5 Ways to prevent burnout

Now more than ever, rescues and shelters are bursting at the seams, volunteers and staff are working twice as hard, and adoption rates have plummeted. This is a recipe for burnout. In this article, we will go over how to recognize burnout and how to prevent it.

What does burnout look like?

The way burnout presents itself is completely individual and everyone may experience it differently, but here are some common things to be on the lookout for in yourself or your team:

  • Decrease in drive
  • Lack of interest
  • Poor performance – Showing up late, missing things, not following through
  • Overall negative outlook on the organization or the mission

Even if you don’t feel like this describes you or anyone on your team, it’s important to make active efforts to prevent burnout.

How to prevent or work through burnout

  1. Set achievable goals for the team. These goals shouldn’t be slam dunks, but they should also be reasonable. Make sure to set clear objectives and timeline. Furthermore, each team (adoption, foster, intake, etc), should understand their role in accomplishing the larger goal of the organization. So, the process should look like this:

    – Create a clear goal with a set timeline
    – Communicate the goal across teams
    – Set expectations for what role each team plays in accomplishing the larger goal
  2. Create reasonable roles. If someone is taking on too much, they are sure to burnout. To dive into this, checkout our guide to defining roles.
  3. Take meaningful rest. We are all passionate about the work we do so it’s very easy for the line between work hours and personal hours to blur. But, when you are always on the clock, you leave no time for meaningful rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping (though regular sleep always helps) but also means leaving time for friends, family, and hobbies. This is very hard to do if you are not used to it but the easiest way to start is by setting hard boundaries on your availability.
  4. Set boundaries. First, set times that you are available for general questions. Then, set times you are available for emergencies and define what an emergency actually is. If you use tools like Slack, you are able to mute notifications during certain times.
  5. Celebrate your wins. If your team reaches a goal – celebrate! If you get a long-stay pup adopted – celebrate! If you managed to shower that day – celebrate! Celebrating not only reinforces motivation to accomplish goals for the team, but also provides a much needed positive release. Celebrating can be something as big as a party for staff and volunteers, or as small as a quick shoutout to someone you’ve noticed doing a good job. Always be grateful for the time and effort people give to help these animals.


If you are experiencing burnout, things won’t change overnight. But, slow and thoughtful change in the way you think and work will get you through this rough spot. If you are able, reaching out to a mental health provider will help tailor your experiences so you can operate as your best self for the animals.

Happy rescuing!

Is this article missing something? Have questions? Want help applying what you learned to your organization? Send us a message!

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