Do you feel like the burdens of your day follow you home? Do you find yourself agonising over the trials and tribulations of your day when you should be eating dinner, or sleeping?
So many veterinarians – whether experience or not – feel like they cannot obtain a ‘work life balance’ because their job places a perpetual emotional burden on their shoulders.
Like an ink blot, our work-related emotions can seep through into our personal lives, which can become exhausting. This is called emotional fatigue.
Emotional fatigue as a veterinarian can be extremely tough to deal with. In this article, we give you four strategies to help you cope with emotional fatigue as a veterinarian.
If you haven’t read our post about work-life integration, you should check that out too.
Although this may seem at odds with the principles of work-life integration, creating healthy boundaries is imperative when trying to maintain a work-life balance.
We are all guilty of checking our emails out of work hours. However, we should resist. Emails are usually one of two things: a message from someone passing their workload onto you, or a panic-filled message requesting immediate attention.
Set boundaries by turning off your notifications after work. Having notifications pop up when you are at home is going to increase your anxiety and disrupt your sleeping pattern. And let’s be honest, exactly what can you do to solve a problem at home? So what’s the point in exposing yourself to this stress when a solution is outside of your immediate control?
You should do the same for social media, especially if you follow lots of veterinary-related pages. It can be easy to compare yourself to your peers, and whilst it might look like everyone has the perfect life, this is often not the case.
In a 2018 study, researchers found that compulsive social media use positively predicted a tendency to experience emotional fatigue. Creating healthy habits surrounding social media therefore can be key to preventing emotional fatigue as a veterinarian.
Now that you’ve created those physical, time-related boundaries, it’s time to do so mentally.
Compartmentalising, or the ability to ‘switch off’ and focus on other areas of your life aside from work, is an essential skill for a well rounded life. If you put all your energy into work, your personal life will suffer, and vice-versa. As a busy veterinarian, it can be difficult to find that balance, but with a bit of consideration and planning, it’s possible.
Try to dedicate a specific time to ‘switch off’. Perhaps take ten minutes every morning to do some meditation, or schedule a time to meet with your friends. Don’t over complicate things by creating an elaborate schedule that you can’t stick to. Just find an activity that is flexible enough to fit into your schedule, that can give you some headspace.
Every veterinarian must learn how to prioritise. But how does one do this?
One easy way is to create to-do-lists. Rank the importance and urgency of each item on your list (Trello is a fantastic tool for creating electronic lists) and go through it and rank the importance and the urgency of each item.
Rank the items in the following: For things that are urgent and important – Do these first. For things that are important but not urgent – do these second. For things that are urgent but unimportant – delegate these where possible. And finally, for things that are neither important, nor urgent (which means almost all of social media) – stop doing these things altogether. They are low value tasks that are robbing you of the opportunity to do great work.
It is important to learn the difference between what is important and what is urgent.
You could have a thousand pressing tasks that you need to complete urgently, but if in the long run they are inconsequential, they probably shouldn’t be so high up your list. Remember to take the time to cultivate long term projects in order to get the most value out of your day.
Network – Appropriately
It is crucial for any veterinarian to engage with their network. Although sharing your problems with a veterinary community (such as our Thrive community), might not immediately solve all your problems, it can be cathartic.
That being said, be cautious about the type of networks you engage with. There are many unhealthy communities of veterinarians out there who exclude hostility towards the profession, or clients, or both. Spending too much time in these spaces can affect your mindset, bringing you down. The best advice is to find a tribe that is enjoying their work -not everyone hates their job!
If you are a professional struggling with compassion fatigue, you need to check out our webinar. This complimentary resource crams years of Dr. Dave’s industry experience into an hour talk, where he teaches you everything vet school didn’t.
Become a happier and more successful vet by clicking here.