After the past few years of navigating a global pandemic, the ever-shifting science related to SARS-CoV-2 and subsequent changes to our workflows (including client and patient interactions), many of us have felt the stress, overwhelm and burnout associated with what feels like never-ending change.
So, what can you do when you find yourself tired, exhausted and no longer energized by your love of veterinary medicine? Is it truly time for a career change, or do we need to feel inspired again? And if so, how do we do that?
Here are five simple ways that are backed by science and help me get back on track and refill my cup when my energy and zest for life are lacking.
1. Experience wonder and Awe.
Science has found time and time again that experiencing awe in nature or everyday life can inspire us to be kinder and experience more positive emotions.1 Positive emotions are one of the five building blocks of wellbeing in Dr. Seligman’s PERMATM theory of wellbeing in positive psychology.2
Start dreaming again. One easy way to do this is to complete this journal prompt: Wouldn’t it be cool if …
- Wouldn’t it be cool if we could schedule a vacation to ____?
- Wouldn’t it be cool if I could triple my salary and work fewer hours or days per week?
- Wouldn’t it be cool if I could ride my horse in the middle of the day and still pay my bills?
These are just a few ideas to get those neurons firing, so grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea, a pen and paper, and carve out some uninterrupted “me” time to practice dreaming again.
2. Use the power of questions and prompts to positively direct your mind.
This is a proven part of positive psychology. Our patients can’t talk to us, and we practice identifying what’s wrong through observation. It makes us great in veterinary medicine; however, we need to start flexing our positive thinking muscles to determine what’s going well. You may recall the “Three Good Things” research that showed identifying three things that went well today and how you were a part of the positive outcome for just two weeks will have you feeling happier and less depressed for up to six months.3
3. Reclaim time each week or month to be artistic.
Maybe it’s taking a painting class, grabbing a crayon and coloring book for 20 minutes or taking your camera/phone on a nature hike. “A lot of research these days is establishing arts participation as a health behavior. That’s a really important thing for us to think about in public health,” said Jill Sonke, Ph.D. in a recent article for The Nation’s Health.4 So, instead of science or the arts, we are now talking about science and the arts as a part of being healthy and happy.
4. WONS your day!
I know I’ve “WONS” my day when my water, oxygen (exercise), nutrition and sleep are on track to fuel my body properly. You don’t have to be a premier athlete to experience high performance and greater health and happiness in your everyday life. Our founding fathers thought it was important enough to include in the Declaration of Independence that every American would have the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.5
What’s one simple action you can take today to feel better? It could be as simple as a few deep breaths outside in the fresh air between appointments or having a bottle of water nearby.
5. Say thank you.
I recently interviewed recognition expert Sarah McVanel for my podcast and she shared that the number one way most people want to be recognized or appreciated is with a simple Thank You, and 80% of them also enjoy a card or note of appreciation. This activity helps satisfy our basic human need for connection, another building block of the PERMATM theory of wellbeing. When we do something nice for others, we also boost dopamine and serotonin, which help us feel happier and less stressed.6
There are so many easy ways to relax, unwind and simultaneously do something good for our health, our wellbeing and promote a more positive culture in the workplace. It’s a win-win for work-life happiness and it doesn’t have to add one more time-consuming, stressful thing to our already over-filled plates. +
1. The Power of Awe: A Sense of Wonder Promotes Loving-Kindness. (2015, May, 20). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201505/the-power-awe-sense-wonder-promotes-loving-kindness
2. Perma™ Theory of Well-Being and Perma™ Workshops. Penn Arts & Sciences. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/learn-more/perma-theory-well-being-and-perma-workshops
3. Find Three Good Things Each Day. Action For Happiness. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/find-three-good-things-each-day
4. Role of Arts in Public Health Capturing Interest. (2021, Sept). The Nation’s Health. https://www.thenationshealth.org/content/51/7/1.2
5. The Declaration of Independence. (1776, July, 4). Mount Vernon. https://www.mountvernon.org/education/primary-sources-2/article/the-declaration-of-independence-july-4-1776/
6. The Art of Kindness. (2020, May, 29). Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-art-of-kindness