Here’s a sobering fact: of all veterinary personnel who experience mental health issues, 50% are not receiving treatment.
Burnout and compassion fatigue are all-too-real occurrences that can negatively affect patient care and significantly impact the emotional, mental, and physical well being of the care-giver. And because veterinary staff deal with life and death every day they are at a greater risk of experiencing bad thoughts, low self-esteem, and/or suicidal ideations. Fortunately there are techniques, such as mindfulness, that can help reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing.
This blog will explore the concept of mindfulness and provide five remarkable techniques to help manage burnout that often comes with working in veterinary.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus all your attention and awareness on the here-and-now or something specific. It’s all about consolidating your thoughts and being present in the moment.
People practice mindfulness to increase clarity and accept reality, and in the long run, it changes how they feel and respond to things happening around them.
5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
You can become more mindful by practicing the following habits for less than five minutes a day. The best part – they’re simple, flexible, and achievable.
1. Mindful Breathing
Any stressful situation like dealing with an irate client or persistent worry over the well-being of a patient, can trigger the release of stress hormones which produce physiological changes. A stressful incident can get your heart pounding, quicken breathing, tense-up your muscles, nauseate the stomach, and produce sweat.
Mindful breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for responding to physiological stress. Count the times you breathe in and out deeply for 30-60 seconds. If you’re walking, you can synchronize your steps with your breathing until you feel relaxed.
Here’s an exercise you can try.
2. Guided Meditation
Long, stressful days at work can deny you good rest when you get home. So, to refocus your attention back on your home-life, a good session of guided meditation is ideal.
Meditation is therapeutic, and you can finish within 5-15 minutes feeling very calm and refreshed. Several video streaming sites and mobile apps provide guided meditation. Some of these include Calm, Smiling Mind, Headspace, and Insight Timer.
3. Reflective Listening
Another mindfulness practice is reflective listening, which helps to let people know that you understand the point they’re trying to get across and can even help them clarify their thinking. Start by listening and then summarize what the person has said and then ask them if you got it right. Here’s an example. Pausing and thinking before answering or giving feedback is another technique that allows for reflection. The pause gives you ample time to ease the tension that might ensue during an upsetting moment, such as the death of a client’s pet. It also helps you gather your thoughts and respond accordingly
In yoga, the objective is to focus on the present moment of existence. It is an excellent way of decompressing and improving your mental functionality. The stretching exercises, deep breathing, and yoga meditation practices are essential for refreshing the mind and improving your mental acuity.
Watch these videos and learn from the teachers at Yogivet.com – yoga and meditation by veterinary professionals for veterinary professionals.
5. Mindful Workout
Engaging in physical activity helps improve overall productivity. But what if you work out while following given movement and breathing patterns that stimulate every cell in your body? Of course, as a result, you will improve your mindfulness and become a better professional.
To keep your mind, body, and nervous system in sync, follow the guidelines below whenever you engage in physical activity, such as riding a bike, lifting weights, or running. They will enhance your strength and capacity, enabling you to focus all the energy on the task at hand:
1. Define your aim –What do you intend to achieve from this activity? As you climb on the bike, envision how you want to feel the bike-riding experience. For instance, you might say to yourself, “I will close my eyes and feel the wind blowing on my face.” Defining your aim makes you more aware of what you want to achieve
2. Warm-up for five minutes –You should match the rhythm of your breathing with your body movements to make mindful workouts effective. To keep them in sync, you will need to warm up 5 minutes prior. This will help stabilize and align the heart rate, nervous system, and brain activity
3. Choose a rhythm –Increase the intensity while harmonizing your breathing and movement patterns until you find your groove
4. Set up a challenge –Challenge yourself to try more repetitions, faster speed, or heavier weights. Try noticing how you become more alert when you increase the effort
5. Slow down –Cool down steadily until you come to a stop. Remain still and notice how you feel. Savor that moment. Drink it in
6. Rest –Find a cool place and lie down face up. Notice how sensations flow in and around you and give that feeling a name
Self-Care Comes First
The best way to take better care of your patients and clients is by prioritizing your own wellbeing.
If you experience an imbalance in your mental state, practicing mindfulness is ideal way to bring back that balance. It will stabilize your work and home life, making you a better veterinary professional and family member. It will also help you to manage stress and prevent burnout. What’s more, is that it only requires a few minutes of your daily life to do it!