Animal Emotions

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Beating the Burnout While Working For a Compassionate World

I hope this guest essay by Michael Howie is a useful activism guide

I hope this guest essay by writer Michael Howie called "Beating the Burnout"  is a useful guide for avoiding burnout for those who work very hard to make the world a better, safer, and more peaceful and compassionate place for all beings and to preserve biodiversity and magnificent and diverse landscapes and wondrous webs of nature. Many likely suffer from secondary trauma and it's easy to understand why some people simply burnout and give up despite the fact that they are making positive differences and are sorely needed. 

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There’s no easy way to put it: burning out sucks. It can be life or death and is all too common amongst animal welfare folks, activists, advocates and those in the rescue or rehabilitation fields.

I’ve taken some time to get in touch with people who know a lot about either these industries, psychology or burnout itself. Today I’ve spoken with Dr. Marc Bekoff, a world-renowned ethicist, canid expert and animal emotion expert (and one of my personal heroes).

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Dr. Bekoff’s books, which he has independently penned as well as co-authored with colleagues like Jane Goodall, often give readers a harsh reality check into ethics regarding humans, non-human animals and the environment. He opens eyes into the lives that we rarely see – and are even less likely to understand.

He wrote in his Psychology Today blog about the burnout common in his field, and noted “there can be no doubt that animal suffering continues in all corners of the world. However, there are also ‘good’ things happening and these can be used to keep us inspired and engaged when it looks like there is little or no hope. From time to time people ask me about animal activism, burnout, and other matters associated with working for animals, so I’ve penned some short one-liners that I’ve found helpful over the years. Whether you agree or disagree with some of them, I know you all agree that we must keep on working for animals and earth and peace and justice for all.”

His blog on the subject is more robust and offers more expert advise than I could ever imagine of offering, and it would be a detriment to simply rewrite his points. Please read Dr. Bekoff’s Animals and Us: Maintaining Hope and Keeping Our Dreams Alive in Difficult Times.

But in an email exchange, Dr. Bekoff did give me a quick – and effective – means of beating the burnout.

“I always say to avoid burnout one should work hard, play hard, rest hard, and be able to step back and laugh at oneself when need be. And avoid being sidetracked by people who just want to waste your time as you work to make the world a better, safer, and more peaceful and compassionate place for all beings.”

Note: Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk is an excellent guide.

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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