Step into your fear

August 28, 2018
Torry Chamberlayne, RVT

Torry Chamberlayne, RVT, is a Los Angeles, California, field director for Banfield Pet Hospital.

Many veterinary professionals fear self-care. I saw, firsthand, at a Fetch dvm360 conference how those who tried yoga or meditation seemed to smile a little easier and to share a little more with their peers.

Make time to recharge and reflect to rock your work in the veterinary profession. (“Step into your fear.” I have this written in several places as a reminder. You can interpret it as, “Step out of your comfort zone,” or “Step into the unknown,” or “Be willing to try something new not knowing the outcome.”

I read once somewhere that fear is at its peak the moment before you actually do the fearful thing. Let's take an extreme example: jumping out of an airplane. You put on the gear and your heart skips a beat. You board the plane and start to question what you're doing. Just writing this, my chest tightens a bit. The plane takes off, and you start to gain altitude and speed and wonder if there's an exit strategy other than jumping. It's time … the door opens and panic sets in. Your heart races, and you realize you should've used the bathroom one last time. You step to the edge and lose your breath as you stand frozen in fear and unable to move-the fear at its peak. You jump. Immediately, the fear is replaced by exhilaration and takes a back seat, and you're now doing the thing. You stepped into the fear and into an incredible experience.

‘I don't have time, and it makes me feel vulnerable'

We veterinary professionals are really good at self-sacrifice for the good of clients and pets. We pride ourselves-especially veterinarians-on missing lunches, staying way past closing, taking a financial hit to help out clients who need assistance even if it directly hurts our own pocketbook, and putting other families before our own.

This slowly starts to kill us. Compassion fatigue sets in. Self-doubt and guilt become normal parts of the day.

“Self-care? Self what? What's that? I don't have time. And it makes me feel vulnerable.”

Self-care isn't something you were taught. You were taught to push harder and work longer. The problem is, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't have anything to give. A road of compassion fatigue and depression is waiting for you.

For you, fear kicks in when you think of doing something for yourself-not knowing how or who or what and secretly pleading for guidance.

“Am I allowed to do something for myself?!”

When self-care looks fetching on you

Self-care looks different for everyone. It'll never be a one-size-fits-all, but one thing that's worked for me as well as many others is yoga or meditation. If you focus your movement, your breath and your thoughts on something in the present moment, you can shut out all the noise around you-all that negative self-talk and what I like to call “white noise” that surrounds us every day and gets in the way.

Practicing meditation or yoga creates space, and I like to think of it as a good spring cleaning-cleaning out the old to replace with the new and better. It's hard to truly explain it without experiencing it.

While there were many amazing moments for me at the most recent Fetch dvm360 conference, where I helped facilitate yoga and meditation, the most profound was what I witnessed before and after the meditation sessions. Individuals walked in not knowing what to expect-most a little stiff from sitting, furrowed brows from (over)thinking and tight overall movements from stress. Most had never done this before and were hesitant, but they told me, “A friend told me to try it,” or “I've heard about this but haven't done it.” There was an immediate willingness to try when attendees were told there was no right or wrong way to do it.

After a 10- or 15-minute session, it was all smiles, relaxed shoulders, and an openness and willingness to share thoughts and feelings. Attendees opened up about what they'd been through and what they truly needed as people, not just veterinary professionals. Some shed some much-needed tears. They seemed to walk lighter and a little more freely. And they kept coming back. The simplicity and ease of it made it accessible to anyone who cared to step into the unknown-regardless of that fear.  

Torry Chamberlayne, RVT, is a San Diego, California, field director for Banfield Pet Hospital.

You. Can. Do. This!

At Fetch dvm360 conference, we're the support system you need. With every conference this year, we intend to nurture your mind (meaning quality CE for days) while also encouraging you to take stock of your physical and emotional health. Register now.