As a veterinarian, improving your quality of life should be a priority. Burnout is reaching epidemic levels in the profession. The reasons are starting to come to light: overwork, mental and emotional overexertion, schedules that leave no free time, little time for family life. The consequences? Exhaustion, poor performance, depression and, in extreme cases, abandonment of the profession. Veterinary practice is absorbing, but it doesn’t have to take up 100% of your life. Would you like to take control and start to change things?
Burnout can affect you, even if you don’t realise it
Before reading on, we recommend that you take the Burnout test. Many vets have told us that they did it out of curiosity, convinced they didn’t have burnout, and were surprised to see that the test reflected medium-to-high levels of burnout that they weren’t even aware of.
With the results in hand, you can now read the article. We’ve compiled this ten-step guide based on the techniques veterinarians use to relieve tension and get rid of stress at work. Don’t try to do them all at once, as you run the risk of doing nothing at all. Start with the first one, put it into practice for a week, and be consistent. Evaluate how you spend your day and then everything else will fall into place.
10 guidelines to improve the veterinary professional’s quality of life
- Manage your diary. Review your daily activities. How much time do you spend at the clinic? How much free time do you have to do your favourite activities? Evaluate which are necessary and which are more satisfying for you.
- Try to leave on time. Organise and optimise your work to make it possible. Sometimes, as Diana Palacios said, you just need to stop wasting time on nonsense to make it happen. Start gradually and then extend it to at least three days a week.
- Don’t take your work home with you. Leaving on time is fine as long as you don’t take home what you couldn’t finish at the office. This includes reports, calling clients on the way home, answering email, or preparing presentations. Leave as much work as possible at the clinic so that your free time is entirely your own.
- Silence the clinic’s chat groups. Be aware that your free time is your own. If there is something really urgent, they won’t tell you on WhatsApp. They’ll call you on the phone.
Manage your diary, try to leave on time, don’t take your work with you and silence the clinic’s chat groups.
5. Schedule two or three free moments during the week to do what you really like: would you like to have time for boxing, running, cycling, climbing, pottery, gardening, a cooking course, music, creative writing, theatre, urban sketching? There are plenty of sports and hobbies waiting for you. Physical exercise and recreational activities release endorphins and make us feel better, reducing stress. Think of these activities as being as important to you as your job. If you are well, you will be well as a veterinarian.
6. Go out with your friends! Don’t cancel outings with friends out of laziness or a sense of tiredness. A lack of desire to go out can be a symptom of burnout. Social contact is very important to combat stress. If your friends are also vets, don’t talk about patients! Laugh, cry if necessary and let off steam. Have fun and enjoy life.
7. Practice some relaxation techniques when you arrive or before leaving home, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. In the BodyVet section you will find VetYogi: guided meditation, yoga and breathing exercises developed by a certified yoga and breathing instructor who is also a veterinarian – Dr. Cris Pestana – with specific series to prevent the most common physical (and mental) injuries among veterinary professionals.
Schedule some free time, go out with your friends and practice some relaxation techniques and make your home a welcoming space.
8. Make your home a welcoming space. Your home should be your refuge and comfort zone, not an extension of the clinic –a cosy space to spend time relaxing, alone or with friends and family, sipping a hot drink with your favourite cake, reading a good book or listening to music. Put soft lighting and scented candles – choose lavender for its stress-reducing effects – and immerse yourself in hygge.
9. Organise the housework. There’s nothing more overwhelming than reading a book while thinking there’s nothing but cheese and wilted lettuce in the fridge or spying piles of laundry out of the corner of your eye. Try to group household chores into one day a week and plan your shopping so you don’t have to go to the supermarket every day. The time you waste on these chores can be spent on other things that are much more conducive to relaxation.
10. What about when you have children? These ten rules are just fine for veterinarians who live alone or as a couple, but when there are one, two or three children it’s more difficult to find space to relax. However, having quality time to dedicate to the little ones will also help you forget about the clinic and reduce one of the causes of burnout: the problem of balancing work & family. Moreover, if you organise with your partner or other parents, you’ll surely be able to find time for yourself as well.
Start with small changes and take the Burnout test periodically to see how the test results improve. It will be a reflection of how you feel and how your quality of life has improved. Are you ready for a change?