Nobody has ever been too busy driving to stop for gas.-Stephen Covey
Burnout is undoubtedly one of the biggest epidemics facing the modern workforce. As pet care providers (as in many care industries), burnout can usually take the form of empathy fatigue. It seems like us pet lovers can never get enough of going on dog walks, pet drop ins, and kitty visits. But, if we start feeling irritable, frustrated, or a sense of dread towards our work, it’s likely a sign that it’s time to take a step back and rest.
The Cost Of Always Saying “Yes”
Anytime we deliberately choose the path of “yes men” and “yes women” at the expense of our boundaries, we endorse self-betrayal. It’s safe to assume that all of us have dealt with the struggles of an improper work-life balance at some point or another (across many jobs we’ve worked). One of the most painstaking results is that we can never compartmentalize that. If we’re stressed at work, it follows us home at the end the workday, thus affecting who we are and how we show up in our relationships with family, friends, and with ourselves.
The biggest way to resolve burnout is to get clear on your boundaries.
What works for you?
What doesn’t work for you?
What’s okay, and what’s not okay?
Make a list and stick to it.
Think of it as your integrity measure.
Many people think that setting boundaries is a negative or mean thing to do. However, boundaries are the distance at which we are able to love both ourselves and others simultaneously. Without boundaries, we are disconnected from ourselves and enmeshed with others. And we have no idea where that divide exists.
As mentioned above, and common in care industries (health, pet, etc.), burnout can lead to empathy fatigue. Characterized as a lessening of empathy/compassion over time, empathy fatigue can negatively affect how we show up as pet care providers. If we’re constantly expected to be on it, working hard to take care of people’s fur babies, when and where does self-care come into the picture?
As you know, having compassion for the pets in our care is an extremely important part of being a good pet care provider. Pet parents entrust us to be nurturing, loving, and genuine towards their fur babies. But, if we’re experiencing empathy fatigue (as a result of burnout), how can we show up as our best selves for the pets (and ultimately for our clients)? Empathy fatigue is a symptom of burnout, and burnout usually results from having porous work-life boundaries. That means that healthier boundaries would breed empathy and compassion.
In short, in order for pet care providers to stay in their integrity and provide truly compassionate care to pets, they MUST have strong boundaries. Clear is kind. When we are clear on our boundaries (what’s OK vs what’s not OK), and have the courage to set them, we choose to be kind to ourselves. It is only then that we can put our best selves forward for the rest of the world.
You, as a pet care provider, can get clear on your work-life boundaries by reflecting on the following questions with complete honesty:
- How many days can I comfortably work in a week (in which I’m not always anticipating my days off)?
- How many services can I comfortably complete in a day (in which I’m not drained of energy and irritable by the time I get to my last service)?
- Do I watch the clock when I’m at each service, just waiting for it to end so I can head to the next job and then eventually head home?
- Am I just working for the paycheck I get or am I also genuinely enjoying my job?
- When I go home, am I able to leave work stuff at the door and actually relax and enjoy my personal life?
- When I think about my upcoming work schedule for the next day, week, etc., am I feeling a sense of dread at all?
By reflecting on these questions and answering them honestly, you can start getting clear on what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. As someone who works in a care industry, it’s important that we prioritize our honest needs along with the needs of those in our care. That way, we can extend the most love and compassion when we’re actually out caring for pets. Our efforts will then come from a more loving place, as opposed to a place of “let’s just get this done and get outta here.”
If you have to update your work availability as a result of this assessment, go for it! As a self-employed worker, you have the privilege and ability to create the work schedule that you want!
Take care, fellow pet care providers!