Improving the well-being of veterinarians and others in the veterinary team is a key concern for veterinary medicine and a key focus for the AVMA. Not surprisingly, it also was an important focus of activity last month at the AVMA Convention.
To help attendees bring some of the conference’s wellness-inspired energy back home, we created a Wheel of Wellbeing that we distributed at the AVMA Pavilion in the conference exhibit hall. The wheel offered more than 30 activities that veterinary team members can do during a break from work to boost mental and physical health – their own and, in some cases, their colleagues’.
“So many veterinarians expend their time and energy healing others, but they forget to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Marci Kirk, AVMA’s assistant director for recent graduate initiatives, who helped develop the wheel. “We created the wheel to show you don’t need a huge chunk of time to start improving your state of mind or physical health. Sometimes all you need is five minutes.”
The Wheel of Wellbeing was so well received that we want to share it more broadly across the profession. For those who were unable to attend AVMA Convention, here is a broad sampling of the many activities you can introduce to your healthcare team or practice on your own:
- Smile. Smiling is a powerful tool that can fend off sadness, anxiety and nervousness.
- Practice 4-7-8 breathing: 4 seconds in through nose, 7 seconds hold, 8 seconds out through mouth.
- Pet a friendly patient in the hospital. We all know the human-animal bond is powerful; why not utilize it whenever possible?
- Identify a positive mantra that you can use to reorient yourself – for example, “I can figure this out!”
- Share a personal goal on a work bulletin board. Putting goals somewhere to see regularly can help spark motivation.
- Drink a glass of water. There are many benefits, and it can remind you to take time to care for yourself.
- Listen to a favorite song to boost your mood.
- Start a gratitude journal. Thinking of three things you are grateful for each day is a great way to enforce a positive mindset.
- Find a co-worker and talk about anything EXCEPT work.
- Walk outside. Even a five-minute break can be enough to energize you.
- Do a full-body stretch with breathing; it can re-center your entire body, remove stress, and help you refocus.
- Meditate: If you don’t know how, there are free apps that can help.
- Make a monthly calendar of obscure holidays and find a way to celebrate them. Who wouldn’t get on board with National Waffle Day?
- Create a high-five board for members of your team to celebrate one another.
- Organize a walking meeting. If you already have staff meetings, try taking one on-the-go!
- Set up a scavenger hunt around the clinic. Group activities are great for bonding and team-building.
- Take an exercise class. New classes can challenge you mentally and physically.
The wellness section of the AVMA website (avma.org/wellness) has many other tools and resources to help you incorporate wellness and self-care into your life. Visit it to find more tips and tangible steps you can take to safeguard your health. Please share other wellness tips in the comments section here or in the AVMA’s Veterinary Wellness and Wellbeing Community on LinkedIn.