Mindfulness – Mindfulness is being actively present in the mind in that moment. It can be applied to any action – or inaction – during a busy day. This can be practiced for just a few moments e.g. while drinking a cup of tea, or for longer periods e.g. while spaying a bitch. Some mindfulness examples can be found on this Vetmindfully blog
Meditation – Where mindfulness is being aware, meditation is more about emptying and deep focus on the soul. It requires stillness and can take effort and practice as the mind wanders. Meditation can help to calm, re-align and provide perspective.
Exercise – There’s an increasing body of evidence that sport therapy can be as effective as talking therapies for treating depression and related mental health disorders. After exercising for more than 30 minutes, the benefits tail off and the risk of injury increases. Diarise ideally 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. If you are not used to exercise start with a brisk walk, yoga session, or low intensity online exercise class. It can be helpful to be accountable to someone else – so agree with a friend of colleague to do the same class and check in with each other afterwards. https://vetyogi.com https://www.getvetfit.co.uk
Diet – Ensuring we fuel ourselves with good nutrition supports the immune system. Mood boosting foods contain derivatives of neurotransmitters associated with positive mood. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mood-food
Both cooking and eating could and should be mindful exercises, during which time we are present and aware of our senses.
Sleep – Sleep is an important hygiene factor i.e. without it we can’t function optimally. Stress and over-tiredness can perversely affect our ability to get good quality sleep. Following a sleep hygiene regimen can help to ensure we maximise our rest time. A Vetshift Facebook group to support healthy sleeping habits in veterinary shift workers launched recently, with an associated resource website https://www.vetshift.co.uk
Recovery from work – This is not simply the time you are physically away from the clinic, but includes all the commuting and at home you are actively thinking about work. Recent research by the University if Exeter, in partnership with RCVS Mindmatters, has highlighted the importance of adequate recovery from work to cope with stress, anxiety and the consequent negative effects on mental health. https://www.vetmindmatters.org/upcoming-webinars-will-look-at-work-recovery-perfectionism-and-mentoring/
Having a routine to switch off from work before you walk in your front door can help to mentally separate work from home. For example, a short video clip of your favourite comedian so you have a good laugh out loud before stepping into your home with a smile.
Set boundaries – Turn off your phone and do not look at it between certain hours, e.g. 9pm-7am. Make sure your team are aware of your boundaries and only contact you in the case of genuine emergency. Restrict yourself to one to two trusted news resources, and only listen to or read news updates once or twice daily to reduce anxiety.
Socialising – Humans are a social species. In this time of social distancing and isolation loneliness is a genuine concern for many. Contact friends and family and make diary dates for telephone conversations and virtual meetups. It’s important to have things to look forward to in the diary, especially if you have had significant social events cancelled. Organise a virtual film night with friends, or a music jamming session or gaming. Or arrange to call a friend while you go for a walk. Join fellow SPVS members for our virtual pub nights on Thursday evenings. Vets:Stay, Go, Diversify has a weekly summary of free online meetups, CPD and interactive events for people to engage in while isolating.
Talk – It is important to remember you are never alone. Speak to friends, family and colleagues to air your concerns, frustrations, feelings and health status. If you want to talk anonymously, phone or email Vetlife for support. This provides both decompression of emotional build-up and enables others to both help and share their own concerns in turn. SPVS members can join the active, supportive discussion list, where many topical subjects receive a wide input from members with varied experience.