Do you get overwhelmed by loud noises? Is it hard for you to let go of that case that didn’t go well or that disagreement with a client? Do you feel the need to retreat into silence and solitude from time to time to recharge your batteries? Don’t worry, you’re not the “weirdo” in the clinic. It might be that you are an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). Find out if this is the case and take some special measures to protect yourself and avoid burnout.
High Sensitivity is a personality trait defined by the American psychologist Elaine N. Aron in 1991 and identifies between 15 and 20% of the world’s population. Being a veterinarian or vet tech with High Sensitivity might mean that at the end of every working day you are so drained that you end up questioning whether this profession is really worth the effort.
How do you know if you are an HSP vet or vet tech?
One of the most characteristic traits that define HSPs is the ability to pick up on very subtle things that escape the other 80% of the population: gestures, attitudes, smells, shades of colour, noises, tones of voice, the feel of the environment… It’s a constant bombardment of information that overexcites an HSP’s nervous system.
Add to all this a high level of empathy, and it is possible that the routine of the clinic can be too much to handle and the veterinarian or nurse with High Sensitivity can end up totally overwhelmed.
Find out if you are an HSP with this test by Dr. Elaine N. Aron
1. I am aware of very subtle things in my environment.
2. I am affected by the behaviour of others.
3. I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
4. On “busy” days, I need to withdraw, seek a darkened room or any place where I can find privacy and relief from stimulation.
5. I am especially sensitive to the effect of caffeine.
6. I am bothered by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics or police and ambulance sirens.
7. I have a rich and complex inner life.
8. Loud noises make me uncomfortable.
9. I am deeply moved by the arts or music.
10. I am very diligent.
11. I am easily startled.
12. I get overwhelmed when I have too many things to do in a short time.
13. When someone feels uncomfortable in a physical environment, I usually know what to do to make them feel more comfortable (e.g., dim the lights or change the seats).
14. I get annoyed when others want me to do too many things at once.
15.I try hard not to make mistakes or forget something.
16. I tend to avoid violent films and TV shows.
17. I find the stimulation caused by the hustle and bustle around me unpleasant.
18.Changes in life shake me up.
19.I tend to perceive and enjoy good scents, tastes, sounds, and works of art.
20. I attach great importance to arranging my life in such a way that I can avoid disruptive or overwhelming situations.
21. When I have to compete or am observed in the performance of a task, I become so nervous or self-conscious that I do it worse than I normally would.
22. When I was a child, my parents or my teachers used to see me as a sensitive or shy person.
If you answered true to twelve or more questions, you may be a Highly Sensitive vet or vet nurse, a personality trait you were born with and may have inherited from one of your parents – you may also pass it on to one of your children.
Learn how to protect yourself from burnout if you are an HSP
With a highly sensitive nervous system, the veterinary clinician or vet nurse can be more easily affected by burnout. As Dr Eva Piredda told us when explaining her reasons for leaving veterinary medicine, “The second reason was a brutal emotional toll, at all levels. High sensitivity profiles, among which we often find many veterinarians, find it really hard to bear.”
Self-acceptance, self-knowledge and self-management. These are the keys to avoiding burnout when you are passionate about your profession, but you are an HSP.
- Accept yourself as you are: HS is not a disease or a “problem”, it is a condition of the human race when facing specific situations. The problem is the society in which the HSP lives, which often obligates him/her to deny their sensitivity: you blow things out of proportion, don’t make things so difficult for yourself, you have to be tougher…
- Know yourself: observe the pitfalls or recurring tendencies that HS can cause you and learn how to manage them.
- Exercise your body and mind: if you end your working day feeling overwhelmed, relax your body and mind with yoga and meditation, do physical exercise of any kind or go for a walk in nature.
- Set boundaries to avoid saturation and create a safe space to withdraw to. Learn to say NO.
- Seek help from a therapist to learn how to manage your emotions before you reach the boiling point. Avoid burnout!
Do you want to know more about Highly Sensitive People? You can check out Dr. Elaine Aron’s website The Highly Sensitive Person or read one of the books she has published about Highly Sensitive adults and children.