25 May 2020
Mindfulness for the Veterinary Nurse for Covid-19
Vetlife defines Mindfulness as “the practice of paying attention and focusing awareness, increasing clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality” – and in these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to ensure you are looking after your mental and physical health, as well as your friends and families. Globally, we are quite literally all in this together!
In this blog, we run through some of the ways to practice mindfulness, how to keep a daily routine, and we also talk about Vetlife; a charity that provides emotional, financial and mental health support to the veterinary community.
Structure the day
A ‘normal’ day in a veterinary practice can be organised chaos; we know there will be morning and afternoon consults with surgeries and procedures during the middle of the day. Even if the cases are different every day, there is still an anticipated structure on how things run!
Whether you are working reduced hours, working longer shifts in a day with more days off in between, working from home, or even if you find your days free because you have been furloughed – it is important to try and keep some structure to your day. Routine and structure allows us to feel like we have a sense of control in a time where we may feel like there are a lot of things out of our control.
Here are some tips on keeping structure to your day if you are working from home:
● Try to get up and go to bed around the same time every day
● Try to keep a meal structure to the day, avoid grazing, and stay hydrated
● If you take this time to continue any study you are undertaking, to do some CPD, or if you are doing some “Work From Home” tasks, then set reasonable hourly or daily goals to make sure you have a sense of achievement and accomplishment
● Aim to do any study or work in an area that is a dedicated ‘office’ space (it might be your desk or dining table) so that it is possible to get up and take a mental break completely away from where you were working.
Enjoy some “you” time!
It is a common feeling as veterinary nurses that we always need to be doing something.. as there is always something that needs doing while we are at work! Because we are spending less time at work and we potentially have more time on our hands, many of us start to feel guilty with the thought of doing ‘nothing’.
Under normal circumstances, it is important to spend at least half an hour a day doing something enjoyable that is just for you! It may be reading a book, listening (or playing!) some music, watching an episode of a TV show or watching a movie. So don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself given the current lockdown situation.
With the Covid-19 lockdown, we can exercise outside – this may be a walk, run or cycle. Exercise has many benefits and releases endorphins which can last for hours afterwards, and they can even give a positive buzz for up to 24 hours!
Other benefits of exercise include:
● Reducing stress
● Improving sleep
● Helps with mental health
If you are a member of a gym, check with them if they are running any remote workout sessions with their personal trainers. Many of these workouts are adapted to use your body weight effectively instead of equipment, or by doing high-intensity interval training (HIT) which is a very quick burst of different exercises done with short break periods.
There are also many different yoga, pilates and meditation apps available to download and a lot of videos can be found on YouTube.
Eat food to boost your immune system
Don’t forget about maintaining a healthy diet too! Use this time to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen and eat foods that will help boost your immune system, such as
· Dark chocolate
· Oily fish
· Sweet potatoes
· Green tea
· Red bell peppers
Online Media Overload
The TV and internet can provide an online stream of news updates about Covid-19 and also other (often negative) things happening in the world. Try to check in with the news only twice a day, and from resources you trust and are familiar with. A constant stream of news may contain incomplete information which can increase anxiety and cause confusion.
We are social creatures by nature, and we need to maintain social connections for mental health and happiness. However, excessive use of social media has been linked with an increase in unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and can actually make us feel even more isolated! Try having some “phone-free” time in your day, or use a feature on most smartphones that can lock you out of social apps after a specific time allowance has been reached.
Keep in touch!
As mentioned above, social media can actually end up making you feel even more isolated so it is important to make quality online social connections.
It’s better to actually see your friends and family. There are many free downloadable video platforms available like Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams that you can use to keep in touch with friends and family. It can be a really fun and interactive way to catch up every few days and to check in on how people are coping.
These platforms are also a great way to have remote staff meetings to keep staff informed of any changes to the business, keep morale high and help employees feel supported by their managers and employers.
As veterinary nurses, we work in close proximity to our colleagues every day and we may be able to see when someone is distressed, or struggling with anxiety or depression. One of the difficulties around the reduction of staffing during Covid-19 is that being able to talk to someone trusted at work may not be an option anymore.
The BVNA supports Vetlife – a registered charity that supports the veterinary community by offering support for work, emotional, addictive or financial problems. They offer a 24-hour service every day of the year.
The Vetlife phone number is 0303 040 2551 – you will need to register on their website if you want to send an anonymous email. The volunteers at Vetlife are experienced in mental health and in the veterinary profession too.