Mental Health Awareness Month: 5 (Realistic) Ideas for Veterinary Teams

As May is Mental Health Awareness month, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still adding stress to our veterinary jobs, it's a good time to focus on maintaining personal well-being. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Spring Health, a mental health care provider platform, more than 75% of employed American workers report experiencing burnout.

This is why it is so critical to promote practical, easy-to-implement coping strategies that can be used on a daily basis to protect our team's mental well-being and positively impact their physical health.

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1. Create Mindfulness Routines

Help your team create an "arrival" routine to enter the veterinary space with a clear mind. This can be as simple as clearing your personal work area, taking a few deep breaths, and setting an intention for the day before jumping into tasks and communications. You can also encourage your team to carve out time for a guided meditation before work, whether it's just 5 minutes or a full session.

At the end of the day, create a similar routine to wrap things up, focusing on all the positive events and outcomes from the day, no matter how small. As a practice manager, you can share these strategies with your team and let them know what is working well on a daily basis to boost their morale.

2. Encourage Exercise Breaks

We all know that exercise is one of the best ways to keep our brains and bodies healthy. Exercise releases endorphins that combat depression and stress, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, contributing to overall improved mental and physical well-being. Lead by example and show your team how easy it is to inject exercise into the workday with quick, easy routines.

3. Provide Healthy Snacks

Plenty of research, and common sense, tells us that eating healthy is good for our bodies and minds. Practice managers can promote good food choices by organizing a snack drawer, handing out healthy treats, or setting up a tea station with a variety of flavors that can be chosen based on mood.

For example, according to Harvard Medical School, the flavanols in dark chocolate may benefit brain function by improving blood flow to the brain. Making healthy food choices during our busy veterinary days, rather than reaching for processed, high-sugar snacks, can help to keep your team's bodies and minds operating optimally.

4. Explain the Importance of Sleep

Dr. Runyan points out in UMASS Med News that our bodies may need more sleep when dealing with the prolonged stress of the pandemic. Seeing as allowing our brains to rest and rejuvenate directly contributes to mental health, it's important to put good bedtime practices into place. This includes limiting screen time in the evening hours and consciously winding down before putting our head on the pillow. In team meetings, share these tips and encourage your team members to get the rest they need.

5. Lead With Self-Care

In The Harris Poll survey, 51% of employee respondents said that self-care practices such as establishing a healthy sleep routine and following a healthy diet would help them to avoid or reduce burnout and 26% said that empathy and support from managers would help them to better cope with their day.

Mental health awareness does not come naturally for everyone, and some of your employees may find it difficult to create self-care routines from scratch. As veterinary practice managers, we can help by checking in with ourselves and our teams frequently and providing the compassionate push needed to embrace daily well-being practices.

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Nell Ostermeier

Dr. Nell is an integrative veterinarian who combines modern medicine with complementary modalities to get the best results for her patients. She has enjoyed a diverse career since graduating from the University of Illinois in 2004. Her roles have included: practice owner, associate, relief vet, and instructor. In 2017, Nell founded People + Pet Integrative Therapies, a virtual business aimed at both pet parents and vets. Her mission is to make integrative healthcare accessible to pets across the world while increasing happiness in the veterinary field. She loves the outdoors and travel.

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