Let's make this all about you
During the pandemic, I was jealous of all the people who got to stay home. I didn't care that they were bored, couldn't pay their bills, or felt isolated and alone. I cared that I was exhausted, that my team was burned out, and that we didn't want to go to work anymore.
There were days I wanted to quit . . . and I own the place. I was afraid my whole team would stop showing up. Burnout was, and remains, a serious problem for us.
Save yourself first
As I sat down one night, thinking of how I was supposed to motivate my team to go to work when I was struggling, I decided to listen to my own advice and save myself first. But, as a leader, that can be hard. We see others struggling and want to put ourselves last on the list.
I'm here to tell you that if you and your team are burning out, things need to change, and it all starts with you—because you matter. It's time to focus on what's important and prioritize yourself. Of course, we all know that starts with eating better, sleeping enough, and getting active. But here are some other tactics that I’ve found helpful:
- Don't hyper-focus on stressful stuff you have no control over. It's the media's job to get you to keep watching. Be aware of how much you're absorbing and how it affects you.
- Take time off from negative distractions. Watching keyboard warriors fight about vaccines on social media is exhausting and stressful. Just put the phone down.
- Meditate. Or don't meditate. Just find something that brings you peace. I've tried meditating, and it does me no good. I'm much better with a book in my hand, reading about made-up places where it all works out for the people in the story, or spending time connecting with nature on a hike through the desert.
- Appreciate the small things and take time to notice. This can be as little as "I didn't have to get gas on my way into town today" or "Look at that cool yellow bird; isn't nature bitchin'?"
- Evaluate commitments and say “no” more often. If you can’t find time in your schedule for self-care, assess how you're spending your time. For a week, write down what you do, how it makes you feel, and how important the activity is to you. This will help you weed out the stuff that brings you little joy and increase your time with things that fill you up.
- Let something—or several things—go. This may mean changing your schedule, limiting the number of pets you see daily, or being intentional about leaving work at work. Shortly into the pandemic, we decided to close an extra day a week at my hospital, and we shortened our hours. It had such a positive impact on our team members that we never returned to the old schedule.
We are in vet med and that makes us strong people by nature. We think we can, and often do, take on the whole world (including all the people and pets in it). We forget about the basic care we need because we are too busy saving everyone else.
2-minute well-being checkup
Treat yourself like you would a friend or loved one, and really check in with your own well-being:
- How is my health?
- What's my home life like?
- How are my relationships going?
- What looming deadlines can I release myself from?
- What am I eating/drinking?
- How am I sleeping?
- Do I have someone to talk to—or scream into the void with?
A note about the last bit: I signed up for therapy a few months into the pandemic. I was seriously on the struggle bus. If I regret anything, it's not seeking help sooner. There is no magic wand when it comes to conquering burnout, but talking to someone can be the boost we need to shift our perspective. Remember that prioritizing yourself is not selfish—it’s necessary. Only when you’re supported can you make personal connections with your team, which is essential to having a sustainable career, as well as a happier and healthier life.
In my next column, I’ll be talking more about how to (gently) force your team into some quality bonding time—which may or may not include dancing to Vanilla Ice.
Please note: If you are struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide, please call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It's confidential and free.
Jenn Galvin owns and manages Advanced Animal Care, a companion animal hospital located in Arizona. She has been in the veterinary industry for over 25 years, and she is a true nerd at heart, with a passion for staff development, inventory, and veterinary financials.
Photo credit: © Wachiraphorn E+ via Getty Images Plus
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.