Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?
At Harbor.vet, our hope is that veterinary professionals across the world are taking care of their own mental and physical health as much as they care for the clients they see every day. As a veterinarian, your calling is to invest in the well-being of pets and clients, but in order for you to do your best in that, you need to also be at your best. We get it; life can get crazy, and when things get busy, our mental health often takes a backseat. Harbor looks to change that and end the stigma surrounding mental health and well-being in the veterinary industry.
Follow along with this guide for the month, and be sure to save this page so that you have easy access to each of the activity’s links throughout May:
Week 1 – Awareness and Resources
Day 1 – Mental Health Awareness Month
According to Merck, only a third of veterinarians who have reported distress say they have healthy methods for dealing with stress. Let’s change that!
Day 2 – End the Stigma
Have you taken steps to better your mental health? Whether or not you struggle with mental health, be open and have conversations with your peers about it. Talking about mental health with people you trust can help you and others feel like they aren’t alone and help end the stigma. Take the NAMI pledge.
Day 3 – Support Hotlines
Memorize these, share these, tattoo them (jk…unless you want to!)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK
Crisis Text Line (Stress, Self-harm, Abuse): Text HELLO to 741741
Print these flyers and hang them up in staff bathrooms and break rooms.
Day 4 – Know the Symptoms. Take a Mental Health Test.
Social withdrawal? Change in sleep patterns? Is it anxiety or is it burnout? The first step to getting help is understanding the signs.
You know yourself better than anyone else. Check out this quiz by Mental Health America and learn more about the common symptoms associated with mental health conditions!
Day 5 – Know Your Options for Support Groups:
Life can get challenging, but you don’t need to go through it alone! Having the right people around you to support you along the way is a great way to fill your cup.
Lifeboat by NOMV and Vets4Vets by the VIN Foundation are great peer support programs that provide community to fellow veterinary professionals.
Day 6 – Find a Therapist
Sure, pets are some of the best listeners around, but it feels nice to have a person listen from time to time, too. Despite the stigma around therapy, we hope you know that there is strength in opening up about your mental health with someone who cares.
If you or someone you know needs someone to listen, or if you just have some stuff to get off your chest, reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “NAMI” to 741741.
Day 7 – Take the ProQOL Assessment
It’s important to know yourself! The ProQOL (Professional Quality of Life) Assessment helps you get an idea of how you feel in relation to your work.
In order to provide the best care as a veterinarian, you have to be at your best, too. Take the ProQOL Assessment by American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and take your first steps to identify where you can better self-care in your life!
Week 2 & 3 – MENTAL WELL-BEING HABITS
Day 8 – 30 Ways to Improve Mental Health
We understand that it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start or what to do to take care of your mental health. We’ve made it simple! Suveto has created a checklist of 30 simple ways to improve your mental health. Check it out here!
Day 9 – Try Some Doga
Get your stretch on! We’ve all heard of yoga, but have you ever tried “doga?” Check out Animal Wised’s Doga video for a fun way to enjoy a good stretch with your furry best friend!
Day 10 – Take a Nap
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is a good cat nap. As veterinary professionals, most of you work non-traditional workdays that can often lead to a lack of sleep. When you get the chance, take part in Day 10’s activity: a good nap. For more information about ways to get rest with a non-traditional work schedule, check out this article by UCLA Health.
Day 11 – Practice Mindfulness
People practice a lot of things. Veterinary medicine, sports, religion, and exercise just to name a few. But how many of you practice mindfulness? Take some time today to sit in peace and quiet. If you need some help getting started, try downloading an app like Headspace or Calm to walk you through some mindfulness practices.
Day 12 – Take a 30-Day Challenge
You’re doing one now, so why not make this a regular practice for you? If you find having a routine beneficial to you, try stepping into a new 30-Day challenge each month!
Need help finding one? Dr. Marie Holowaychuk recently did a series of 30-Day Challenges with Harbor that can serve as great starting points for you and your self-care journey!
Day 13 – Attitude of Gratitude
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
Practicing gratitude is a great way to put yourself in a positive headspace! No matter how big or small, find things throughout your days to be thankful for and write them down. Whether it’s in a gratitude journal for yourself or on a gratitude board for the team at your practice, find ways to recognize the things you’re thankful for.
We did some of the shopping for you! Check out Day 13 for a short list of gratitude journals to help you get started.
Day 14 – Get Creative
Creative outlets are a great way to take some time for yourself during the day. Regardless of the medium of art, spend some time doing something creative whenever you can.
If you enjoy painting or are just wanting to try something new, try painting a portrait of your pet today! Check out this one from Gray Duck Art.
Day 15 – Eat Well, Be Well
What kind of foods do you notice yourself craving when you’re stressed or depressed? Food is fuel for the body and can also be fuel for the mind, so rather than the easy pick-me-ups, why not try cooking something new for a change?
Don’t know where to start? Happy Vet Project has plenty of great options for you to start your Eat Well journey! Here are some recipes to help you get started! Bon Appetit!
Day 16 – Try A Guided Meditation
It’s ok to say, “Namaste at home,” instead of going out sometimes! Take a little breather at the beginning of your week and meditate.
Not sure how to do it? Check out this guided meditation by Dr. Marie Holowaychuk to help you focus on mindfulness as you go throughout your week!
Day 17 – Workout With Fellow Vets
It’s time to get your fit on! Exercise and physical activity are great (and proven) ways to care for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. So, grab some friends or co-workers and work on your fitness together!
Need some ideas or not sure where to start? There are plenty of fitness influencers in the veterinary space who share their workouts and have Fitness and Lifestyle groups for you to participate in! Here are a few of our favorites:
– Dr. Hunter Finn (@dr.hunterfinn)
– Dr. Autumn Harris (@thefitdvm)
– Dr. Sarah Dougherty (@pawsitivefitness)
– Haley – Vet Student Fitness (@fitinjoy)
Day 18 – Limit Your Screen Time
Technology is amazing, but as the saying goes, too much of anything is never good. It’s important to step away from social media and those silly baby animal videos and spend some time looking at the world around you!
FOMO is real, we get it. If you need some help spending less time on a device, here are 10 tips from Dr. Marie Holowaychuk for limiting screen time.
Day 19 – Forgive Yourself and Others
You’ve always been your worst critic, and it’s time to give yourself some grace. We all make mistakes from time to time, so be fair to yourself (and to others)!
Forgiving yourself can be hard, we understand. Here are a few helpful tips from KICK ASS VETS to guide you for the next time you need some help with forgiveness.
Day 20 – Treat Yourself (or a Friend)
Busy week at work? Long week? It might be time to treat yo self! As veterinarians, you spend most of your time caring for others and their needs. Take some time to pamper yourself today and give yourself the space to say “I absolutely crushed it this week.” Self-care is the best care. Treat yourself to a gift that keeps giving by getting a Veterinary Survival Box!
Day 21 – Learn the S.T.O.P. Practice
Stop, Take a Breath, Observe and then Proceed. Difficult moments are bound to happen throughout your day. The S.T.O.P. Practice is a great 4-step mindfulness practice to support you wherever you are, whenever you need it.
Dr. Jeff Thoren wrote a great article explaining each step in the S.T.O.P. Practice. Read and learn more here.
Week 4 – Give BACK & GROW
Day 22 – Send a WAVE
Sharing is caring, especially when you share some encouragement! As veterinary professionals, we’ve all had days when a small word of encouragement could make all the difference. Why not take a moment to share that with someone in your life today?
Share your appreciation for the veterinary professionals in your life by sending them a WAVE! Send a personal e-card of encouragement.
Day 23 – Take a Well-being Course
Learning is a lifelong process, and learning how to care for yourself is a lifelong gift. Try taking a well-being course and start your journey to living your healthiest and most fulfilled life. Sharing is also caring, so teach your friends and colleagues as you learn, too!
AVMA offers courses that cover all aspects of well-being for veterinary professionals. Learn more at the AVMA website!
Day 24 – Volunteer For NOMV
Did you know that spending time serving others has actually been found to have a stress-reducing effect on people? We could all use a little dopamine, so spend some time sharing meaning and appreciation with other today!
Non-profit organizations like Not One More Vet often have volunteering opportunities throughout the year. See how you can get started today!
Day 25 – Find Your People, Join a Community
Spending time with people who support you and see the best in you is an important part of your emotional and social well-being. In a new place? Tap into your alumni groups and past classmates to see if anyone is around the area. You can even try attending local veterinary conferences and finding local chapters of groups like AVMA.
If you’re looking to connect with people outside of your local community as well, try groups on social media or become part of an online community like Harbor.vet! Already part of groups or communities? Comment your favorite communities and groups and help get others connected!
Day 26 – Build a Positive Feed
The average person spends almost a quarter of their waking day on their phone. If you’re spending that much time on your phone, make sure you’re filling your feed with positivity!
There are plenty of positive mental health influencers on social media that are looking to make sure you stay encouraged and refreshed as you go about your day. Here are a few of our favorites:
Veterinarian’s Mental Health
Veterinary Mental Health Initiative
Dr. KristyAnn Brock
Dr. Stacy – The Whole Veterinarian
Day 27 – Build a Positive Feed
Help yourself, help others. Mental Health training is a great way to learn and understand more about the signs of mental health illnesses so that you can identify them in your life and the lives of those around you.
Mental Health First Aid offers a great training program that walks you through identifying signs of mental health illnesses and the actions you can take to help. Start a course today!
Day 28 – Create a Mood Board
It takes understanding how someone feels in order to help them. Mood boards are a great way to help promote mental well-being amongst your team and give people the space to be open about how they feel!
Try setting up a mood board in your practice today! If you need some help with ideas, check out this mood board a veterinary hospital has set up in their office!
Day 29 – Create a Culture of Well-being
Be a champion for well-being and mental health at your practice! Creating a culture that promotes well-being in the practice is a great way to boost performance, productivity, and satisfaction within your team.
AVMA offers a program that allows you to earn a Workplace Well-being Certificate and gain some CE while you’re at it. Take your first step towards well-being in the workplace!
Day 30 – Listen to a Podcast
Listen up! No, like, literally listen up. There are TONS of great podcasts with hosts and guests that talk about, teach and give advice about mental health and well-being. If you’re looking for something positive to listen to, try a well-being podcast sometime!
We know, the search for a good podcast can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. Here are a few of our favorites to help get you started:
Thoughtful Life Counseling
The Veterinary Project
Dr. Marie Holowaychuk
Day 31 – Read a Book
“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” – Lena Dunham
Reasonable is a stretch, but it would be cool if we could do this. Reading has actually been found to be able to reduce stress by up to 68%, so take some time to relax and dive into a book today!
Compassion fatigue is real. If you want to read some self-help books on how to deal with compassion fatigue, here are a few great options:
“Compassion fatigue in the Animal–Care Community” by Dr. Figley and Dr. Roop
“When Helping Hurts: Compassion Fatigue in the Veterinary Profession” by The American Animal Hospital Association
“The Unspoken Life” by Dr. Kimberly Pope-Robinson
“Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Kristin Neff