competed in 3 figure contests before.  It's a lifestyle for me.  Weightlifting is the one outlet that I feel comfortable letting my ego rest.  The more physically strong my body can be, the longer I hopefully can live and the more I can potentially do in my lifetime.

Cable Rows, which are one of my favorite exercises.

Cable Rows, which are one of my favorite exercises.

  • Ballet: When I am practicing ballet, the music takes me.  It is a place where my body and my mind are moving as one.  No other outlet provides this coexistence, which is breathtaking.  Granted, I am a beginner and only know the basics, but the fulfillment I receive is anything but basic.

  • Irish Dance: This is the one activity that brings be straight back to my childhood.  I have Irish danced on and off for over 15 years.  I feel like a little kid again, giddy and free, when I enter that mindspace during a lively step.

A picture from a feis (competition) that I did in high school.

A picture from a feis (competition) that I did in high school.

  • Pet my Cat(s): I think this one is self explanatory :)  Nothing is more calming than stroking a purring cat.

Bailey and I.

Bailey and I.

If you have other techniques that work for you, I'd love to hear about them.  I'm always looking for more "happy-makers"!

Bark It Out: Fresh Dog Tips You Don't Want to Miss

What do you get when 7 animal behavior experts in one room with animal-lovers?  You get PAWSOME.  Ohhh yes, I said that.  Thanks to the IAABC, The Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago, and the hard work of many individuals, this event was successful.   I was extremely impressed with the quality and integrity of the presenters.  Most tips are either specifically for dogs or can be applied across many different species.  Many of the suggestions I plan to try right away on my somewhat-willing domestic felines.  Enjoy the highlights below!

Chicago selfie

Chicago selfie

Human Animal Bond by Steve Dale

  • It is a misconception that stray animals are the largest reason that our shelters are busting at the seams.  The largest problem is the relinquished animals crowding shelters.
  • 1 cat or dog is euthanized every 11 seconds in a U.S. shelter.  7 out of 10 dogs make it out of a shelter alive.  4 out of 10 cats make it out of a shelter alive.
Steve Dale presented to us all when we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning.

Steve Dale presented to us all when we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning.

Fear Based Aggression by Dr. John Ciribassi

  • If submissive behavior signs are ignored by the dominant animal (humans included), dog will resort to aggression.
  • If the dog looks like it's giving you a very large toothy smile, the dog is showing fear.  If the dog only shows its front teeth and canines, the dog is showing confidence.
  • Any uncontrolled environment (yes, your friend's kids coming over does count!) with a fearful dog is an extremely bad and dangerous idea.  Ask yourself, "Does this dog perceive this situation as threatening?"
  • Ever heard someone say, "The dog is trying to protect me."  Wrong.  The dog is hoping you will protect him/her.
  • An easy way to differentiate counter-conditioning:
    • Classical Conditioning = good things happen when _____ happens (no treats or rewards)
    • Operant Conditioning = positive reinforcement for desired behavior (with treats or rewards)

Possessive Aggression aka Resource Guarding by Dr. John Ciribassi

  • Not all resources are equal to that individual dog.
  • Dog A can be dominant over Dog B in Room 1, but Dog B may be dominant over Dog A in Room 2.  Dominance is relative.
  • Don't give the dog a reason to feel like its resource is being threatened.

Separation Anxiety by Dr. John Ciribassi

  • Hypersalivation symptom is only seen in dog separation anxiety.
  • Separation anxiety is not a result of boredom.
  • Most solutions are complex and time-consuming, but possible.

Exotic to Domestic Animals: Lessons Learned That Come Full Circle by Laura Monaco Torelli

  • Always give the animal a choice to participate in training.
  • Go on happy vet visits to promote fear-free outings.
  • Play ping pong with your clicker cues to "hide" cue that includes medication.
Laura describing the excitement for a successful foot up cue!

Laura describing the excitement for a successful foot up cue!

Panel Discussion on What is a Veterinary Behaviorist, What is a Behavior Consultant, What is a Trainer? by Dr. John Ciribassi, Steve Dale, Michael Shikashio, Ruth Crisler

  • A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian with board certification in animal behavior.  Their names are followed with the abbreviations DVM DVACB.  They can diagnose and medicate, if needed.  A parallel to the human world would make a veterinary behaviorist, a psychiatrist.
  • A certified behavior consultant is not a veterinarian, but can guide and advise on behavior modification.  A parallel to the human world would make a certified behavior consultant, a psychologist.  The main difference is that a psychologist must have a degree, where a certified behavior consultant is a result of documented peer-reviewed proven-effective work experience, not a degree.
  • The consensus was that all animal behavior professionals need to work together as a team towards the big picture, which is to reduce the number of animals relinquished to shelters or euthanized due to behavioral issues.  All behavior professionals should be communicating closely to provide the best care for the animal.
  • More awareness of identifying behavior issues, fear-free behavior modification methods and successful results should be the end goal for all animal behavior professionals.
From Left to Right: Marjie Alonso, Michael Shikashio, Ruth Crisler, Steve Dale and Dr. John Ciribassi

From Left to Right: Marjie Alonso, Michael Shikashio, Ruth Crisler, Steve Dale and Dr. John Ciribassi

Living With and Loving a Pet with Behavior Problems: The Impact on Pet Owners by Kristin Buller and Dr. Kelly Ballantyne

  • 87% of pet owners consider pets part of the family
  • Animal behavior professionals need to realize that each of us cannot wear all the hats, otherwise each of us may fall into compassion fatigue.  This is unhealthy and can lead to depression.  It is important for all parties to work as a team and support one another.

Introducing Highly Reactive & Aggressive Dogs - An Experiment by Ken Ramirez

  • Lips sealed regarding this research until the company that supplied the grant gives permission to share.  I will say that it was quite fascinating what Ken and his team of expert trainers were able to do with a highly aggressive dog that was confiscated from a dog fighting community.
Ken just finished his presentation which I cannot share the details of yet.

Ken just finished his presentation which I cannot share the details of yet.

Complex Tools by Ken Ramirez

  • Ken covered the varied cues that can be used in exotic animal training, as well as domestic animals.
    • Keep Going Signal aka Bridge - Usually not needed but does work.
    • Jackpot - Works if used very sparingly and delivered quickly.  
    • No Reinforcement Marker - Rarely works due to being a conditioned punishment.
    • Time Out - Only effective if animal leaves you, then you leave, so when the animal returns, it finds the positive reinforcement (you) is no longer available.  The animal will wish it never left.
    • Least Reinforcing Scenario - Works if neutral response is correctly executed.
    • Redirection Strategies - Definitely works.
    • Recall Signal - Works and should always be reinforced no matter the context.  Its purpose is to use during a crisis. Think of a house fire and you want your animal to come IMMEDIATELY.
    • End of Session - Large debate over usage.  Doesn't make or break a training program.
  • Every person utilizing them needs to understand each specialized use and the practical application of it.
Selfie infront of the entrace to the shelter.

Selfie infront of the entrace to the shelter.

I did squeeze in dinner time Saturday night with two of my college friends who now live in Chicago.  So fun!

I did squeeze in dinner time Saturday night with two of my college friends who now live in Chicago.  So fun!

Gino's East was down the street from the shelter.  They had this life-size horse statue outside of the restaurant, so of course, what did I do? II took a selfie.

Gino's East was down the street from the shelter.  They had this life-size horse statue outside of the restaurant, so of course, what did I do? II took a selfie.