Holly Anne Hills MRCVS
*See the end of the Article to hear all about our Mental Health Charity and CPD event The Titanic Vet Show in Belfast in May 2023*
The new year is an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look forward to what’s ahead. Our health and well-being should be a priority because if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we can’t provide the levels of care we strive for in our patients.
Self-care comes in many forms, and it doesn’t have to look the same as someone else’s self-care. Take some time to reflect upon what worked well for you in 2022, and maybe what didn’t go so well. Identifying what we need to work on to reduce stress and improve our mood helps us better understand how to take care of ourselves and take ownership of our well-being.
So, what are some things we can do to look after our mental health and well-being in 2023?
It’s important to remember that these are only ideas – some might resonate with you and others won’t. That’s ok, it’s all about what’s best for you.
Track Your Mood
Keeping a mood diary can be a great tool for monitoring our mental well-being by helping to identify aspects of your life that might be triggering a low mood or stress, and allow you to know how you can change or control that.
A mood diary can also help you process difficult or stressful events. Perhaps you had a challenging case, difficult euthanasia, or there has been an argument in your family. Processing these emotions and events will help to improve your mood afterwards and decrease the level of stress or compassion fatigue you might be feeling.
There are a myriad of apps, trackers, and physical journals out there designed to help you track your mood, so have a browse and see which one sounds right for you. You don’t have to commit to it every day, it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself to complete it like a task otherwise in itself it can become stressful.
It’s been proven that journalling can decrease stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as improve overall well-being. It can sound daunting or time-consuming to a lot of people, and it isn’t for everyone.
Journalling can look different for different people. You might want to write down your thoughts on a particular event, something you’re grateful for, or something positive that happened in your day. It can also be useful to note down what didn’t work so well. Getting things down on paper can get them out of your head and clear some space.
You might just want a blank notebook, but you can also get journals with prompts and sections for your different thoughts.
Make time for Movement
Exercise benefits the mind and the body. Guidelines state that we should get 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in order to stay healthy. With a busy job in veterinary, it can be difficult to fit that in. Thankfully, we are on our feet all day and have a fairly active job, but we still need to get our heart rates up in other ways.
Try incorporating exercise into your daily routine – walk or cycle to work if you can. Exercise is known to boost mood and productivity, but it also needs to be enjoyable. Maybe a run or swim clears your head, or you enjoy going to the gym. Perhaps it’s time for a new membership, to sign up for a team, or a new set of exercise classes. Some yoga before bed or a walk on your lunch break can help clear your head on a busy day.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. While we sleep, the brain stores new information, reorganises nerve cells and forms new nerve connections, and the body repairs and restores itself. A good night’s sleep will help us to function well the next day, and also help us stay healthy.
Sleep hygiene is a method of improving your sleep habits to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Here are some simple things you can incorporate into your evening routine –
- Stick to the same routine of bedtime and wake-up time
- Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature
- Make sure your bedding is comfortable
- Don’t use electronic devices for at least 1 hour before you go to sleep
- Turn devices to do not disturb, switch them off or place them across the room from your bed
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime
More information is available at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
It can be easy to rush through the day without stopping to notice the world around us. It’s easy in a veterinary environment to get caught up in our work and forget to consider our thoughts and feelings in the present moment.
Mindfulness is proven to improve our mental well-being by bringing us back to the present moment and noticing what’s going on inside and outside ourselves. Noticing how we feel, our thoughts, sounds, sights, and sensations helps us find small moments of joy in our busy days. Mindfulness techniques have been proven to work in overcoming compassion fatigue, anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Just 10 minutes of awareness a day is easy to incorporate, and there are many different ways to do it. If you’re interested in exploring how mindfulness could help you, there are lots of resources, books, courses, and workshops you can try.
It can be difficult to open up about our mental health, but you don’t have to get through difficult times alone. Support for veterinary professionals is available through VetLife – https://www.vetlife.org.uk/
Your GP or healthcare practitioner can also provide support and signpost you to other services.
How about considering helping others who need support? You can become a mental health first aider and be someone your colleagues can come to for support. Acts of kindness and generosity to others can improve our own well-being and helps create a supportive and more open community.
Are you looking a change in your job or want to travel the world while working? Here at TheVetService we offer International Vet Jobs, Vet Jobs USA, Vet Jobs in Australia, Vet Jobs in New Zealand, Vet Jobs in Canada, Vet Jobs in the UK, and Vet Jobs in Ireland.
Mental Health Charity Fundraiser
The Vet Service are holding a Mental Health Charity Fundraiser, The Titanic Vet Show , which will take place on the 5th-6th May 2023!
All proceeds from the event go to ‘Vet Support‘ a voluntary mental health support service for vets across the UK and Ireland.
The show will take place at the iconic Titanic Belfast in Northern Ireland. There will be six expert speakers over the two days covering topics relating to Mental Health and Communication between Vets and Clients, with Q&A sessions after each talk (Worth 6 hours CPD)
The event will take place over two days on Friday 5th (4 talks) and Saturday 6th May 2023 (2 talks) and will include a range of exhibitors from the veterinary industry, excellent networking opportunities, and a black-tie gala dinner on the Friday evening (all included in the ticket!)
Will we see you there?
Early Bird tickets are only £185 until January 31st! Get yours and more info here: https://thevetservice.com/titanic-vet-show-2023/