When I have a patient in the hospital, here are my requirements:
– They have to have pain control
– They have to have food
– They have to be well hydrated
– They have to be eliminating normally
– They have to rest
– They have to be as physically and mentally comfortable as possible
– They have to get touched in a loving, non-medical way unless that causes them stress.
And yet, I will get to noon and realize I’m completely parched and my water bottle is untouched at my desk. I will suddenly need to pee and realize I haven’t visited the bathroom in hours (sometimes all day). I will get dizzy and realize I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is bottoming out.
What is it with us being so dense? We wouldn’t tolerate our patients being dehydrated. We stress when we can’t get them the fluids they need.
In order to tolerate the emotional rollercoaster that is veterinary medicine (I hate roller coasters – this should have been my first clue that I was in trouble) we need certain things. And when the chips are down, these vital things are the first to be bypassed in order to accumulate more stress.
- Sleep: We love science SO MUCH and then refuse to believe what it keeps telling us. Getting enough sleep is essential to your health. Some of us can’t sleep due to stress. This makes stress worse. And the avalanche begins….
- Eat healthy food: Put good nutrition into your body. My husband and I call it RF (real food). What would you want your patients eating? Put the people equivalent in your mouth.
- Drink water: Water, people. I know alcohol seems great and so does soda, but this is doing nothing to make you healthier. Water is the one thing your body doesn’t have to burn off or detoxify to use. Fill ‘er up!
- Exercise: I know. But do it. Because science, just like #1. I promise you, this will improve your life, your ability to handle stress and keep you healthier. You don’t have to be a freak about it, but if you make sure you get some exercise during the week, it will help you cope. You have time. Maybe don’t raise your blood pressure reading the comments on social media. Go for a walk instead.
- Yeah, I’m going there. Not just sex, but intimacy: We need touch. We need stress relief. We need to have some focus somewhere other than our brains. We need connection with other people. If you live alone, then snuggle and cuddle your pets. Do not check their gum color. Do not check their hydration. Don’t palpate them in any way. Hug a friend or family member. Hold on tight. If you’re completely alone, go have a massage. Go to the shelter and pet a kitty. Or stretch your body gently, take a hot bath or have a little intimate fun on your own. Uncomfortable yet? Good. Go do it. Don’t make me tell you this again. I swear, I’ll devote an entire article to it.
Think back on all the times you deliberately decided to do stressful things rather than these 5 things. How often were the stressful things necessary? Did accomplishing them alleviate your stress or just give you more? You’ve got one life to live. Don’t spend it doing things you hate (except exercise – do that). I promise you, if you start doing these 5 COMPLETELY BASIC self-care tasks, handling the stressful stuff will become easier. Let me know how you do. Except for #5 – you can keep that to yourself!
About the Author
Dr. Cherie Buisson is one of the first Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarians in the world. She is an international speaker and author. She spends her time in feline-only practice, hospice practice and teaching other veterinary professionals about hospice, euthanasia and compassion fatigue. Dr. Buisson is the owner of Helping Hands Pet Hospice in Seminole, FL as well as the founder of A Happy Vet.