5 Tools to Help Veterinarians Improve their Work-Life Balance
The concept of work-life balance can be challenging for many professionals. But for veterinarians, this can often feel like an elusive enigma – especially for women, who report having a significantly lower work-life balance than men. In fact, the lack of balance is among the top reasons veterinary professionals may choose to leave the field, according to a recent study.
With long hours, demanding work environments, and high levels of stress and emotional pressure, finding ways for busy veterinarians to leave work behind at the end of the day and hold space for a healthy personal life can often feel insurmountable.
Creating a sense of balance between our professional and personal lives is an essential part of our mental well-being. And with an astounding 1 in 6 veterinarians considering suicide at some point in their careers, it is especially important for everyone within this field.
So what can be done to help veterinarians make the seemingly impossible work-life balance feel a little more, well, possible? Everyone will have different ways of approaching this, but there are some fundamental and well-researched areas you can focus on that will help make it easier to begin the process of positive change.
#1. Set Clear Boundaries
One key factor in finding work-life balance is setting clear boundaries between work and home. This can be difficult for veterinarians, who may be on call 24/7 or feel pressure to always be available for their clients and patients. However, setting clear boundaries is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
One way to do this is by establishing regular office hours and sticking to them. This means setting aside specific times for work and personal activities. It may also be helpful to set limits on the number of hours you work each week and to schedule regular time off.
Learning to say no is also a vital factor in boundary setting. You can’t possibly do everything and please everyone. It’s ok to draw a line somewhere and stick to that. If you feel that something is too much – whether at work or at home – then take a hard pass. It’s not easy, but with practice it will become more palatable.
#2. Manage Your Stress
Another important aspect of work-life balance is finding ways to manage stress and maintain a healthy work environment. This can be challenging in the field of veterinary medicine, which can be emotionally and physically demanding. However, there are several strategies that can help.
Build a strong support network. This might include finding colleagues or mentors who can offer guidance and support, joining a professional organization or networking group, learning to meditate, or seeking out a therapist or counselor to talk to about work-related stress.
#3. Improve Your Time Management
Another important factor in finding work-life balance is effective time management. This can help you prioritize your tasks and responsibilities, both at work and at home, and ensure that you are making the most of your day.
There are many strategies for effective time management, including setting specific goals, creating a to-do list, and using tools like calendars and scheduling software to organize your time. It may also be helpful to delegate tasks when possible and to set aside dedicated blocks of time for focused work.
#4. Practice Self-Care
Prioritizing self-care, both at work and outside of work, may seem indulgent or fanciful, but it’s a proven element in building happiness and balance into your professional life. And it can be far simpler than you might think.
Things like exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet are all obvious suggestions. But even these can be simplified. A 20 minute walk is enough to boost your mood. Get to bed 30 minutes earlier and leave your phone in another room. Switch out soda for kombucha. Start small and grow from there.
Other useful ideas include taking short breaks throughout the day to recharge, deep breathing, listening to music, finding an audiobook or podcast that will make you laugh, making time to see friends and family at least once a week. Approach yourself with the same kindness you do your patients.
#5. Seek More Meaningful Work
Obviously taking care of people’s beloved furry family members is one of the most meaningful jobs you can have. But amidst all of the pressure and exhaustion, it can be easy to lose sight of that.
Finding ways to regain meaning and pride in your work can bring new energy to your career.
Seek out opportunities for professional development and continuing education, which can help you stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and technologies, and provide a renewed sense of fulfillment.
Looking for new opportunities for collaboration and teamwork can also be a great way to rejuvenate your career. In turn, this will also help keep veterinary professionals in a field that is already heavily understaffed, and allow staff to rekindle the initial passion they felt for veterinary medicine.
Build a Better Future
Ultimately, finding work-life balance is a personal journey that requires self-reflection and a willingness to make changes in your professional and personal life.
It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but by taking small, practical steps every day to prioritize your well-being, you can create a more balanced and fulfilling career as a veterinarian.