Stress is a problem that affects many veterinarians. To some extent, stress is inevitable when your profession involves working with critically ill animals, some of whom may ultimately need to be put to sleep. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the emotional toll that your job takes on your life.
Know What Your Responsibilities Are (And What They Are Not!)
Stress can arise when you feel responsible for making decisions that could mean life or death for other people’s beloved pets. As a veterinarian, it is important to be able to take a step back from the cases you are involved in treating. You are a valuable provider of knowledge and advice about animal care, but ultimately pet owners are responsible for making decisions about their own animals.
Similarly, you are not responsible for managing your clients’ finances or helping them work out how they can afford to treat their pets. In fact, you can delegate the task of discussing fees and payment options to one of the lay staff at your veterinary practice, rather than taking on this duty yourself. By focusing on the core part of your job — using your skills and experience to diagnose and treat sick pets — you can reduce the amount of stress you feel at work.
Make Time for Stress Management
Taking regular breaks during the day can help you to regain focus and bring your stress levels under control. Make time between client appointments to eat a healthy lunch, so you don’t have to battle low blood sugar or hunger during the afternoon. Along with your scheduled breaks, remember that it is also okay to take five minutes away from your duties when the pressure is too much. Spend this time taking a quick walk around the block to clear your head, or breathe deeply to calm your body in preparation for your next appointment.
Reduce Stress Outside of Work
Taking care of your mental and physical health outside of your job can have a big impact on how stressed you feel during the working day. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, your diet, exercise, and sleep habits can have a big impact on physical and mental well-being. Outside of work, manage your stress by trying different activities until you find something you enjoy doing as a form of regular exercise.
Learn to Manage Client Criticism
Negative feedback from clients is something all vets have to deal with. You are only human, which means you will make mistakes occasionally. Sometimes, pet owners may leave you negative feedback even when you did everything you could to help their pet. Recognize that this can be some people’s way of dealing with their grief over losing a beloved animal and that it is not necessarily your fault.
When you receive feedback that upsets you, either via an online review, from your boss, or directly from a client, take a few minutes to calm down by taking a short walk or breathing deeply, and then carry on with your day. When the initial sting of receiving criticism has faded, you can reflect on the feedback, assess whether it is fair, and decide whether you need to do anything to serve your clients better in the future.
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