A career in veterinary medicine can be very rewarding, but it’s no secret it can also take a toll on your mental health.
A recent Merck Animal Health Survey of 3,500 veterinarians reported that 1 in 20 veterinarians suffers from serious psychological distress, and two-thirds of veterinarians feel serious stress. Moreover, about 25% more veterinarians report low well-being—or how you feel about your life compared with the ideal—than the general population.
There are many factors fueling this phenomenon, including debilitating debt, compassion fatigue, grueling hours, difficult clients, and more.
No doubt, the issue is complex, but there are small things you can do to start elevating well-being and alleviating stress. And we want to help!
So this month we’re kicking off a work-life balance series aimed at helping you live a healthier, happier life.
First up: maximizing your energy with four daily rituals.
Water Your Weariness
If your morning routine doesn't include gulping down at least one big glass of water (preferably two), you're missing an easy opportunity to rev up your body for the day ahead.
Say you sleep seven hours each night. That means in every 24-hour period, your body goes over 400 minutes straight without taking in any liquids (despite continuing to use water while you're away in dreamland). Because of this, we're often at our most dehydrated upon waking.
Water is human gasoline, fueling digestive functions, cell regeneration, hormone creation, temperature regulation, and just about everything else. It's also one of your best defenses against headaches—the majority of your brain tissue is made of water, and when the tissue starts to dry out, throbbing pain kicks in.
So tomorrow when you climb out of bed, try downing a hearty glass of water before doing anything else. It might be just what your body needs to prepare for the day ahead.
Loosen Your Ligaments
Here's another pro strategy for wringing extra energy out of your day: Spend a few meager minutes doing basic body stretches within your first waking hour.
After laying down for several hours straight, our bodies tend to contort and tighten. Stretching helps awaken our muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to the body (including our brain!), while also reducing aches and pains throughout the day.
Simple yoga moves can be fantastic building blocks for increasing circulation and energy in just a few short minutes. If you're looking for a brisk sequence to kick off your day, try starting with the cat-cow pose, transitioning into downward-facing dog, and finishing with a standing forward fold. And don't worry if you have poor flexibility—these moves can be adapted to any fitness level.
These poses have an added bonus of focusing on the spine, which needs all the help it can get in supporting the body's weight. This basic routine can improve spinal flexibility, reduce stress and tension, and allow nutrients to surge through the body at a faster rate throughout the day.
There are hundreds of different stretching routines out there, so if this particular combination doesn't interest you, experiment with different techniques until you find one you're happy with. The point is to at least try something, because after a few weeks of stretching each day, you may start to wonder how your body ever got along without it.
Practice Your Posture
A staple of childhood teachings, maintaining good posture is still much easier said than done. Hunching over with drooped shoulders might seem like a picturesque pose of relaxation, but chronically poor posture can do a real number on our overall health and energy levels.
You're already carrying the weight of your patients' wellbeing on your shoulders—why add the weight of your cranium, too? Bad posture can wreak havoc on our joints, screw with our digestive system, and up our risk factor for cardiovascular problems. It also gets in the way of proper breathing, which, you guessed it—makes us fatigued.
Maintaining good posture can be surprisingly difficult for those out of practice. In fact, it can feel downright uncomfortable. But over time, your muscles will naturally strengthen, and you'll notice an uptick in mental clarity.
A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information also shows a promising correlation between good posture and reduced symptoms of depression and lethargy—so consider this yet another tool for distressed veterinarians.
The benefits are numerous, so keep your chin up and let the energy flow!
Dim Your Devices
Our bodies rely on melatonin for proper sleep, but most modern households are riddled with electronic devices that interfere with our rest. Things like your phone, laptop, and television all emit blue light, which actively suppress melatonin. The longer into the night you stare at glowing screens, the worse your quality of sleep becomes.
The next time you're using an electronic device before bed, try turning the screen's brightness down to its lowest setting. It's a minor change, but one that can pay big dividends by reducing the blue light you're exposed to.
To take it a step further, try decreasing the color saturation on your screen. This can be accomplished through free apps like f.lux, or by using the night shift setting on iOS devices. Doing this will change your screen's output to more closely mirror the amount of light given off by mother nature at the corresponding time of day. This type of lighting better syncs with our biological clocks, allowing us to still get some quality sleep after burning through a nighttime Netflix binge.
Fight Your Fatigue
Though societal demands often conspire against our own wellness, we have the power to take back control. These four tips are just a jumping-off point, but it's okay to start small… just make sure you start with something.
Try incorporating each of these techniques into your day for the next two weeks and see firsthand how it helps. Other than your exhaustion, what do you have to lose?