What else do veterinarians need to prioritise? Rest and rejuvenation.
Veterinarians don’t do breaks, lunch or taking holidays well. How do I know? I’ve been there and done that! I’ve worked hard, thinking breaks are for wimps and I can work through lunch ‘no worries’. I would work all week and then work at endurance rides. I had only 1 weekend off a month. However, I always took holidays but in many discussions with vets in the USA, you aren’t considered committed to your career if you want holidays. How ridiculous!!
Why is Rest and Rejuvenation important?
Over time your cognitive, emotional and physical resources become depleted. It occurs daily, weekly and throughout the year. If you don’t make the time to rest, repair, replenish and rejuvenate, your wellbeing set point will decrease and over time. You may find yourself depleted and unwell, physically, emotionally and mentally.
I have a chilli bush in the back yard that produces an incredible amount of chillies. If I don’t look after it, it will keep producing but the chillies will become smaller at first and less nutritious then it will reduce the number produced.
Veterinarians are stubborn. We are used to sacrifice and putting our needs aside to make it into veterinary school, then to graduate, then throughout our career. But I’m seeing so many exhausted vets who don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not sustainable and it’s not healthy.
How to Implement Rest and Rejuvenation
Every day your body is depleted cognitively, emotionally and physically. We are on our feet all day. We are seeing many clients every hour. These clients can be happy, demanding or devastated. Cases can be exciting, challenging or disastrous. It has been shown that you can’t work at 100% performance for 10 hours/day.
Olympic athletes train 90% of the time to compete 10% at a peak level. Why do we expect to work at a peak level for 10 hours minimum?
While your body may not be physically depleted, you will be cognitively depleted after 6 hours. This is why taking a lunch break and eating a healthy, nutritious lunch is so important. It allows your body and brain to rest and refuel, ready for the afternoon of work. If you are tired in the afternoon, your tolerance for clients decreases, you are less likely to discuss options and make recommendations in the manner that your normally would. Plus your productivity and performance decreases so it will take your longer, so you will be more exhausted when you finish.
If you’ve had a stressful day with many upsetting cases, it’s important that you prioritise rest and replenishment at the end of the day. Whether it’s exercise, a healthy nutritious dinner, spending time with friends and family or quiet time for yourself, it’s important to help you wind down, preparing your body for a good night’s sleep. If you can’t do this, you will find you may already be depleted going into the next day.
At the end of each week, it’s important to do an activity that rejuvenates you. This will energise you and bring your wellbeing back to it’s set point. The activity could be adventurous and exciting or it could be gardening, craft, painting. It’s what you personally find rejuvenating, not your kids or your partner.
Monthly Tech Free Weekends
Every month, put down all your devices. Stay off email, social media and streaming apps. Go outside, spend time with family and friends. Explore, rest, create. Give your brain a break. You will feel refreshed!
Plan a getaway. Go camping. Go and visit a friend or family member. Go on a driving adventure.
Twice Yearly Holidays
This is a MUST! You must take regular holidays. I appreciate in Australia, you only receive 4 weeks break/year but I am passionate about taking 3 weeks of holidays. Why? I found it takes 1 week to wind down, 1 week to really enjoy the holiday and then the last week I was broke and became a bit bored and I was ready to head back to practice. If I went back after the second week, I still hadn’t relaxed enough. Try it! Don’t take 1 week breaks. It’s not enough. Take a minimum of 2 weeks at a time.
Plan both relaxation activities as well as rejuvenating activities in your holidays.
If you focussed on rest and rejuvenation, how different would you feel? How much more energetic would you be?
Every day, taking a lunch break and winding down at the end of the day. Every week, doing an activity that rejuvenates you. Every month, having a tech free weekend. You would be surprised who you would visit and see again. Every quarter, a mini-getaway and at least 2 weeks holiday twice a year.
I want your career to be sustainable. If you aren’t taking breaks or holidays, you will burn out. It’s only a matter of time before you deplete and exhaust your physical and cognitive resources.
We have autumn and winter for a reason. It’s the time to rest and repair ready to bloom in spring.
Dr Adam Fraser wrote The Third Space where an AIS coach discussed this way of R&R to ensure his elite athletes didn’t overtrain and burnout or injure themselves. I totally agree with it. It’s a great read. Definitely buy it!