As practice managers, we constantly read articles about how to take better care of our staff, how to communicate more successfully with millennials and how to create a great working relationship with your practice owner. This article is all about you— the busy practice manager. Let’s focus on how to practice self-care to ensure your mental well-being.
When the idea for this article popped into my head, I began researching stress levels in management. There were no statistics available specifically for veterinary practice managers, however, I found that most research agreed that managers’ leadership, health and their work conditions are reciprocally related to each other. In other words, we need to be healthy and have a positive work environment in order to be effective leaders.
Being happy is a great start to mental well-being but it’s only one part of the puzzle. WHO (World Health Organization) defines mental health “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” That sounds like a lot, but really it is part of a normal, healthy lifestyle. Often it is easier to think of mental well-being as something we are actively striving to achieve versus something that we naturally are or aren’t.
So how do we achieve mental well-being? Here are a few tips that various health and wellness experts say may help (many are a work in progress for me):
Human connections are the key to mental well-being – Find your tribe
I often find myself too busy for outside relationships, but it is something that I am promising myself I will work on. Human connection is an important part of mental well-being. When we lose those connections—whether through a busy life, relocation, or just drifting apart—we lose more than just a friend, we lose a sounding board when we need one, or the validation that friends often provide for us. If you are like me, and can’t seem to take a break from the clinic – you may want to join a veterinary related practice management group such as Veterinary Practice Managers on Facebook, or the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, or a local group if one is available.
[bctt tweet=”Human connections—your circle of support— are the key to mental well-being.”]
It is important to note that research has shown that managers are less likely to seek social support due to time demands or concerns about being perceived as less than competent. If there is any part of this blog that sticks with you, I want it to be the importance of having a circle of support around you, in both your personal and professional lives. Want to connect? Feel free to email me!
Get busy! At least get up and get moving
Often, we find ourselves behind a desk for a large portion of the day which is not good for our bodies. Don’t forget to get your steps in! Every hour you should be up and moving for a few minutes, even if it means just a couple of laps around your clinic. I recently picked up my old Fitbit and started wearing it again for that hourly movement reminder. (And as a manager I can tell you that those laps often provide great insight into how my clinic is running and where I can jump in to help if needed!)
Body and mind are connected in so many ways and the better we feel physically, the better our minds will feel.
If you are one of those managers who never gets desk time, make sure you take the time to rest and relax after a busy day! A hot bath or shower or a few minutes with your feet up can do wonders—take the time to unwind for your mental well-being.
Be kind to yourself….and others
We always hear about the importance of being kind to ourselves, but did you know that being kind to others is also beneficial for mental well-being? Think of the Grinch that Stole Christmas movie… the more he gave the bigger his heart became. When we take time to be kind to others, we are rewarded with feeling good about our actions and this helps improve our mental well-being. If you have the time, try and become involved with your community, or a local non-profit that is meaningful to you. My co-manager volunteers at Ronald McDonald House, and I like to run food drives and donate to Feeding America. These good deeds can also be good for your clinic and staff. Finding ways to volunteer in the community can be an excellent marketing tool as well! 😉
[bctt tweet=”Mental well-being is a work in progress”]
I know that you have all heard that saying “the more you know, the more you grow”, and in its simplicity we find another tip. Keep that education going – it doesn’t mean that you need more college credits or CE – just that the more you learn, the more confidence that you have. That self-confidence is essential to mental well-being. So, take that dance class, or learn to knit, read that book about backyard chickens or whatever it is you have been wanting to learn about but haven’t taken the time! Keep your brain waves moving in a positive direction.
Take Inventory – of yourself
Take a weekly self-inventory by checking in with yourself to see how you are doing. Do you need to practice some extra self-care this week? Are you feeling more down than usual or having difficulty coping with a stressor? Are you feeling energetic or exhausted? If the results of your self-inventory aren’t something you want to celebrate, make sure you take that extra time for self-care or talk with a healthcare professional.
[bctt tweet=”Sometimes self-care is knowing when to ask for help.”]
Uncertain what your self-inventory is telling you? Take one of these surveys designed to tell you whether you may need additional help.
How do you know if you need additional support?
We can’t talk about mental well-being without listing a few warning signs:
- Uncharacteristic anxiety, moodiness or anger
- Social isolation
- Lack of self-care
- Risky behaviors
- Sense of hopelessness
- Feeling overwhelmed
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to a medical professional. If you need immediate assistance, please dial 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
We hope these hints and tips give you the initiative to take a closer look at your mental well-being and serve as a reminder that caring for yourself is just as important as looking after your team.
Wendy Jureski, CCFE has worked in veterinary medicine for more than 20 years. She is the business manager at a small veterinary practice in Jacksonville, FL. She is also a Social Media Manager for a website design firm that supports clients in the veterinary industry. You can reach Wendy at [email protected].