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February 2017 Newsletter: Vets and Techs Can Use More Love
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Let's show ourselves a little more love and compassion!

The month of February seems to be all about love and the heart…it is the month of fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, as well as the month when we get to do something extra special for our loved one on Valentine’s Day.  And as veterinary care providers, we spend most of our days loving and caring for others, whether it is our clients, patients, or co-workers, often putting their needs before our own.  But in doing so, we often forget that we deserve love and compassion as well. 
 
As veterinarians and technicians, we are notoriously hard on ourselves.  On a day when we might see 15 appointments and speak with dozens of clients, it only takes one angry or frustrated client to cause us do doubt ourselves.  Likewise, we might have 10 positive reviews online, but if just one negative review pops up, we immediately blame ourselves.  Lastly, it can take just one error out of the hundreds of medical decisions that we make every day for us to question our abilities as veterinary care providers. 

Why are veterinarians and technicians so hard on themselves?
The simple fact is that most of us are perfectionists and set very high expectations for ourselves.  Perfectionism is a personality trait that characterizes a person striving for flawlessness who sets excessively high performance standards for themselves (and others).  Perfectionists often engage in overly critical self-talk and have profound concerns regarding other people’s views or opinions.  They can be incredibly hard on themselves and feel that there is no room to make mistakes.
 
But isn’t perfectionism a good thing? 
While perfectionism can motivate people to succeed and achieve goals, it can also drive people to attempt to reach unattainable ideals or maintain unrealistic expectations.  And unfortunately when those expectations are not met, psychological distress can result.  A recent study assessing Australian veterinarians found that those who exhibit trait perfectionism are more likely to exhibit moral distress in the face of triggering stressful events.  For example, if met with the agonizing task of euthanizing a sick animal because the owners cannot afford medical care, perfectionists are much more likely to experience psychological distress because they are not meeting the unrealistic expectation of being able to save every animal that comes into the clinic.  These moral stressors can take their toll over time and are considered the leading cause of burnout in the veterinary profession

Oprah interviews Brene Brown, who explains why perfectionism is like a 20-ton shield.

So what can veterinary care providers do instead?

In addition to showing love and caring for others throughout our day, we also need to ensure that we are being our own “best friend”.  Ideally, we would show ourselves the same love and compassion that we would for our clients and patients, rather than ridiculing ourselves when we something does not go perfectly or turn out the way we hoped it would.  Here are some small ways that you can love yourself a little bit more:

  • Appreciate yourself: Before you go to bed each night, think of three things that you appreciate about yourself.  It might be as small as that you got out of bed and went to work that morning (even though you didn’t want to) or that you helped a co-worker during the day by seeing an extra walk-in. 
  • Accept yourself: Embrace all parts of you, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We are all human and none of us our perfect.  Whether you cry over sad commercials or fly off the handle when difficult clients walk through the door, accept who you are and all that you bring to the table. 
  • Be kind to yourself: When you make a mistake, give yourself a break.  Recognize that we are human beings and we make mistakes.  Rather than beat yourself up, be your biggest supporter.  Think about how you speak to a friend if they made a mistake and use those same words to lift yourself back up again.  Learn from the experience and try to look for the good in what happened. 
  • Make time for self-care: Think about things you love to do and then make time for them.  Whether it’s taking a bath, reading a book, going to a movie, practicing yoga, or meeting a friend for coffee.  Engage in activities that fill you up and allow yourself the gift of this time while acknowledging that you deserve it!
  • Hug yourself and say “I love you”: This is one thing that many of us struggle with.  While it can be easy to tell others we love them, for some reason it can seem an impossible task when turned on ourselves.  But every morning when you get out of bed or before you fall asleep at night, this should be the first thing that you do. 
  • Take care of your body: Feed your body with foods that nourish it and help you to feel better.  Exercise with the intention of building muscle and keeping your heart strong.  Get enough sleep at night.  When you feel sick or are injured, give your body a break, rather than pushing through.  Feel grateful every day for the body that you have knowing that it carries you through your day and allows you to do the work that you do. 
  • Silence your inner critic: Notice the self-talk that goes through your mind during the day and imagine that you were speaking to a friend with those thoughts.  Would it sound harsh or critical?  If so, see if you can turn those thoughts into more gentle and kind words.  We can all benefit from being our biggest cheerleader rather than our loudest critic. 
  • Practice self-compassion:  Accept that at times we need to accept “good enough” rather than “perfect practice”.  Realize that you can only do what time and resources allow and know that you are doing your best under the circumstances you are faced with.  Show yourself the same compassion that you would to others in a similar situation.
"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." --- Buddha

Other Recent Blogs Related to Veterinary Wellness

Video capturing the Veterinary Wellness Workshop & Retreat
Lake Louise January 2017
Upcoming Veterinary Wellness Events

FEBRUARY 2017

Midwest Veterinary Conference Columbus, OH
February 26th, 2017 

- Compassion fatigue, burnout, and the mental health of veterinarians
- Wellness in the veterinary workplace
- Self-care: the key to survival in the veterinary profession
- Sleep hygiene: how to consistently get a good night's sleep
- Mindfulness and meditation for veterinary care providers
- Strategies for sanity: setting boundaries, saying no, and daily debriefing 


APRIL 2017

North American Veterinary Dermatology Forum Orlando, FL
April 27-29th, 2017 

- Achieving work-life balance

MAY 2017

Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practicing in Northern Ireland Armagh, Northern Ireland
May 12th-13th, 2017
- Is veterinary medicine headed for disaster or is it on the road to recovery?
- Wellness in the veterinary workplace
- The entitlement generation: working with and understanding millennials
- How can we thrive (not just survive) in veterinary medicine? 


For more information or to plan a wellness event for your veterinary practice or conference, please email veterinarywellness@outlook.com 
2017
Banff: April 7th - 9th

Register soon - only 4 spots left!
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