Self-Care for New Veterinarians
Wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction and forms the foundation of everything you do. Don’t let it take a back seat as you begin your career as a veterinarian.
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 starting a new job—it’s critical to both happiness and success. It will help you deal with the daily stresses of your new life as a veterinarian, improve your ability to care for patients, and position you to succeed in all areas of your life.
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 by 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 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 wellbeing 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 and/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.
Once you’ve performed some type of wellbeing self-assessment, you’ll likely want to identify ways to make improvements. 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 work as a veterinarian) 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 and 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.
Progress, Not Perfection
It’s important to check in regularly with the different aspects of your wellbeing, reflect on which habits continue to serve your greatest good and make adjustments as needed along the way. Remember to also 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.
Remember: Be patient and kind with yourself in your new career role. You’re still learning, and no one expects you to be an expert right out of the gate. A good mantra to keep in mind is “progress, not perfection.” We are all works in progress. Remember to ask questions and ask for help. My Veterinary Life has many resources for you.