Flower Essences for Stress, Burnout and Compassion Fatigue in Animal Professions
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If you’ve worked for any length of time helping animals in need, you’ve probably experienced the emotional toll of long-term self-sacrifice: stress, overwhelm, maybe even compassion fatigue. And if you’ve continued to pile on the strain without attending to your own emotional well-being, you will almost certainly be able to add guilt, anger, and burnout to the list.
While there are many healthy approaches to reducing your stress load – prayer, meditation, walks in nature, regular conversation with an understanding friend – one therapy that should not be overlooked is Bach flower essences. A subtle energy therapy in use since the 1930’s, flower essences act as an emotional “tuning fork” to gently re-align out of balance emotions. They won’t remove your source of stress, but can help you handle it more effectively by allowing you to shift to a healthier, more balanced perspective.
Flower essences are safe, non-toxic, non-habit forming, and very easy to use. Simply take a few drops several times a day, or add several drops to your water bottle and sip throughout the day. To make your own blend, you can either purchase essences individually (they can be found in most brick-and-mortar health food stores, as well as online) and create your own blend using a dropper bottle from the health food store, or take advantage of a service that blends your choice of essences for you, like the Design Your Own Formula service at Aldaron Essences, or the Prepared Dosage Bottle service at Flower Essence Services. Please note: while there are a number of types/lines of flower essences, the remedies discussed below are all Bach, AKA English, flower essences.
When selecting Bach flower essences, only choose as many essences as seem pertinent at the time. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of essences in one formula to no more than six at a time. Avoid the temptation to pick every essence that seems remotely applicable; a more narrowly focused formula is more likely to be helpful, and you will have a better idea which essences are actually helping.
Please note this is an informational article, and not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Consult your health care practitioner regularly, and particularly if you experience any sudden or worrisome changes in your physical or mental well-being.
Bach flower essences for general stress & overwhelm
Rescue Remedy. For general stress, trauma, and sense of shock, nothing is more tried-and-true for quick relief than Rescue Remedy. This is Dr. Edward Bach's original "emergency" formula, combining Impatiens, Clematis, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, and Star of Bethlehem flower essences. It calms the mind, reducing stress and panic, and easing the symptoms of shock and trauma. Rescue Remedy may also be used to heal the negative effects of past traumatic events. In addition to working brilliantly by itself, Rescue Remedy also supports and enhances other flower essences.
Elm. A sense of overwhelm, brought on by chronic stress and overwork, is remedied by Elm flower essence. This Bach flower alleviates inadequacy and overwhelm, restores mental stamina, and gives you the ability step back mentally and prioritize daily challenges. This is especially helpful when everything seems to be hitting the fan all at once!
Oak. If your natural sense of responsibility keeps you going despite over-work or illness, if your attitude could be described as "let's just get through the day", consider Oak flower essence. Oak supports those who tend to take on too much, shouldering heavy burdens without complaint. It builds up and helps restore emotional stamina, endurance, and strength for the long haul.
White Chestnut. One common side-effect of too many hours spent in stressful, emotionally-draining situations in which you have limited control of outcomes is mental chatter (AKA brain chatter or "monkey mind"). You know what I'm talking about: pessimistic, often self-critical, generally negative thoughts, worries, and imagined conversations that repeat endlessly whenever you're not otherwise mentally engaged, White Chestnut is the go-to flower essence for this. It calms runaway, undisciplined and/or obsessive thoughts and relieves mental preoccupation. White Chestnut restores a quiet mind, giving you the ability to “be still” internally, and regain clarity of thought.
Sweet Chestnut. When we are physically and/or emotionally challenged over a extended period, we may get to our wit's end more easily than when our lifestyle and habits are more grounded and emotionally supportive. If you feel you’re the camel's back, waiting for that one last straw, just one more thing and you’re damaged beyond repair, include Sweet Chestnut in your flower essence blend. Sweet Chestnut works to heal severe emotional trauma from challenging life conditions. It builds and restores endurance and perseverance, even in extreme circumstances.
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Flower essences for guilt and self-recrimination
Pine. When you commit your time, energy, and resources to helping others, it’s natural to expect to feel a sense of satisfaction. It can be very troubling, then, when we get the sense that no matter how much good we do, it never seems like enough. Maybe it will never be enough! If you’re troubled by feelings of guilt and self-reproach, that you can never be “good/strong/tough/resourceful/compassionate enough”; if you have trouble accepting praise, then Pine flower essence may help. Pine reduces unwarranted guilt and restores a more balanced perspective on taking responsibility for what we can and cannot change.
Rock Water addresses some similar emotional issues as Pine, above. In this case, however, you tend to be very hard on yourself, as a rule. You believe in “doing things right”, and impose a strict set of standards for some or all of your life. Hearing about the successes and good works of others can hurt, not out of jealousy or bad feeling, but because you feel it shows that you could be doing more or better. Rock Water is a remarkable flower remedy for these types of emotional symptoms. It restores emotional and physical flexibility, open-mindedness, and gentleness with oneself and others.
Bach flowers for frustration, resentment, anger
Beech remedies a critical nature. If you find yourself intolerant of the flaws and failing of others (we all have them), nit-picking, snippy, grumpy, easily annoyed, reacting to small aggravations, take a look at Beech flower essence. Beech restores tolerance, sympathy, and humility.
Impatiens, the flower essence, is the remedy for impatience, the emotional state. When we lack balance in this area, it manifests as frustration, irritability, wanting or expecting everything done yesterday, physical tension and general edginess. If you find yourself demanding, frustrated, irritable, or impatient with others (even if you feel you have good reason!), give Impatiens a try. Impatiens restores patience, gentleness, and a more cooperative focus. Its lesson is “everything in its own time”.
Holly. Even the most peaceful-minded of us can become overcome by negative emotions. Rescue work, animal health care, and pet training can be painful work. Our own sense of inner harmony gets strained, and feelings like vexation, jealousy, hatred, suspicion, anger and malice rear their ugly heads. We suspect the worst motives in others and react accordingly. Holly gently remedies these very negative, heartfelt emotions, and by restoring self-acceptance and inner harmony, encourages our own compassion and openness to others.
Vervain is the remedy for idealistic people who have no doubt they’re in the right and that they have the (or at least a) solution. They tend to be very driven, productive, and passionate about their chosen causes. They are, in fact, the world’s movers and shakers. This personality type can go too far in one direction, becoming overly serious, intolerant, impulsive, even fanatical. Vervain brings balance back, helping restore appropriate levels of enthusiasm, drive, and focus. It improves tolerance, acceptance, and restraint. Vervain flower essence helps us to learn that we can’t control everything and everyone, and it may not be healthy to try! We’re not always right, no matter how smart and talented we are.
Vine. If you find yourself resorting to (or drawn to) dictatorial, militant behavior, feeling justified in forcing your views on others, please consider Vine. Vine is really a leadership remedy. It improves the ability to communicate without resorting to bullying. So, if you tend to take people’s heads off rather than discussing calmly and respectfully; if you catch yourself using forceful, intimidating, bullying behaviors to get your way (with people or animals), Vine may be able to help. It doesn’t matter if this is your nature, or if you’ve adopted this approach out of stress, or a lack of skill or confidence in using more persuasive (and diplomatic) methods. Vine restores and fosters natural leadership and authority. Its lesson is “true leadership comes through helping others to find their own way”.
Flower essences to remedy loss of interest and energy, detachment, depression, burnout
Hornbeam is the remedy for mental weariness: that dragging, sluggish "Monday morning feeling" that can come when we’re faced with starting work. Hornbeam is a supremely practical flower essence, restoring enthusiasm, eagerness, anticipation and a readiness to face the day.
Olive. Long-standing or repeated emotional turmoil can leave us emotionally exhausted and physically depleted. If your fatigue feels as much emotional as physical, Olive revitalizes and renews the energy needed to carry on and get the job done.
Gentian is an important flower essence for rescue workers and those that work with at-risk and ill animals. We often have no choice but to face up to tasks filled with some degree of uncertainty and emotional discomfort. If you find yourself more easily discouraged than is typical for you; if relatively minor difficulties are turning into major setbacks, Gentian can help restore motivation, resilience and perseverance.
Gorse. Often called for after a long ordeal or repeated setbacks, Gorse restores vitality, hopefulness, and the ability to look forward to the future. If you find yourself listless, hopeless, not able to see any light at the end of the tunnel, if your hopeful nature is a bit pummeled by experience, Gorse can help lift you up and set you right again.
Mustard flower essence brings light, joy, and serenity. This is a truly remarkable essence for its ability to dispel the unpredictable “dark cloud” that can appear and darken our outlook for no discernible reason. If you tend to soak up negative energy from those around you, so that a deep gloom comes over you for no reason you can pinpoint, Mustard is an unparalleled flower remedy for restoring cheerfulness and clarity.
Wild Rose. One risk of working long-term in the trenches of animal care is a loss of interest. Our enjoyment of relationships, routines and everyday things previously enjoyed fades; we lose our sense of spontaneous joy and lightness of being. Our “joie de vivre” is replaced by apathy and resignation. Wild Rose is one of those flower remedies that nearly everyone can benefit from. It restores vital interest, spontaneity, and even a youthful joy.
Regardless of how you devote yourself to helping others, bless you for what you do. Always remember you are appreciated more than you probably know.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did, please share with your friends (with my thanks).
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