Signs your veterinary job is making you sick

August 27, 2019
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR

Oriana Scislowicz, LVT, PHR, was a veterinary practice manager for many years before becoming senior HR specialist at Pharmaceutical Product Development.

Not enough sleep, not enough exercise, not enough time. Is your job in veterinary practice to blameand can you fix it?

"No thanks, I'm just going to stay at home and try not to move." (Photoboyko/stock.adobe.com)

Most of us have been there at some point in the veterinary profession: You're exhausted all the time, having headaches or stomachaches, and you can't figure out what's causing you to feel so horrible. Recognizing the signs and periodically assessing your overall happiness at work is a good practice to help determine whether a small switch (schedule tweak!) or a big change (new workplace!) is needed.

Sign No. 1: You're always tired and never feel motivated to do anything outside of work

This is likely due to lack of sleep (or sleeping too much). A lot of times we cope with stress by altering our sleep patterns. Increased cortisol and adrenaline can make people sleep more, and lack of quality sleep can also cause longer sleeping periods.

It was a wake-up call for me when I started a new position and suddenly felt a surge of energy and motivation. For the longest time, I'd been reaching out to my physician to solve my sleeping problems-little did I know it was largely related to the stress of the previous job.

Sign No. 2: Your weight changes and you don't know why

Cortisol levels increasing due to stress can make you gain weight and keep it on. When your work is too challenging or not challenging enough, or you're struggling with interpersonal issues at work, that stress can easily result in weight gain or weight loss. When you notice increased weight around your midsection, this oftentimes is related to increased cortisol levels. On the flip side, some individuals respond to stress by being less interested in food, which can cause weight loss and negative effects on your overall health.

Sign No. 3: You're literally sick all the time and can never seem to fully recover

When you're under high levels of stress, you may find that any virus that sweeps through the office claims you as one of its victims. When I was traveling for work frequently, I got sick more often and wound up with those two-week stints of colds. Initially, I was chugging vitamin C and zinc to try to ward off these viruses, but then I saw the link between my excessive travel, lack of sleep and increased illnesses.

Sign No. 4: You never have time or energy to exercise

When work stress is taking up all your energy all day long, you aren't likely enthusiastic about getting up before dawn to hit the treadmill or getting to the gym after work.

Sign No. 5: You're too busy to hang out with friends

Sometimes when you're drained or irritable from work, you either don't want to spend time with friends and family as often, or when you do all you talk about is how awful your job is. (Yeah, maybe that's why your invites to hang out have decreased.) If your social habits are changing, and you're disguising it by claiming you're just too busy, it may be time to reconsider the negative influence work may be having on your life.

How to fix it

You can reset yourself many different ways.

Make a list and take a hard look at your job. First, it helps to make a list of what your major complaints are in your job. Which of these things do you have control over? If it's your schedule or work responsibilities, there may be some flexibility, and it never hurts to discuss these with your manager. If this fails and nothing changes, it may be time to decide whether this position and this hospital are the right fit for you. If your job is harming your health and happiness in ways you've never experienced before, trust your gut and start looking for something better out there. A switch can bring a lot of happiness if you feel more appreciated, if you have a healthier schedule (whatever that looks like for you) and if you see more growth opportunities to motivate and energize you.

Build a healthy routine. Whether or not you change your hours, change your jobs or change careers, organize yourself and get into a routine. When I found myself overly stressed at my job, I got some temporary relief by sticking to a better routine of waking up early, protecting some time to myself to read or maybe just sip my coffee while doing a word game, and carving out time to exercise.

Clean your personal space. I went through my house and decluttered and organized. This personal organization made the sense of chaos I was experiencing-dealing with the stress of the current job and looking for a new one-a little less overwhelming.

Learn. I also set goals for myself. When I signed up for new CE or to get a new certification, I got some of my energy back.

Socialize. Last but not least, I made an effort to go out with friends and do activities that made me happy: more girls' nights out, more excursions in the evenings with my husband and son. This gave me happiness and energy to continue searching for a better fit, career-wise.

It's scary to consider big changes in your work life, but your personal health and happiness depend on it. There are many amazing opportunities out there, and your career should bring additional fulfillment, not unwanted stress, to your life.

Oriana Scislowicz, BS, LVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and regional manager at CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets in Richmond, Virginia.