Ever feel like no matter how hard you work, it's never enough?
Summer is a busy time for folks in animal shelters and vet clinics.
But this year? This summer is OFF THE CHARTS. A lot of folks are exhausted.
If that's you, you don't need me to tell you why you're overwhelmed and exhausted.
What you may need to hear is that you're going to need to rest long before this tidal wave recedes.
You cannot keep postponing your own care until the workload is lighter, the conditions improve, and the needs are less.
Because that day isn't coming any time soon.
Please make a choice (no matter how small) to take care of yourself now, so that you won't be forced to care for yourself later due to a physical or mental health crisis.
I'm not being hyperbolic.
I frequently hear from people who have ignored their needs until they literally broke their back or had a heart attack or suffered a psychotic episode.
We all think we can "roll the dice" one more week and put off our own care just a little longer, so that we can save a few more animals.
But that's a gamble with very high stakes.
One of the hardest AND most critical skills helpers need to learn is how to declare their efforts as "enough" and allow themselves to rest, even when the to-do list isn't done and there are more animals who needs saving.
And that's where the inspiration for our next book highlight comes from...
This month we have an excerpt from one my favorite books A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller:
"In spite of any compelling physical or spiritual benefits, we fear we have no authentic, trustworthy permission to stop.
If we do stop to rest without some very good reason or some verifiable catastrophe, we feel guilty, we worry about getting in trouble, we feel we're just lazy, not carrying our weight, not a team player, or will be left behind.
If we put our nose to the grindstone, give it our all, do our best, give 100%, really put our mind to it, never give up, and work more efficiently then we can, and should, be able to get absolutely everything on our desk, on our to-do list, on our calendars finished....and then we can rest.
But this ridiculously impossible moment never arrives...so we keep going and going.
Without permission from our culture, workplace, community, or even our own inner, grinding work ethic how can we know it is time to stop - for now, for today - and know that what we have done, and who we have been, is absolutely enough?
Enough is ultimately an inside job.
...What is enough? And more importantly, how would we ever know if we had it?
How do we know when we've done enough work for this day?
The work of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, freeing the oppressed, loving and protecting new generations of children, comforting the afflicted, healing hearts shredded by war - will never, ever be finished.
Certainly not by us, not in our lifetime.
It is not OUR work, it is THE work. This work is not for us to finish.
It doesn't matter if we add one more day to our week, or two more hours to our day, we will never, ever be done...
So then what is our job?
Simply this: to be good, strong, and honorable stewards of the work during our lifetime...
Each of us has our own finite limit, beyond which if we take on even just one more, things will start to fall and whatever precious things we are carrying will invariably begin to break...
This is no judgement on our ability, skillfulness, or power. It is simply the inevitable physics of human life...
This then is our work. To do what we can and have mercy."
For me, this passage is helpful because it reminds me that:
(1) No one can define enough for you. There is no external measure we can rely on every day to tell us when it's okay to stop working.
The systems we work in and the needs of others will always demand more from us, no matter how depleted we are.
We're not superheroes. Our job is do the best we can with the very limited resources we have, in our very small corner of the world.
Accepting our human limitations can be painful, so let's remember to offer ourselves lots of compassion and grace.
(2) That being said, if you're in a leadership role it's time to redefine what enough looks like for your staff.
You can't allow external forces - be it the public who doesn't understand the complexities of the work or national organizations with their own mission and fundraising agendas - to determine whether or not your organization is doing enough or is successful.
How do you determine when your exhausted, often traumatized, staff have done enough for the day, when the work never ends?
How will they know they've succeeded?
How will they know it's okay to rest?
However you define enough, remember it can be recalibrated when demands/resources shift in the future.
If you'd like help learning how to define what is enough for you, I hope you'll check out this book. You can find a copy here.
Want to work together?
My online class Compassion Fatigue Strategies Plus! is about 50% sold out for this fall. It's a deep dive into concepts like this - how do we define enough, when there are always more animals who need us?
We start on October 17th and class runs for 8 weeks. Learn more and register here!
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