Compassion Fatigue Resiliency
Self-Care Resources


Self-care is anything you do to care for yourself, body and mind, to enhance overall wellbeing. It is an intention, activity, or practice that one should prioritize on a regular basis to help reduce stress and stay both mentally and physically active. Self-care takes practice and developing a routine takes time. It is essential to maintain a productive, happy, and healthy life. It can also help combat symptoms of compassion fatigue. We recommend 4 key tips to start.

  1. Ensure You Have Good Foundation: Before looking to add additional self-care strategies to your toolbox, think about your foundation. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and moving your body.
  2. Connect with Others: Cultivate social support in & out of the workplace with people who can appreciate and share the stresses of our field.
  3. Calm the Nervous System: Meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness practices can all help promote self-regulation and relaxation.
  4. Be intentional with your self-talk: Try telling yourself a different story about a situation. Recognize what you can and cannot change. Acknowledge and accept any challenging or feelings. Then reframe the situation. Can you find positive meaning for yourself. For example, maybe you are frustrated with a certain animal model you are working with. It’s hard to see the animals in pain or distress that are a necessary part of the research. Recognize that this is the situation causing you discomfort. Acknowledge that you may not have the control to change that model at this point. But find positive meaning in the fact that you are the one caring for these animals and that you are doing the best that you can for their welfare through health checks, enrichment, etc.

5 Key Areas of Self-Care

Thinking of self-care activities in terms of area can also be helpful.

  1. Physical self-care relates to our health, nutrition, and physical well-being. How you fuel your body, how much you sleep, and how much physical activity you’re getting all directly relate to your physical self-care.

  2. Social self-care is connecting with your friends, family, and peers to create a sense of belonging and acceptance. Not all self-care must be done by yourself. These are activities that nurture the relationships in your life.

  3. Mental self-care is doing things that keep your mind stimulated. Doing mentally simulating activities can help keep the brain active, declutter the mind and reduce stress.

  4. Emotional self-care helps us understand ourselves more, cope with challenges, and develop healthy relationships. Work to recognize and accept that emotions are a normal part of life. When bad things happen, it’s normal to feel angry, fearful, or sad. Try to identify, accept, and not judge any difficult feelings. Practice self-compassion.

  5. Spiritual self-care is your personal practice that allows you to follow the values and beliefs that give you purpose. Connecting to something greater than yourself in whatever way feels best for you. Spiritual self-care is not necessarily religious, although it can be.

Examples of self-care:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising
  • Going outside
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Practicing yoga
  • Any activities or meals with family or friends
  • Walking with friends
  • Volunteering
  • Crafting, drawing, coloring, painting
  • Saying no & saying yes
  • Journaling
  • Meditation or Prayer
  • Reading a book
  • Watching something fun or intriguing
  • Disconnecting from social media
  • Listening to music
  • Working with a therapist or coach
  • Practicing non-judgmental self-compassion with your emotions

Handling Difficult Emotions

It can be challenging to deal with our emotions in reaction to challenging situations. Below are 10 strategies for handling your emotions.

  1. Mindful, slow breathing. Notice your breathing and how it feels in your body to breath in and out. Try to slow the pace of your breathing, especially the exhale.
  1. Count backwards from 100. You can do this in increments of 7. This will engage the thinking part of your brain to help calm the emotional part of your brain.
  1. Try to change the story that you’re telling yourself. Identify what is happening. Acknowledge what you can or cannot change. Find positive meaning.
  1. Practice self-acceptance. Embrace and affirm every part of yourself. It is OK to feel emotions. In fact, feeling negative emotions after a perceived negative event is natural. It’s part of being human!
  1. Act the way you want to feel. If you want to feel happy, try smiling and acting cheerfully. What you do with your body affects your mind.
  2. Take a mindful shower or Imagine that you’re washing away the stress or situations of the day or anything else negative going on. Let it go.
  3. Journal. Sit down for 5-10 minutes a day. Write 3 things you are grateful for. Reflect on how you’re feeling. Think about what you can do to feel good about the day.
  1. Talk to someone. Friends, family, friendly co-workers, and professionals who can listen well can be a great support system during stressful times.
  2. Check in with your body. Scan your body and notice where tension lies; try to relax that area or shake it out.
  3. Identify & feel your emotions. Reflect on why you’re feeling this way and what may have caused it. Identifying and putting a label on a feeling can sometimes lessen the intensity of the emotion.

10 Ways to Be More Grateful

Practicing gratitude can be a key strategy in self-care, handling emotions, and generally improving how you feel about life. Below are 10 ways to feel more grateful.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Remind yourself of what you’re grateful for and write them down. If you have a bad day, go back to this journal and remember the gifts, grace, benefits, and things you enjoy in your life.
  2. Remember the bad. Remembering difficult times from the past can help you recognize the things you are taking for granted.
  3. Say thank you to the people around you. It is normal to feel alone in life so when people are there to help you, thank them for what they do. This creates trust and shows you’re grateful for those in your life.
  4. Learn prayers of gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are sometimes considered the most powerful form of prayer.
  5. Cool an angry temper with a gratitude inventory. It is easy for us to get caught up in our problems, but it is not ok to take it out on someone else. One of the quickest ways to dispel negative energy is to focus on the good in life. Take a moment to recognize your gifts.
  6. Use visual reminders. One primary obstacle for gratitude is simple forgetfulness. Use visual reminders to trigger thoughts of gratitude. For example, keep photos or mementos of happy moments with friends, family, or pets on your desk or locker.
  7. Savor the good moments. If you notice that you are happy, take the time to recognize and savor those good moments. Refer back to them when times get tough.
  8. Try to look at the silver linings. Maybe things are not going as planned, but did you learn something or connect to others differently in the situation?
  9. Go through the motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude. These can help trigger the emotion of gratitude.
  10. Practice mindfulness. Note what you can touch, see, smell, taste, or hear especially if you can do this in nature or with something you find beautiful. Connecting with your senses and something you appreciate can help you appreciate life itself.