Personal Wellbeing: Self-Care for Veterinary Students
Wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction and forms the foundation supporting everything you do—in school and after graduation. Don’t let it take a back seat as you juggle the rigorous academics of veterinary school.
Preserving wellbeing, or “self-care,” is about making choices on a daily basis to engage in habits that support all the dimensions of body, mind and spirit. Although it isn’t always convenient—especially when you’re in school—it’s critical to both happiness and success.
A) I have a solid self-care plan in place already.
B) Implementing a self-care plan is definitely a focus this year, and I plan to have one in place before year-end.
C) I know I need a self-care plan, but I’m having difficulty making it a priority or a consistent habit.
D) I know I need a self-care plan, but I’m not sure how to start.
E) It would be nice to have a self-care plan, but I don’t have the time or the resources right now.
To check the pulse on your self-care habits, you first need to assess your overall wellbeing. The Mental Health America website has some online assessment tools that offer a good place to start.
Another way to check in with your wellbeing—and identify where you are and what you need to start or continue doing—is to set aside time for regular self-reflection. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself every day to stimulate self-reflection.
Making Changes to Support Your Wellbeing
Once you’ve performed some type of wellbeing self-assessment, you’ll likely want to make some changes. Where do you start? First, understand that wellbeing is a multifaceted concept that involves all aspects of our lives. There are nine dimensions associated with wellbeing:
- Career - Being engaged in work (including school work) that gives you personal satisfaction and aligns with your values, goals and lifestyle
- Creative - Participating in diverse cultural and artistic experiences
- Emotional - Being able to identify and manage your full range of emotions and seeking help when necessary
- Environmental - Taking an active role in preserving, protecting and improving the environment
- Financial - Being aware of your personal finances and adhering to a budget that enables you to meet your financial goals
- Intellectual – Learning new things; participating in activities that foster critical thinking and expand your worldviews
- Physical – Taking care of your body– for example, getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly
- Spiritual - Having a sense of inner harmony and balance
- Social - Surrounding yourself with a network of support built on mutual trust, respect and compassion
These dimensions work together, and collectively contribute to your overall wellbeing. Think about each dimension and decide if you are satisfied with how you are doing. Is improvement needed? If the answer is “yes,” then now is the time to rev up your self-care in that area.
For example: If you are weighed down by financial concerns, you can focus on ways to improve your financial outlook. You may want to create a budget to help set aside savings or pay off student debt more quickly, limit expenses to essential needs only or seek additional income through summer employment.
Reassess, Reassess, Reassess
It’s important to check in regularly with the different aspects of your wellbeing, reflect on what habits continue to serve your greatest good and make adjustments as needed along the way. Also remember to nurture the areas where you're already doing well. An effective self-care plan includes both growth and maintenance goals that address all nine dimensions.
Dealing with Adversity
There will always be forces in the universe you simply cannot predict or control. Serious illness, unforeseen financial hardships, family stressors or other circumstances may arise unavoidably. The situation itself might be out of your immediate control, but how you choose to respond to it is entirely up to you. The key is to take ownership of the choices you can control. Be consistent and intentional in the decisions that impact your wellbeing.