10 (Easy) Self-Care Ideas for Veterinarians When You're Short on Time

As a veterinarian, you know that taking care of yourself is important, but who has the time? You do, or at least you could.

While you can't add more hours to your day, you can make the most of the time you have. Here are 10 easy ways to fit self-care into your busy schedule.

1. Start Your Day Right

Starting out sluggish may leave you vulnerable to burnout as the day unfolds. Set aside a little time first thing in the morning—even just five to 10 minutes—for exercise, yoga, or meditation. A healthy breakfast will also jump-start your day. Instead of skipping this important meal, grab some instant oatmeal or Greek yogurt on your way out the door to rev up your metabolism and improve your mood.

2. Identify Moments to Slip in Self-Care

You likely have more time in your day seeing patients and pet owners to recharge than you realize. Over the next several days, look for times when you can replace social media with meditation or swap TV time for a short walk. Even your commute to the  practice—whether it takes five minutes or an hour—can be reframed as an opportunity to listen to an audiobook or your favorite podcast.

3. Take (Really) Short Breaks

Although "break" brings to mind 30 minutes in the veterinary staff lunchroom, breaks can be quick reprieves that you take throughout the day. Setting aside five minutes to clear your head will allow you to focus and complete tasks faster, which will save you time in the long run.

4. Don't Skip Lunch

Working through lunch to cram in one more appointment with a pet owner or to finish your charting may make you feel like a team player, but your veterinary team won't appreciate the 3 p.m. crash that leaves you grumpy and lethargic. Taking time to eat and recharge will pay off by allowing you to power through the afternoon and get more done.

5. Stay Hydrated

Don't believe that hydration can affect your outlook? A 2021 study from the Nutrients journal confirmed that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and anxiety and decrease cognitive performance. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, energetic, and focused. Include your veterinary team by purchasing practice-branded water bottles and hosting a hydration challenge.

6. Just Say No

Whether it's working an extra shift or agreeing to help your veterinary team with paperwork, additional commitments eat into time that could be spent caring for yourself. Learn how to say no compassionately but firmly. You don't need to explain why—a simple "sorry, I can't" will suffice.

7. Make Self-Care a Team Sport

Get your entire veterinary team involved in self-care. Encourage one another to decompress after a difficult client encounter, leave work on time, and eat healthy meals. If you bring your team into the fold, they'll gain a better understand for how they can care for themselves and when you may need five minutes to recharge.

8. Plan Ahead

Taking time to plan ahead can actually save you time. For example, prepping healthy meals and snacks on Sunday evening eliminates the time you would spend deciding what to cook and prevents the need for daily grocery runs.

9. Don't Give Up Your Interests

Sometimes you need to set everything else aside and prioritize whatever activities are important to you. If it's been too long since you enjoyed a family movie night, date night, or some quiet alone time, block off time in your calendar and stick to it, even if laundry piles up while you lounge in a bubble bath.

10. Schedule End-of-Day Relaxation Time

Ending your day with calm instead of chaos goes a long way toward ensuring a good night's rest and preparing you for whatever tomorrow brings. Aim for eight hours of sleep and set your alarm for 30 minutes before your designated bedtime. Use this time to wind down by reading, journaling, or meditating so that you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow instead of worrying over work-related stress.

Keep in mind that self-care is not all-or-nothing. Any time you manage to squeeze it in is better than no time, and even a few minutes can improve your mental outlook so that you're better equipped to handle appointments and clients.

Angela Beal

Angela Beal is a veterinarian in Columbus, Ohio who loves using her writing to help veterinarians live more fulfilling lives by helping make practice life more efficient and less stressful. Angela has a background in private practice and academia, and since 2020, she has worked full-time with Rumpus Writing and Editing, a veterinary-specific writing and editing company. Rumpus’ clients include veterinary practices and industry partners, including marketing companies, national corporations, consultants, and several international businesses. Learn more at rumpuswriting.com. The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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