Veterinary self-care quiz: How do you rank? Do you need “SHOTS” to feel better?

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My high school coach would say “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” For those in the veterinary profession, that’s definitely not what you want to hear when your stress level has hit the stratosphere and your team needs your help with their issues.

While consultants in the veterinary industry look at this past year as “remarkably profitable” and “exceptional,” individuals in practices across the country may think “exhausting” or “nerve-racking” sounds more like it. 

No, I’m not trying to be a Dora Downer—in fact, I believe we have a lot to celebrate beyond the numbers. It’s called, in my book, “Survival of Practice Heroes Who Dig Deep and Conquer Anything Including a Pandemic.” Okay, the title is a bit long, but you get the idea.

A veterinarian and client wearing masks and looking at a golden retriever.So HooRah! – we’re celebrating surviving and thriving (fiscally) during a pandemic. But what can we do about the toll it’s taken on our hearts and minds?

If you’re reading this, your practice probably tracks key metrics with help from VetSuccess and despite the pandemic, you’ve had a pretty good year. Congrats. You’re taking care of business.

Now let’s take care of YOU. Consider some metrics in the self-care category that may help you and your team grow stronger and optimize your health for whatever’s ahead. First, start with a check-up: a self-care quiz specifically for veterinary professionals.

Veterinary self-care quiz

Check all that apply.
 

I’ve taken on a lot of extra work because my associates or my partners needed to spend more time at home during the pandemic.

The pandemic forced me to choose between responsibilities at work and at home, pulling me in two directions at once.

I’ve felt resentful of associates or partners for not doing their fair share during this difficult time.

I sometimes verbally snap at people over things that normally would not bother me.

My new fantasy job is QA manager at a mattress factory where I can sleep all day and get paid for it.

During this pandemic, I’ve had to wear more hats than ever—covering for positions all over the practice or scrambling to fill spots when employees got sick or had to stay home.

Challenges with staff issues this year have escalated to the highest levels of my career.

I feel I had to put my own health risks aside in order to do my job.

I’m not sleeping as well or as much as I should.

I’ve gained weight over the past year.

I feel I could live at the practice 24/7 and still not accomplish all I need to.

Quiz scoring:

If you did not check ANY of the boxes:
Proudly put on your Superman/Superwoman cape and skip the rest of this article.

If you checked 2 or more boxes:
You may need a bit more self-care. Read on.

SHOTS

A woman lying down reading a book with her arm around her dog.You can think of self-care as pandemic SHOTS—Self Healing Options for Treating Stress. Note, these SHOTS, like some vaccines you give, will require regular boosters to maintain effectiveness.

Warning label: your brain will try to trick you into thinking that you don’t need SHOTS. “You’re good—just soldier through.”  Or, “You don’t have time for silly SHOTS; you have a busy practice to run.” 

Well, if you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your team and your family. Whatever stress you carry is absorbed through their skin just like a transdermal medication, adding to their stress and keeping them from doing their best. So the self-care you complete benefits more than just yourself.  

5 SHOTS to consider

1. CONNECT MORE

Find a connection that thoroughly makes you feel good—a friend, relative, mentor, whatever—and consciously plan to spend more time with them, even if it’s on Zoom, the phone, email, or a chat room. Build this special time into your schedule. Some may need an hour session once a week, others 5 minutes every other day—but don’t go too long between connection times to give yourself the “feel good” boost you need.

2. LAUGH MORE

Find a way to have one big belly laugh once a day. This could be getting a daily joke app (check out Funny Animal Pics, Animal jokes, or LMAO) or simply watching more of your favorite sitcoms—whatever it takes to release endorphins into your body and naturally counter stress.

3. SLEEP MORE

If your brain hates to shut down at night, consider adopting a new routine before you go to bed. Consciously let go of any work or family-related concerns and listen to soothing music, meditate, or find an app that walks you through a short session of relaxation. Check out Calm, Breathe, Buddhify, or Ten Percent, for example. Aromatherapy may also help. My faves: diffuse or spray essential oils such as lavender, rose, chamomile, jasmine, ylang-ylang, or any combination of these.

4. LIGHTEN UP

If you’ve gained weight during the pandemic, rather than feel guilty or jump on a fad diet, consider subtracting one small thing in your daily calorie intake. For example, skip the daily Vente White Chocolate Mocha and try a small Chai tea instead. Consider adding one simple exercise to your day—even if you only have time for 5-10 sit-ups or 3 minutes of jumping rope. You can add to this later.

5. ESCALATE KINDNESS

You’re already a kind and compassionate person or you wouldn’t have chosen a veterinary career. Now think of small ways you can brighten the day of someone around you—even if you don’t know them. Pay the toll for the person behind you on your way to work or buy the cup of coffee in the drive-through. Bring a small treat to a colleague having a tough day. Go out of your way to compliment 3 people in your life each day and change which 3 continually. The kindness you give will come back to you.

One last self-care suggestion

A woman holding up her cat in front of her and giving it kisses.Don’t like quizzes or these suggestions? Here’s an easy alternative.

Ask one person at work and one in your personal life this simple question. Be sure to pick people who won’t sugar-coat the answer.

What do you think I could do to take better care of myself?

Then just listen. These trusted sources may surprise and delight you with insight into how to lower your stress and bolster your mental health. Whatever choices you make, be sure to prioritize your well-being and self-care, because you are much needed and well worth it. Namaste!

 


 

 

Jo Birmingham, BS, MA is a writer and veterinary practice management consultant. She lives in Florida and Maine with her retired veterinarian husband and her Goldendoodle puppy named Bailey.

 

 


 

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