What can you learn about self care from a kinkajou?
Guest author: Alexandra Ashe, CEO and Founder Kinkatopia
As professional animal keepers, we have many lives that depend upon us for all facets of care. The daily, weekly, monthly, and annual responsibilities of running a sanctuary take precedence over many aspects of our existence. Balance is a constant juggling act. Our to-do lists grow longer and longer as there is always something that needs to be done or some new idea that needs to be executed. For me, sometimes it feels like a never-ending cycle of chasing my tail — or rather the kinkajous’ tails. I know when it gets like this, I need to step back and practice self care.
I learned the importance of self care three years ago when I was lacking in it entirely. I was running a captive wildlife and exotic animal organization on my own — not because I had to, but because I am stubborn and had troubles asking for help. Between the administrative work, animal care, and frustrations of rescue, I burned out. No, I crashed and burned.
After some time away from the animal community, I returned and launched Kinkatopia — a nonprofit organization for kinkajous in South Florida. But I returned with a new understanding: If I didn’t put myself first, I wouldn’t be able to care for the animals. As a natural caretaker, this is unnatural to me, but it must be done.
So, what does self care look like for a professional kinkajou keeper?
- Ask for help. I am blessed with a wonderful board of directors and volunteers who are as dedicated to the kinkajous as I am. I still struggle with control, but I know I cannot run this mission on my own. In fact, Kinkatopia is a “we” organization. It isn’t just the sanctuary and the people who run it, it is a community of like-minded people supporting the mission.
- Routine and time management. I stay organized, which allows me to balance responsibilities and time away from the sanctuary.
- Enrich yourself. I spend countless hours preparing activities for the kinkajous, but what about myself? I have discovered other hobbies I enjoy and schedule days for time with loved ones. I may be the Mother of Kinkajous, but I don’t let that wholly define me. I enjoy fitness, cooking, horror movies, traveling … and so many other things. The animals are my heart, but they are not who I am.
- Relax. Lord this is so hard! Find time to relax. I get massages and facials from time to time, which is amazing. But typically, I binge watch Netflix or chew my way through my weekly DVR recordings. It is mindless and so rejuvenating. Ah yes, and I try to put my phone down during this time … I try.
- Put yourself together. I should do this more, because it’s rewarding. I spend 99% in T-shirts and leggings, hair pulled up with flipflops. It feels so good to straighten my hair and clean myself up. It reminds me that I’m a real girl!
- Be mindful of health. Whether physical or metal health, our wellbeing is of the utmost importance. Not only do I work out, but I see a therapist regularly and stay conscience of doctors I need to attend.
These are just a few of the components I utilize to live a saner life as an animal keeper. Those who share in working at Kinkatopia follow many of the same principles, and together we give the animals incredible lives. After all, I watch our kinkajous practice self care daily — their primary instinct is self preservation. Who knew they would make such excellent role models?