You have to take care of yourself, too

woman-163747_960_720

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The tragic suicide of Dr. Sophia Yin in 2014 brought the issue of compassion fatigue to the front and center of the animal-related professional and volunteer communities. When I ran a suburban shelter in the early 90s, it was not uncommon to have both volunteers and employees suddenly drop out of sight for extended periods of time. Nobody really talked about it back then, but everyone who worked there knew about that breaking point, and we all did our best to support and encourage people to take care of themselves.

Now, of course, it’s much easier to have a discussion about compassion fatigue in the animal care community. But that increased openness often doesn’t benefit the many advocates and professionals who feel the weight of all of those innocent lives on their shoulders and are compelled to work far beyond the boundaries of their own emotional and physical well-being.

If you work with animals, you should get into the habit of checking in with yourself to see if you’re feeling any of the symptoms of compassion fatigue (also known as “secondary traumatic stress disorder”, or STSD), including apathy, poor self-care, repressed emotions, isolation, substance abuse, nightmares, and difficulty concentrating. If you are a business owner or supervisor, be on the lookout for absenteeism, lack of teamwork, increased aggression, and high levels of negativity. (You can see a more comprehensive list of symptoms on the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project website.)

Self-compassion is imperative. As Jessica Dolce says, “We need to be well to do good,” and it’s important to give yourself permission to take a break when you need it. Subscribe to a meditation program or follow guided meditations and exercises to help keep yourself on a more even keel on a day-to-day basis.

If you feel like you are spiraling out of control in spite of regular self-caretaking practices, PLEASE SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP!

If you don’t have a regular therapist or counselor, call the University of Tennessee-Knoxville veterinary social work helpline at 865-755-8839 Monday through Friday 10am-5pm eastern time, and they can help connect you to resources in your area. You may also email them at vetsocialwork@utk.edu.

********

Resources:

 

 

 

 

 

The day I felt like Sally Field

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

In one of her most precious (yet sort of annoying) moments, Sally Field, upon accepting her Oscar, said: “You like me, you really like me!” I recall her taking a lot of crap for that, but I think what she was really saying  was “You see me, you acknowledge me, and it feels good!”

This week I had some of that. Earlier this week there was a very sweet piece published about my experiences an entrepreneur. I (somewhat reluctantly) posted it on Facebook, and assumed that no one would actually have or take the time to read it. I was wrong. A lot of people read it. Shared it. Commented on it.

It was awesome.

And you know what – I really needed it.

I am a mom to a 4 and a half-year-old. I am also a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister…. And on top of all of that (and surpassing most of them), I am a startup CEO deeply involved in evaluating our seed round fundraising options and opportunities. It’s stressful in a way that even I’m not used to – and never mind the 10,000 other things that seem to get in the way of everyday life.

So to cope with the stress, I have been forced to find ways to both cherish and guard my time.  As part of a self-care routine, I recently started running… again. As a former triathlete, I used to love running and my hope is I can find that love again.

Family time comes as I can make it. When I look at the clock and know Sadie is just getting home from school or camp, I have to fight the urge to run home, kiss her and then come back to the office. That doesn’t work for me, and it’s basically a form of torture for her. Either come home and stay home, or please don’t come home at all until you are ready.

She doesn’t say that, but that’s exactly what it is. And she’s right.

Other ways I guard my time:

  • Everything goes in the calendar. If it’s not on there, I won’t do it, and vice versa.
  • Toss out the guilt-inducing to-do lists – they’re rabbit holes I can’t go down anymore.
  • Scheduled meetings have a hard stop. When the time is up, the meeting is over. It’s a great way to focus everyone’s attention on the matter at hand.

So even if I’m on the road for another investor meeting, or putting in a longer day than I’d like, and not with my family or pets, I am satisfied in knowing I am making a difference and doing my best. I’m glad I had my Sally Field moment right when I needed it the most. In this most demanding and pressure filled time of my life, it’s easy to lose perspective on how I got here and question why I am doing this.

What’s the moral of the story (you may be asking yourself)? Work hard, work with passion, but be scrupulous about taking care of yourself, be it with exercise, better boundaries, or allowing yourself to accept a compliment. Your soul needs fuel as well as your body – take care of them both.

Because they really, really like you.

********

Read the original article here. Thanks to Kate and Alysse from People with Panache for the interview and the fun pictures!