It’s nothing new. You’re overworked. Your schedule is a hellish landscape of appointments and important events. There are sticky notes on sticky notes, reminding you of reminders. You’ve been standing all day, crouching more than sitting.
Look. There’s only so much you can do for others without taking care of yourself first. That means you need to help yourself as you work to help others. To put it simply, treat yo’ self. There are many ways you can give yourself the tender love and care that you deserve. Here’s what a few of our favorite veterinary professionals do when they need to treat themselves.
Self-care tips for a healthier you
1. Rub-a-dub-dub, dinner in the tub. When I’ve had a really long day, one of my favorite things to do is have dinner in the tub. I know it sounds crazy, but it feels really indulgent to soak in a tub full of bubbles while you eat dinner. I prop my phone up against the wall and pull up a movie so I can watch a movie while I eat. I’m not talking about a steak dinner here. It has to be something you can eat one-handed, obviously. Laugh all you want, but don’t knock it ’til you try it—you just might enjoy it as much as I do!
2. Five-minute vent. I’ve got this great friend who also works in healthcare. She’s a medical assistant, but many of the difficulties we face are the same. We have what we call a five-minute vent. Sometimes we just need to let off a little bit of steam so we can go back inside and do our best. One of us will call the other on a break and simply say, “I just need to vent.” We’re able to blow off all our frustrations, complain about whatever is bothering us and sometimes even cry. We say all of the validation you want to hear in a situation like that—“Oh no! That sucks! I’m so sorry!”—and then we say thanks and head back inside. We always talk later after work, but it’s a nice way to relieve some stressful pressure that naturally builds up some days.
3. Dine-and-read. Sometimes I get tired of taking care of others and I want to feel like someone is taking care of me. So I take a good book and head to a restaurant where I can sit down and let someone serve me. I ignore the world around me and just relax and read. Some people feel strange going out to eat by themselves, but some days I just need that alone time. If you try this, just remember to tip your server well—they’re working hard to take care of others, too!
4. Play the crane game. You know what I enjoy doing to take my mind off stress? I play the crane machine. (You know, that arcade staple where you push a button, the crane drops down amid a pile of stuffed wonders and you hopefully capture one.) It’s such a simple, silly thing to do that it makes me giggle and feel like a little kid again. Crane machines are all over the place if you just look for them. It’s also fun to walk away with a cute little toy.
Give your happiness the time of day
1. Focus on your health. Anyone in a busy practice knows that this is not a 9-to-5 job. We give a lot of our time to take care of animals, but it’s important we take care of ourselves as well. Get adequate sleep for those early mornings and late nights, eat well and remember to drink water throughout the day—and try to exercise when you can, because being on your feet all day can get tough.
2. Practice safe handling. When working with fractious animals, be sure to protect yourself. It’s great to be assertive in difficult situations, but staying calm, thinking clearly and using protective measures are the things that show you’re not only a confident person, but also a smart and trustworthy technician.
3. Wear protective equipment. Be sure to use protective equipment when necessary. It’s easy to take the quick-and-easy route when performing certain tasks, but your safety should always be a top priority. Don’t skip on things like using gloves when cleaning up bodily fluids, wearing protective radiology gear and wearing protective gear when handling chemotherapeutic drugs.
4. Take time off. It’s always helpful to cover shifts and holidays—but don’t overdo it. Burnout is extremely common in veterinary medicine, and opting out of a few shifts here and there is not only understandable, but also necessary to allow everyone to work with the same amount of rest and energy.
5. Spend time with friends and family when you can. Again, it’s not always a 9-to-5 job. The time we give to our jobs is time spent away from the ones we love. Find a balance of living and working. You’ll thank yourself in the end.
Keep your bucket full
It’s important as veterinary professionals to keep our “buckets full.” How do you know what fills your bucket? Take a minute and think of some things outside of veterinary medicine that bring you joy and leave you feeling rested and relaxed. These are the things that will keep your bucket full. We need to ensure that our bucket is full first, before giving to others. Here are some things that keep mine full.
1. I like to look at my “cheer book.” It’s a small photo album I keep in my desk. It’s filled with all of the notes I’ve collected over the years from coworkers, employees and clients. This reminds me of all of the good times and experiences I’ve been able to be a part of or provide for team members and patients.
2. I also think it’s important to carve out some “me” time by scheduling a massage or a manicure and pedicure. Even though this is just an hour or so out of the day, it’s important to do something that requires no thinking to decompress.
3. Be sure to plan a friend’s night out. Grab a group of your closest friends and make plans to do something fun indoors or go out on adventures somewhere nearby. Keeping a good support system of friends around you is important to help keep your bucket full.
4. I make a plan to hit the gym several times a week. This is a great stress reliever as well as a way to stay healthy. Getting out and going to the gym can be a hassle—believe me! But once you’re there, you’ll never regret working out.
5. Finally, if I really start feeling empty, I make an appointment with my therapist. There’s no shame at all in needing to talk through some tough times with someone whose sole job is to listen to you and give you advice.