As the second half of March approaches, schedules are busier than ever, both in and outside of the veterinary clinic. Whether you’re stressed from work deadlines, tests in school, or being the adorable family dog, we could all use a break in our lives to simply relax. In medical professions including the veterinary field people face unique challenges such as compassion fatigue, which makes the typical staffing changes, packed schedule, and managing day to day even more complicated harder. In order to improve veterinary mental health, let’s talk about how we can unwind.
Alleviating stress by finding ways to relax means finding ways to have fun. Doing things we love improves overall health for both pets and people, so include your furry friend in activities when possible. Hobbies give us an outlet and allow us to be ourselves. Learn about how our staff members enjoy relaxing outside of our workplace.
“If you don’t have something else in life and your focus becomes solely about work (even work you generally love), it is imbalanced and becomes less fulfilling. The human experience is about friends and family, nature, sports, music, exercise and all the amazing things we experience. Without those we get restless and antsy and discontent. Taking care of ourselves ensures we are in top form to help others. Unfortunately veterinary medicine traditionally attracts type A people who are devoted and driven to help, and we do a generally poor job of taking care of ourselves.” — Dr. Brown
In the music world, our staff members most enjoy listening to music, attending concerts, and dancing. Music offers an amazing healing quality that goes beyond words. It can motivate us, help us understand our emotions, and offer a community with others who love our favorite artists too. Even our furry friends love music! Studies show that cats and dogs prefer classical music, but any genre can help boost the mood of anyone, no matter how many legs we stand on. Dancing in a more organized setting like a class or simply dancing around the living room gets energy out in a positive way and can calm the mind and body. “A quiet mind and body helps relieve stress and anxiety,” CSR and TA Katie Gregory said.
We also enjoy getting crafty! Our staff members enjoy many forms of art, including coloring, painting, and photography. Engaging your mind in a creative way helps take the stress out of your day and allows you to freely express emotions. Taking up an artistic hobby has helped many of us in the past few years, including RVT Jamie Gartenmann. “During the early days of COVID I decided to take a knitting class,” she said. “I have really enjoyed the challenge and it is very relaxing.”
Moving your body is also a fantastic way to relieve stress. The most popular form of exercise amongst our staff is going on walks — especially with our pets — followed by hiking and camping. Some staff members have unique sports hobbies such as roller skating, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Being outside and moving helps us connect with nature, each other, and ourselves. Exercise also releases endorphins that increase our well-being. Both pets and people greatly benefit from moving their bodies and exercising regularly.
Julia McPeek is our CEO and a huge advocate for self care, especially when it comes with more opportunities to be outside. She enjoys international travel and wilderness travel and inspires those in the clinic to balance our lives outside of work. “Every life needs balance. Getting on the earth, off the grid and away from work allows the heart and mind to rejuvenate, the body to rest and creativity to expand. This allows for being more balanced, creative and productive at work in service to our patients, clients and community.”
A few other hobbies that our staff loves include traveling, getting massages, and watching TV. Exploring the world, either from a plane or from our couch, opens our minds to think about more than just the busy day. Self care like bubble baths and hot tubs also relax our minds and bodies after a long day at work. Sometimes it’s nice to sit and do nothing at all, basking in peace instead of letting our minds wander.
And of course, relaxing hobbies would not be complete without our pets. Simply spending time with our cats, dogs, and even horses boosts the mood. We enjoy taking our pets for walks or hikes, then watching movies together to recover. Cuddle time is an everyday need for most of us. Regardless of how difficult work can get, our pets are there to remind us of the importance of the veterinary field. We need our furry friends to keep calm, find laughter in every day, and remind us there are others who care for us.
Hobbies help us “stay sane and maintain patience,” according to our RVT Maritza Orozco-Reyes. One of the best strategies for reducing stress as someone in the veterinary profession is to find a separation between work life and personal life. Having hobbies we enjoy will give space for a carefree state of mind, and help us see the world a little bit more like our pets.