What to do when your fire fizzles


Maybe you know the signs, but you just tried to power through. When youre ready to tackle your exhaustion, lack of motivation and feeling detached from your work in the veterinary practice, dive in here.

When your get-up-and-go in veterinary practice has gone-up-and-went, it's time to consider why. (themost/Adobe Stock)We've all been there.

You have a hard time keeping your eyes open after that coffee wears off. Any small annoyance makes you want to blow up. You feel trapped in frustration.

Sometimes it's hard to figure out the reason. You may want to blame work or lack of sleep. While those both can certainly be causes, often we've overworked-and it's led to burnout. We're not as engaged at work, and we're grasping at straws to get our happiness back.

Part of the struggle is realizing when we're at the point of burnout and being aware what's happening to our minds and bodies. The signs can include complete exhaustion, lack of motivation, pessimistic mentality, decline in job performance and feeling emotionally detached from your coworkers at work and your loved ones at home. As I get close to burnout, I can usually see one or more of those signs in myself.

To recognize potential burnout early, it helps to look at how involved you've been in your typical activities. Are you still getting together with your friends and family? Are you making it to the gym? Are you making time for your hobbies? Typically, these items start to become neglected first. Moreover, when you find you can never fully recharge in your time off, you likely need more than a vacation.

To recognize potential burnout early, it helps to look at how involved you've been in your typical activities.

‘Dear diary. Today I got ticked off at the receptionist again for no good reason … '

So how do we get out of this rut? It can help to closely monitor stressors for a few weeks to figure out the “why” behind this feeling. Keeping a journal is a great exercise and a wonderful self-awareness activity. Start paying attention to moments throughout the day when you're wanting to throw in the towel and jot these down. Also, try to log your sleep, a general idea of your eating habits (you can do this through many apps as well) and level of exercise. You may find on those days where you ate nothing but pizza and doughnuts, everything seems to trigger you much more easily. After you've kept a stress journal for a couple weeks, you then can break down the issues and find ways you can manage or eliminate these problems.

A lot of times managing our stressors comes down to adjusting our mindset and expectations. It might be important to realize that your job doesn't have to be your passion in life. Coming to terms with this and finding what does make you happy and fulfilled is the first step. No, I'm not saying you should stay in a job or field that makes you miserable, but a job in a veterinary practice can just be a good job. It doesn't need to be something that you'd do for free or that you want to spend all your waking hours doing. Even for those of us in a field we find interesting-veterinary medicine-that's not the norm … and that's OK!

This might be a long-term fix, but consider what you enjoy in your work, and see whether you can incorporate more of those tasks into your day. Try not to put too much weight on tasks you dislike: push through them, and then when they're done, let them go from your mind. Take a walk around the building, listen to your favorite song, grab a piece of chocolate: Find a way to do a quick-release of that stress and frustration. Need more ways to chill … ?

I love this book

I dig the guided journal No Worries: Write. Act. Turn the Page (Abrams, 2016). Worried about something? Devote a page to it. Come up with a plan. Check back to see how it worked out.

‘Breathe in … breathe out … forget that super-annoying thing … '

Exercise (especially outside). It can just be a walk around the building or a quick jaunt up and down the stairs. Even with small bits of exercise, your brain releases endorphins to counteract that negativity you're feeling.

Meditate. There are great apps out there for this: The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Calm. They only have to occupy a few minutes of your time to help you reset.

Deep breathing. Sit up straight, close your eyes and inhale through your nose. Exhale slowly through your mouth. This activity slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. It will signal to your body that it's time to calm down.

Make a connection. Reach out to a friend at work, or text or call someone outside of work to vent.

Laugh. Pull up a funny video or meme or watch a snippet of your favorite comedian to get the cortisol down and endorphins going.

Gratitude journal. When you're at your wit's end, jot down three things you're grateful for. This exercise helps put our worries into perspective and can help us realize problems are smaller (and more temporary) than we think.


Why am I even doing this?!'

When you're on the verge of burnout, you need to take time to identify your values and goals. What's important to you in your life? What gives you a sense of meaning? Try taking these values and compiling them into a personal mission statement.

If your job isn't in line with your values, you adjust your situation or adjust your values (I highly recommend adjusting the former).

From there, you can figure out whether your work and personal life are moving you towards fulfilling that mission statement, or if they're totally out of line with your values. If they are, something has to change-either you adjust your situation or adjust your values (I highly recommend adjusting the former). This doesn't have to mean you throw in the towel and quit your job. You may have in your list of values certain hobbies or additional time you want to spend with your family. In this scenario, you work with your managers and coworkers to find ways to incorporate more time for these things. You may propose a schedule adjustment, or it may just be a matter of finding the time that's already there and better using it.

Remember, burnout can also come from a lack of goals entirely. This causes boredom and frustration. Setting a new goal to work towards, whether it be in your work or personal life, can reinspire you and help you become more motivated (and in the end, happier as well).

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

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