Monthly Archives: September 2014

Self-Care for People Who Do It All

Chronic stress and a perfectionist streak can destroy you. Over the long haul you can quit caring–Burn Out–or care so unrelentingly you bleed out emotionally–Compassion Fatigue (CF). With CF you can’t stop yourself from getting involved the problems of others, so to recharge, you overindulge in things that aren’t necessarily good for you, from sugar to shopping. When that doesn’t do the job, you try to keep your energy from leaking away by isolating yourself, not only from friends but from your own body. (For more information on CF, see my blog post, (You feel sooo exhausted. Do you have Compassion Fatigue?

Not only does Compassion Fatigue take a toll on your personal life, it can eviscerate your practice. People with CF feel no one can do as good a job as they do. They work long hours, snipe at others for not working enough, and prevent coworkers from developing new skills and ideas by insisting that their way is the best, and therefore only, way.The things you do to care for patients and their families that should build your practice wind up hurting it.

The good news is, even smart, Type A chocoholics can prevent or treat Compassion Fatigue with these six techniques.

Blog_2_pic1. Move around a little, preferably outdoors.

Research confirms that even mild exercise is good for your mood as well as well as your health. Regular exercise lessens the worry and the blues that come with setting impossible standards for yourself.Here’s what WebMD says: outside in nature for twenty minutes a day makes you feel more alive and energetic. What’s more, outdoors you get a dose of Vitamin D, which fights depression and enhances thinking. Check out this  study on nature and mood. Instead of another double espresso, take a walk around the block. Declare a five-minute dance party.

2. Make sure you sleep seven to eight hours a night.

Americans are sleep deprived. We need it to give our bodies break and to clear the cobwebs from our brains. If you handle your work stress by cruising the internet till the wee hours of the morning, you risk poor thinking, slow reaction time, and trouble learning.


3. Eat healthy food and take time to enjoy it.

You know those doughnuts aren’t good for you, but when you focus everywhere but on yourself, you may take the shortcut to energy and grab a hunk of fried dough smothered in chocolate to give you a boost. The sad part is, you probably won’t even enjoy it. The next time you get hungry, pick something with protein and fiber to sustain you. Then, and this is the hard part, sit down to eat. Before you take your first bite, stop and inhale deeply. How does your food smell? What color is it? Taking a few extra seconds to tune into your senses will not only make the meal more delicious, it will help you reconnect to the body you’ve been ignoring.



4. Talk to your neighbors.


I know, I know, you’re an introvert who needs alone time to re-energize. The problem is, Compassion Fatigue exaggerates your need to escape. You forget how to interact, and the next thing you know, you can’t make conversation even with the ones you love. If that sounds familiar, start small. Greet the receptionist when you come in. Ask the kid bagging your groceries how his day is going. You’ll be surprised at how less alone in the world you feel.

5. Tap a source of strength and inspiration.

We all need a life outside work, and most people benefit from connecting to something that braces us in the bad times and expands our minds when we’re ready. For some this will be a spiritual practice. Others read poetry or keep journals. Simple meditation can put life in perspective and remind you that what is happening in this moment, no matter how important it seems, will pass


6. Work with a counselor.

If you’ve tried the first five techniques and find you still overcommit to work and undercommit to yourself, it’s time to get outside help. Since your situation isn’t new to the profession, many local VMAs and other animal health organizations have support systems in place for veterinarians, technicians, and others who face challenges in their work and personal lives. Veterinary Information Network( has online boards that focus on practice issues and a confidential one, Vets4Vets, for those that want a private channel to find help locally.When you choose a mental health professional, find one who deals with your kind of concerns, one that you connect to personally. If getting through CF were easy, you’d have done it. It’s time to have someone on your side. Ask a friend to recommend someone, check with your physician, call your clergyperson, or see what the community mental health center suggests. You wouldn’t ask your patient to suffer; why should you? Since no one can have all the good ideas, let’s share ours. What do you do restore yourself? What are you doing to avoid Compassion Fatigue?




3 Secrets to Getting What You Want at Work

What do you want at work?

Who doesn’t want to be rewarded at work? We all want to use our skills and talents and be paid for it. What kind of “payment” we like depends on what we value. We need money to live on, and some people want put their hands on as much of it as possible. That’s what they value.

Once the bills are paid, other people care more about intangible things. What do you want more of? Time off? Freedom from micromanagement? How about picking new equipment for your department? Be clear about what you value, so you know what to aim for.


Getting more of what you want is easier when your boss thinks highly of you. Employers are like other people. They worry about money,  how to make payroll in these days of economic anemia and increased competition. After that, what they value depends on their needs and personality.

How do you get what you want?

The first secret to becoming appreciated and rewarded at work is to figure out what management values. If you are lucky, the practice owner will tell you what’s important.Think about what questions they ask at job interviews. Pay attention at staff meetings and read the employee handbook. Well-run practices get everyone headed in the same direction by communicating their goals and values clearly.

In addition to what your organization says, gather your own information. If you aren’t used to thinking this way, other people’s desires seem mysterious. Actually you can tell a lot by observation.

Your boss may be highly organized but not good with people. She may have ideas to improve the practice but not enough hours to develop them all. Study the leaders. What do they talk about? Who gets the biggest bonus or the most interesting assignments? See not only what is rewarded but what might be rewarded if someone like you could do it.

Once you have a few ideas about what the leaders, especially your immediate boss, value, the second secret is to assess what you are good at. This is easier than it seems. When we have a gift or skill that is a part of us, we often can’t see it. We tend to remember what we work hard to learn and overlook what comes as second nature. Ask your friends how they see you. Think about what coworkers ask you to do. Their view of your strengths may surprise you, but in their feedback are the answers to the question, “What are you good at?”

The third secret to getting what you want at work is, notice what’s not being done and fill in the gap. Remember the boss who has great ideas but not enough time? Offer to take on a project that you’d be good at, especially if it will help the practice’s bottom line. For example, if you always have the latest gadget, volunteer to research cell phones for the office. When you present your research, show how following your recommendation will make work easier and more efficient, as well as save money over time. You may want to start small with a tip on how to use current equipment in a new way. If you can quote something your boss said or a line from the last office memo, so much the better. It shows you heard what was needed and stepped up. If you give your boss what she wants and needs, she’s likely to do the same for you. Time off, here you come!

Question: When were you successful at getting more of what you want at work? Tell us how you did it.