We’re betting that many of us in animal welfare need to hear the following words from Jessica Dolce right about now. We’re so excited to share another of her powerful self-care blogs. And please take note: Jessica’s online class, Compassion Fatigue Strategies, offered through Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at University of Florida, is now open for enrollment.
Your heart is your powerhouse.
And it’s been working overtime this year. Self-care and community care are more important than ever. COVID-19 is a long game. If we want to keep going, we have to take care of our tools.
Let’s start with your #1 tool: your heart. Your heart is a muscle. It’s about the size of your two fists.
It beats approximately 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. Even at rest, the muscles of your heart are working hard—twice as hard as your leg muscles when you’re sprinting to stop your dog from swallowing a chicken bone.
Figuratively speaking, your heart is just as powerful. It’s your source of empathy, kindness, and compassion. Your role as a helper is a work of the heart—meaningful, connected, sensitive, and life-affirming.
All of this is to say, your heart is magnificent and essential.
Take care of your powerhouse, as you take care of others:
Go to the doctor
You go to the veterinarian’s office regularly (I see you there!), but now it’s time for your annual physical exam, which probably got cancelled because of the pandemic and needs to be rescheduled. Next, go to the dentist. Gum disease and heart disease are connected. Medical care is self-care.
Move your body
Exercise helps cuts your risk of heart disease, but it also helps you metabolize the stress hormones that build up in your body all day. It doesn’t have to be Crossfit. Just take a brisk walk or dance in your bedroom until you break a sweat.
Allow yourself time to process your emotions.
We’ve lost a lot this year: safety, jobs, stability, in-person gatherings, opportunities, and loved ones. Or maybe we lost these things long before COVID-19. Give your heart a chance to grieve these losses. Write in your journal, talk to a trusted friend, cry in the woods, scream at the sky, or pray. One of my favorite books on grief is It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine.
Sync your values
Compassion is one of our field’s core values. Many of you work in humane societies. But how humanely are you treating yourself? How much of that compassionate care are you offering yourself? The harder your heart works, the more care it needs. Here’s an idea for when you don’t know what to do, but you know you need to do something: try the Self Care Flow Chart.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that your heart is a resilient muscle, but it still needs care and attention to stay well. Take time to tend to yourself, so you can keep caring for others.