1). Drink a large glass of water.
How often do you get through large parts of your shift before realising that bar a half-drunk cup of tea/coffee that went cold two hours ago, you haven’t had anything to drink? It can’t be just me! Seeing as we’re composed of about 60% water, it’s pretty important to stay hydrated. Rehydrating can have instant benefits on our energy levels, mood, and mental and physical performances, as well as helping to clear any headaches resulting from dehydration (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-water). Personally I’ve found I’m much more likely to drink water if it’s chilled, so I carry a water bottle on me and if the practice doesn’t have a water cooler, I put it in the fridge.
2). Cuddle and pet your patients.
It’s such a shame that we don’t always have time to do this as much as we’d like to, but when you’re having a bad day it’s even more important to remind yourself of the reasons you’re in this profession. Plus, it’s proven that petting animals can cause us to release oxytocin and can lower our blood pressure, (www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/made-each-other/201005/dog-good%3famp) which is pretty handy for when we’re feeling stressed. Unless we’re dealing with nervous or aggressive animals, this is probably second nature, but see if you can identify a little bit more time during your consult where you could be hands-on, such as history taking, or discussing options. Get those feel-good hormones flowing!
3). Belly breathing A Guide to Belly Breathing
This is a breathing technique with a powerful effect on our Parasympathetic nervous system. For more details, see Vetyogi’s handy guide. If you need to calm down quickly, a few rounds of this in your car, inbetween consults, or whilst taking a moment to gather yourself in a quiet room or space, can really help mentally and physiologically.
4). Ask for help.
It’s often easier to ask for help for something that you feel unable to do, such as a certain surgical procedure, or managing a complicated medical case, rather than for something which you feel you should be able to do, or can do in a normal frame of mind. For instance, I remember having to ask a colleague to do a euthanasia on my behalf one day because I was emotionally drained from previous events, and didn’t think I’d be able to keep it together. I felt so guilty for burdening my colleague with something I was normally capable of doing, but felt it was in the best interests for the patient, the owners, and myself. If it was the other way around, like many of you, I wouldn’t hesitate to help, but we’re often harder on ourselves. Of course, my lovely colleague didn’t bat an eyelid, and I was so grateful that she swapped with me so I could continue the routine consults mentally in one piece. If you’re having a particularly bad day, speak up and see how your veterinary team rallies around you.
5). Have a snack.
In veterinary the worst days often involve no breaks, and therefore little chance to eat. Whilst it’s obviously ideal to have a lunch break, and if you’re not getting them on a regular basis it’s time to have a word with management, in our job sometimes it’s unavoidable. I’ve learnt to carry a supply of easy, quick to eat snacks, because, I confess: I am a hangry vet, and for the sake of those around me, as well as trying to care for myself, I keep food nearby as a priority! And yes, eating can improve your day, and your mood, because ‘hanger’ is a real thing! https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/hangry-meaning-why-feeling-science-hungry-angry-emotion-study-a8393441.html
6). Try and leave the building/get out of your car.
A few years ago I made the switch from being a mixed practitioner, to small animal-only. The hardest thing about this change for me, apart from missing the horses and cows, was that suddenly, unless I made an effort, I could go whole days without seeing daylight.
Fresh air, sunshine, short walks: all instant mood-boosters. https://m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/tk-ways-fresh-air-impacts_0_n_5648164?guccounter=1 It doesn’t always feel possible, but even a few minutes away from the clinic, or out of your car if you do largies, can really benefit you on a bad day (or even on a good one).
7). Change your attitude.
This is a tough one, especially when you’re feeling low, and is often easier said than done. It took me a long time to realise that on a bad day at work I can be my own worst enemy, I can help myself by not taking everything personally, and it’s an area I continue to work on and be mindful of, though I can’t pretend I always get it right. For all of the things that happen during our day that we can’t control, including idiopathic complications, and client or colleague reactions, we can control our own mindset and behaviours. Taking responsibility for our own negativity, and doing any small thing to try and improve it, is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves, and also makes us much nicer to work with. Be self-aware and recognise your triggers; what turns a day from good to bad for YOU? If you’re struggling to think of anything positive, check out Vetyogi’s A-Z for turning that attitude into gratitude!
Hopefully you found this useful, but if not feel free to get in touch and share your own tips for getting through a bad day!