A veterinary practice is a loud, busy, high-stress work environment driven by highly passionate professionals. The effects of this career on its professionals can be a hard price to pay for passion.
Our minds and hearts are busy places and we should try to spend more time in our day in a state of quiet mindfulness. I recently listened to these two books while traveling. Thrive by Arianna Huffington
UNWIND: 7 Principles For A Stress-Free Life
I discovered these books on my way to a speaking engagement at a training symposium in Orange County, California. The idea of my presentation was how to interpret the seemingly crazy requests our owners/managers make of us into actionable beneficial tools. This skill set will, in turn, help us become successful at improving our client bond (retention) and ultimately delivering excellent patient care.
I was committed to my topic but I lacked a little courage because I was about to do something freaky and I knew it. I introduced and demonstrated Guided Meditation to my class full of Veterinary Client Service Representatives (CSR).
So, I’m speaking to these frazzled CSRs about how they can get all the day’s tasks done and still stay sane. I told them there is even a technique that could help them. They were gracious enough to bear with me and just trust me…they sort of did anyway. We sat up straight we closed our eyes and prepared for the longest 3 minutes of our lives.
Once we completed the guided meditation I asked them to open their eyes and give me some feedback. I noticed a few things about them before they did.
- I noticed there was the look of relief, relaxation and ease about them.
- The second thing I noticed was the look of utter disbelief on most of their faces. The feedback I got was not surprising, to me anyway.
- They were most surprised that 3 minutes went so quick and very surprised at how good they felt without being sleepy.
I explained that the meditation only lasted 3 minutes and that in theory they still had 7 more minutes left of their 10-minute break. They could continue their efforts to relax before having to return to the fray of the front desk. I remember I felt the same way after I began to meditate. I learned it a little more accidentally than my students did.
I began meditating about a year or so ago as a method to combat insomnia. I had recently been diagnosed with a pretty intense autoimmune disease and the course of treatment involved steroids. I was sick, painful, tired, sleepy, not sleepy, fatigued, inflamed and the list goes on. I sought out anything I could do naturally to ease my sleep issue to begin the process of hopefully recovering enough to function again. Hot baths with calming essential oils did help a lot; but not enough. I finally paired a calming night time routine with the most boring thing I could find to listen to on YouTube. Meditations.
At first, I started with some massage videos, makeup tutorials, knitting tutorials, and anything else you could imagine that would be sure to induce deep sleep…NADA! I did learn some cool makeup techniques and have taken up knitting.
Guided meditations popped up on my list of possible interests and I gave it a shot. I had my little blue tooth ear bud in place and we were off to the races. The voices were so snooze-inducing and soothing that I was very optimistic.
I listened carefully to the accent of the speaker, the words he was saying and the music playing in the background. I must have been following along a little too closely because I never heard how it ended and I woke up the next morning having slept. Interesting.
I learned that meditating on the present was really very helpful to me. I was dealing with a big disease with a lot of immediate consequences to my career as well as major life changes. They all sucked.
Learning to quiet the negative and focus on the positive in the present has allowed me to reconstruct myself into a new version of me despite illness. I’ve even begun embracing the changes.
I really felt compelled to introduce this idea to my students. They seem to have gotten it.
One of my favorite sayings: You don’t have to allow people or situations to live in your head rent free.
We truly do have the choice and are capable of controlling the effects of outside stress before it/he/she/they/them wreaks havoc in our lives and makes bad situations worse.
If you are in a place where you are dealing with chronic stress or you are merely concerned you might be take a minute to do some quiet meditation. You can follow a video on YouTube, download an app, or just sit there quietly and focus on what is going on around you in the present time. It really is remarkable how such a small insignificant thing as being quiet has had such significant effects on my life, health and perspective.
We don’t really teach our staff to deal with stress or anxiety. We acknowledge it generally and we commiserate. Sometimes we even compete about who has more stress, who is working harder, and who has had it worse overall. It isn’t smart but we do it. As managers we even go so far as to encourage our staff to “just get over it”. I believe that if we start placing more emphasis on the health benefits of reducing stress we will see more change coming about in our workplace:
- Reduced absenteeism
- improves the ability to handle stress
- reduced mental issues and burnout
- Overall better health
- Better team engagement
- Reduction in turnover
- Improved Client retention through improved client bond
I do firmly believe Veterinary Medicine and the delivery of excellence within our practice is worth our greatest efforts. My dedication and passion to improving veterinary management and the veterinary field is self-evident, I would hope. We can do it better though! There is always better. Our practices, teams, colleagues, clients and most importantly patients we care for deserve our best.