Ep. 72 | Burnout Recovery for Veterinarians: 6 Essential Questions to Get Your Energy and Life Back


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Welcome to the Life Boost with Amelia podcast where we're changing the narrative around what true health and success look like- they should give you energy, not drain it. I'm your host, Dr. Amelia, multi-passionate integrative health and life coach, entrepreneur, and recovered burnout veterinarian. Together, we'll explore the science behind how your brain and body work, including the unconscious mind, while also connecting with what your heart needs in order to stand up to the norm of feeling stuck on a hamster wheel-working hard yet feeling exhausted and not where you want to be- and instead live a life that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and in love with who you see when you look in the mirror. The reality is if you do what everyone else is doing, you're not going to feel good. Let's break the norm.

Hi friend. If you are feeling burnout, today's episode is for you.

I've been talking to a lot of vets lately who are feeling very burned out and they're feeling done with vet med. Like they want out, or at least to stop doing clinical practice. And I totally get it. I have been there where I am just like, this was a huge mistake. I regret all of my life decisions and I don't want to do this anymore. And that is a really uncomfortable place to be.

But what I want you to know is that this moment right now, could actually be a point where in the future you look back and you're like, I am so glad that I went through that. Because this was the wake up call that I needed in order to make changes to get to this point where I am now, where things are so much better than you thought that they even could be.

So today I want to talk about five important questions to be asking yourself if you are finding yourself feeling stuck and burned out. (It ends up being 6)

Because there's a tendency when you finally realize,"okay, things aren't working, something needs to change" to instantly want to go into problem-solving. Okay, what else can I do? How can I get out? And that's so understandable, but if you don't pause and think about these five questions, then there's a very good chance that wherever you choose to go next it's not going to feel fulfilling because you won't have addressed some of the real root issues that have led you to this point of burnout.

And what you definitely don't want to happen is to put all of this energy and effort into applying for jobs and interviewing, and finally finding a job that seems like a good fit and then to find yourself a few months or even years later feeling burnt out again and just disappointed. So the five questions I'm going to go over are how to avoid that how to make sure that this next step starts leading you down a path that leads you to a place that you are just going to be so insanely grateful for.

Okay. This is also going to be hugely helpful if you are maybe feeling like you're heading towards burnout or you're just realizing that you're burnt out, but you're feeling a bit paralyzed. Like you're feeling like you don't know what else you would do. You are just feeling really stuck. This is going to help to get you unstuck and to give you some clarity to move forward. So let's do it.

The first question to ask yourself is, am I stuck in survival mode, AKA a trauma response?

And if you're feeling burnt out, the answer to that is yes. And you may be aware of this to some degree, but really having a deep level of understanding and awareness of how this is impacting the way that you're feeling, the things that you're doing, your impulses, and even the way that you're perceiving your current reality is really important in order to be navigating these next steps in a way that helps you to feel better and fulfilled instead of leading you down a path that's just going to lead you right back to where you are now.

So when you're in survival mode, your nervous system is feeling threatened and its number one priority is to get you safe. It's important to remember that this is designed for short term survival. This is not looking for sustainable success and thriving. This is in the moment what needs to happen to feel safe again?

So that means that the survival part of your brain, the amygdala and the limbic system, they're calling the shots right now and your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that can think things through and really weigh pros and cons, that's kind of offline. From this survival mode, your brain starts to interpret everything as a threat, even when it's not. And it starts to make really big generalizations.

And so it may be that you start to interpret a facial expression or a comment from someone as negative, even if it was neutral. It also means that you may start to see all clients as being threatening and difficult. You may start having beliefs that every day is exhausting, every case isn't going right. And you start to have these negative beliefs about your circumstances and that's because your brain is showing you proof. It really feels like everything is overwhelming and threatening and all of the clients are hard and nothing is going right. And that just makes you feel more and more stressed.

But it's important to know that that reality, that feels so real, that's not a true depiction of what's actually happening. Your brain has a filter. It's called the reticular activating system. And that gets to decide what comes into your conscious awareness, because if you were aware of absolutely everything around you at all times, that would be insanely overwhelming. And so from a survival standpoint, it makes sense that it's going to show you anything that it thinks is threatening or scary. And then it's also going to look for proof of any beliefs that you have, right?

And so that's what creates this really vicious cycle because you are already stressed and then it is in this heightened sense of hypervigilance. And so it's showing you all these things that are threatening and your brain is perceiving them as really scary and negative, even if they aren't. And then you're having these beliefs of, oh my gosh, everything is just way too much. And that creates your reality. That just feels like too much.

And that's exactly what happens with imposter syndrome, where your brain is only showing you your mistakes or proof that you don't belong. And it's totally missing the cases that go really well and the proof that you do belong. And so the good news is that when you are aware that this is happening, you can make conscious decisions to change that and to start noticing a more realistic representation of what's going on.

But it's important to be shifting out of survival mode, because right now you're probably feeling like all of veterinary medicine is a threat. Or all of clinical vet med is and so you're wanting to escape from it. And that's so understandable and it may be that you will be most happy outside of vet med or doing something other than practicing in a hospital. And that's totally okay. There are so many great options. But you want to be making that decision from a place of feeling calm and grounded and knowing what you want versus from this scared kind of feeling threatened and overwhelmed like I just want to escape kind of feeling.

So let's dive a little bit deeper into trauma responses because I think it's really helpful for understanding what led you to this point and why you're feeling the way that you are.

My guess is that you've probably spent years, possibly decades, maybe your entire life, I feel like that was the case with me, either in flight mode where you are a very hard worker, you have super high expectations for yourself, you are high achiever, and yet you never feel like what you're doing is enough and you rarely slow down. You may feel like you're not the type of person who likes to slow down. You thrive on being busy.

Or you are in fawn mode where you are so nice. Everybody loves you. You tend to be smiling or you seem calm and maybe the peacemaker. You are always helping out, you say yes to things, even when you desperately wish that you could've said no. And you tend to self sacrifice your own energy and needs in order to take care of others or you're the one who always picks up the slack.

Or you maybe a combination of those two. That was the case for me.

And now you're probably at this point where you're noticing a shift. You're exhausted. Feeling kind of hopeless. Like you have worked so hard to get to this point, and yet you just don't want to do it anymore. You might be more cynical than you used to be, and you may even be feeling depressed. And you may love the feeling of helping animals and solving tough cases. that is such a great feeling, right? But the long hours or difficult clients or work environment where you don't feel respected or supported. Having anxiety about cases that could or do go wrong, or you're never feeling like you have enough time. All of those just are far outweighing, those positive moments that used to feel rewarding.

And so you probably are at this point where you feel like the vet profession is caging you in. And you have realized something needs to change and you want out. Like you want to feel happy and free again. Or maybe you've never really felt free and you've been so busy doing what you think you should be doing or being the person that friends and family expect you to be that you don't even know who you are or what you want. You just know that this isn't, it. That feeling that you're experiencing right now is your nervous system doing exactly what it was designed to do. To keep you safe.

So you can think of your nervous system is having three settings.

There is the parasympathetic safe and social setting. That's where life feels good. You feel safe you're connecting with others in a way that feels good. And this is a state where your body can heal and grow and thrive. That's where things are functioning, the way that they're supposed to.

And then you can shift into a sympathetic state that fight or flight. In this state, your body's one mission is to keep you safe. And it is all about mobilizing energy. Your body is going to get tense because you're either going to run or you're going to fight. And it's all about just releasing energy. You're going to have a lot of adrenaline. And so you'll either be in flight mode where everything is busy or maybe you have perfectionist tendencies. It feels very uncomfortable to slow down. Or fight mode where you are just, everything is frustrating. You're easily irritated. Maybe you have a short fuse. You might say things that you later in retrospect, regret. That is what happens when you're in a sympathetic state.

But then there's this next level.

If you are in a stressed out state, and you're not able to escape from the perceived threat. So, if you think about our world or vet med and how much stress you are exposed to every day, And if you think about how often are you pausing to actually process those emotions or to release them. Right? Nobody teaches us that, which it blows my mind we are not talking about this in vet med, but that's the reality.

A part of vet med is encountering a rollercoaster of emotions. There is stress, there's trauma, there is loss and grief, and nobody talks to us about how to process any of that. Instead, we are taught to compartmentalize. We are taught to be professional. Because that is part of our job.

Part of our job is to be the one who can be professional, who can be level headed as we are helping our clients, and as we are helping our patients. But that's not the only part of being professional. And it's like vet med has totally skipped the part two to that. When you are compartmentalizing, then what? What do you do with all of those emotions that you're saving for later or that you're bottling up inside?

The reason that vet med has a high burnout and suicide rate is because our profession has normalized being in survival mode. We've been rewarded for being in that high achieving flight mode, never slowing down, or fawn mode where we're people pleasing and self-sacrificing, and nobody is talking about what to do with all of the emotions that we encounter. They just miss step two.

And so that means that we live in a stressed out state. And eventually your nervous system is like, okay. I am just getting inundated. The stress is just feeling like too much. So here's the last ditch effort to keep you safe and you switch into freeze or shut down. And that feels very different.

In shutdown, suddenly you're going into energy conservation mode. Instead of trying to run and having all this energy it's like your body is playing possum. It's like, okay everything is way too stressful. We need to shut down now. And that's when you're going to have a low energy. You're going to have a low mood feeling hopeless, depressed. You're going to have no motivation. You may feel kind of brain foggy or have trouble focusing. And yet because of what society teaches you, you may be judging yourself and thinking that you're lazy. And we're in a society that has pathologized these right. Like you have depression. We need to give you a pill. Same with anxiety. Instead of noticing that these are normal things that our bodies were designed to do to try to keep us safe. What about getting curious about why. What about getting curious about why our world is leading us to be stuck in a stressed out state and rewarding us. So if right now you are feeling that sense of hopelessness and low energy know that this is your body trying to keep you safe. And of course it's so important if you are experiencing depression or severe anxiety, it's important to be working with a licensed therapist and I highly recommend finding one who is trauma informed. But I want you to look at your body beyond any labels without judgment And to notice why it's really understandable that you're feeling this way. This is what our systems and your environment has set you up for. And this is not a problem with you. You have just been doing exactly what you thought you were supposed to. And what you have been taught to do for a long time. And the problem is that we've been taught and all these rules that you've been following, they don't lead to the success and the health that we think they're going to. So let's pause and just take a minute to think, do these trauma responses, do these patterns sound familiar? And just really take a moment to think about how you've maybe been judging yourself for any of these or for feeling the way that you are. And really see if you can start to be super gentle with yourself and to forgive yourself. And to notice just how hard you have been working. All this time, your body has been trying really hard to keep up and to keep you safe. But the problem is that. Our society teaches you to ignore your body and to self-sacrifice and to keep pushing. And so eventually your body has to get pretty loud in order to get your attention. And this shutdown often can. You may also be feeling other signs throughout your body. You may be feeling gut issues and poor gut health can influence things all throughout your body. Maybe you're having headaches or migraines or achy joints or sinus congestion or brain fog. You probably have a lot of tension in your body. You are maybe having out of control food cravings, you have super low energy. You may even be experiencing auto-immune conditions or weird signs where doctors are having a hard time having any answers. Now is the point where you can start really tuning into what you need and what your body has been telling you. This is why with all of my free resources and with my programs, the very first thing that I teach is anti-anxiety tools because for some reason, nobody's teaching us how to release stress. You know, and we accumulate so much stress in a day. And if you think about how much stress is coming in versus how much is being released, it's not proportional. Right. And so it's so understandable that honestly, pretty much everybody is stuck in a trauma response. And trauma it doesn't have to be a big T trauma. It can be any time your body encounters, more stress, and it can process in the moment. So like every day, right? Especially in vet med. And the really important thing to understand what these trauma responses or when you're in survival mode, these patterns of fight, flight, fun, freeze, they become habituated patterns so that instead of encountering something stressful, going into fight or flight, and then as soon as you're safe, you return into that calm parasympathetic state. Instead your body is perceiving threats all around you all the time. And so it has decided that these patterns of like never resting and always being busy or always self-sacrificing that just becomes your default. And so these anti-anxiety tools are so powerful, not only because they help you to release some of that stress you're carrying around to return to a calm state, but they also can serve as roadblocks for stopping these habituated patterns. You can think of these patterns as little highways in your brain. Your brain is really used to doing that. But your brain is also very capable of changing and rewiring. And so as soon as you start to be aware that these trauma responses or these patterns are even happening, when you start noticing you're heading down that highway of saying yes to something when you wish you would say no, or, you know, you need to rest, but you're having a really hard time, too. When you turn to an anti-anxiety tool. It is twofold. You're helping to notice that you're in a stressed state and to shift yourself out of it. But you're also causing a pattern interrupt for your brain, your brain isn't used to you suddenly becoming calm. And so that offers the opportunity for you to start creating a new path. I talk about that more and all of my programs, including a free resource that I have sharing faster EFT, which is a really awesome quick anti-anxiety tool that's so powerful for brain rewiring. And then for more anti-anxiety tools, my free resource called"beat the burnout. What we should've learned in vet school", it has four videos with transcripts sharing some of the key things that I think every vet professional should know. And the first video shares seven anti-anxiety tools and I talk even more about this. And then for really unlearning these patterns and shifting out of survival mode and creating new habits that are really supporting your energy and sanity. That is a process for sure. And so that's what I walk you through one step at a time with my three month game changer and six months life boost program. I'll leave links to those in the show notes. So you're in survival mode, right? Next question. How can you give yourself a break? And I'm not talking about a couple of days. I mean, how can you give yourself a chunk of time when you can stop thinking about work and for the first time you can just focus on what you need in order to feel safe and supported again. And even as I'm saying this, I bet there's a part of you that is thinking about why this isn't possible for you. And those thought patterns and beliefs are what have led you to this point. It's very understandable that you're having those thoughts because you have been selected and rewarded for never resting, right. You've been rewarded for being a high-achiever always pushing yourself. Never resting. And so rest is going to feel really unsafe to your nervous system. Just like you've been rewarded for self-sacrificing and putting your patients and your clients before your own needs. And so putting yourself first and resting is going to feel very uncomfortable. And the automatic response is likely going to be that your brain is going to think about why it's not possible. And it's important to notice those and to know that this is a normal part of the process, but this isn't an option. So, instead of thinking about why it's not possible for you to take a huge chunk of time off. Start thinking about how could it be possible? How can you make it possible to take some time off? If you want things to change, you need to give yourself permission to do this. And this is where it can be really helpful to have support from others who get it. Not only to brainstorm ideas and to have help thinking through. But also to get that gentle nudge and that support and reminder that what you are doing is so important so that you don't talk yourself out of it. And my Facebook group-beat the burnout life boost for vets- that's a space where we can have these conversations. It's the same kind of conversations we can have in my programs. It's all about having a space to talk through these kinds of things, and also to stay accountable, to be prioritizing you during a time when that feels really unnatural. So start thinking logistically, how could it be possible that you could take, say a month off? And the amount of time is going to be totally individual to you, but at least having a chunk of time to start with where you can just pause and work on helping your nervous system to feel safe and starting to listen to what you need. How can you make that work financially? Do you have enough in savings where even though it would be ideal to have income coming in, it's okay to pause, because remember, we don't want to be just thinking about that short term survival. This is about your life and long-term success and the big picture. And thinking about how giving yourself a little time to rest after how long you have been working. How valuable that would be instead of just instantly going from this place of feeling burnt out onto the next job without even pausing. There are so many ways to make this work. Having a conversation with your current employer and letting them know what you need and asking for a leave of absence. Especially, if you can relate to fawn mode and that people pleasing you're probably going to feel really bad or guilty and super uncomfortable having conversations like this. But just keep in mind from their perspective too. If you are sharing how you are feeling and what you need, you are giving them an opportunity to support you and to help you. And to work with you. Because while of course you need to do what is right for you, from their perspective, losing a veterinarian- the average cost of having to replace one is like$104,000. And there are so many vets right now. And practice owners that have been trying to hire for years and had ads and aren't getting any bites. So just keeping in mind that even if it feels unreasonable or uncomfortable to be having these conversations that moment of discomfort asking for what you need it could lead to an entire life that is more comfortable or giving you some space to breathe and just pause for a second. So that you can have an idea of what you do need moving forward. In some cases, if you've been diagnosed with anxiety or depression and that's negatively impacting your ability to do your job, then you may be qualified for disability insurance, where you have some money coming in. I know resources, like not one more vet have grants that you can apply for that you can use towards housing costs or grocery bills or mental health. So just allowing yourself to get curious, because judgment just leads you to dead ends and it drains your energy. But as soon as you start getting curious about how things could be possible and what you need so many doors open. And if you're not at a point where you are totally in freeze, shut down. If you feel like you're just, you're heading towards burnout, then now is the time to have a conversation with your employer, right? Because maybe you just need more time to recover. Working 40 plus hours a week in vet med is a lot. And it's becoming increasingly common to instead be working more like three days per week. And finding what works for you or shorter days. When I went into relief, I decided that I didn't want to work weekends anymore. And just having a full weekend to recover and never wondering, am I working that weekend or not? That was huge for my mental health. And then I also made the choice to only work nine to five or eight to four shifts instead of a longer eight to six shift. Just that little difference was huge for me. It meant that the entire time I had energy and I was ending the day still having energy and feeling like I was in a good mood versus just feeling totally depleted. So, is there a change in your schedule that would make a huge difference? If you had one more day, if there was a half day, if you didn't have as many weekends? Maybe more vacation time would be good because you really want flexibility and you wish that you could travel more and you don't like having to choose between visiting your family or getting to go on a fun vacation. Like if you could do all of those, that would be really fulfilling. You know or maybe if every couple of months or every month you had a long weekend or a chunk of time. What do you need in order for your body to be able to return to that safe and social space so that you are not just constantly operating in that sympathetic fight or flight mode or feeling stuck in freeze or shut down or just, which is very common oscillating between the two where you throughout the entire week you're in. go, go, go fight or flight and then the weekend comes and you just have no motivation to do anything and you judge yourself, but then you don't actually give yourself the rest that you need. And then you go back into flight mode until it's just too much. So now is a good time to pause and maybe just think about. How would that feel? If you gave yourself permission to take some time off. Just to breathe. To tune in to what you need. And start thinking about. How could that be possible? What needs to happen in order for that to become a reality? And do you want to reach out to somebody to have support and brainstorming through that? Onto the third question. In what ways have you been ignoring your body's most basic needs and how can you start prioritizing those in a way that feels doable? When it comes to stress and burnout, one huge mistake I see, especially in vet med, is that there's so much talk about mental health and nobody's talking about physical health. It's as if physical and mental health are separate things, And they're not. The physical stress on your body also can put you in a state of fight or flight or shut down. And so we can not only be focusing on what's happening in our head and our thoughts and our circumstances. We need to really be looking at from your body's perspective, why might it be feeling overwhelmed or like it's in an unsafe environment? Because your body does have basic necessities that it needs in order to be able to do its job of taking care of you. So how often do you put off going to the bathroom or drinking water because you're too busy? Or how often do you skip breakfast or lunch because you don't have time? How often do you try to push through your exhaustion with another cup of coffee or find yourself doom scrolling at midnight when you know that you should be sleeping? How often do you seem fine and professional on the outside, while holding back tears or frustration or anxiety that you never allow yourself to actually release or process. This is the norm in vet med. You have been conditioned and praised for ignoring what you need. And if you want things to truly get better. And they can get so much better. You can't keep doing that. Your body is doing the best that it can to keep up with you, but it does need a little bit of help. Because if you think about it, if your body isn't getting the basic necessities that it needs, then that is stressing your body. And so you're already starting out with a baseline stress level. that's relatively high. And so then that just means that any other stressors that you encounter in your day that's going to just add more pressure to your balloon. You can think of stress in your body, like air in a balloon. It's like the more stress you get, the more tense. And so eventually it could be even a little bit more air, a little bit more stress, or a little bit of pressure from the outside. That could be enough to make you pop. Versus if your body is feeling really supported with the basic necessities that it needs. That's going to give you so much more resilience. If you think about, like, how do you feel if you haven't had time to eat anything during a shift, you're having to work through lunch. Probably by the afternoon, you might be feeling a little bit hangry. I certainly do. My patience is less. I am feeling much more irritable about things that typically wouldn't be bothering me, or if I haven't had water, my energy is going to be much lower. I'm not going to be thinking as clearly. And so we really need to be shifting our mindset around things where the norm in vet med is, oh, this patient needs my help, so I am going to skip lunch. And what we really need to be thinking about is, oh, this patient needs my help, so I need to eat so that my brain is functioning and I have the patience that I need in order to take care of this patient. And as You start exploring what next step you want to take in your career start first by practicing, listening to your body again. Start paying attention to how often your body gives you a signal about what it needs and your initial instinct is to dismiss it or judge it or to ignore it. And start practicing, honoring what it's telling you instead. So you need to go to the bathroom? There's time for that. You're thirsty? Give your body and brain some water so that you don't feel like a withered flower. Are you hungry? Help your body to feel safe and nourished by giving it real food so that it has the fuel and building blocks to do its job. If you're eating plants, that's also going to be so good for your gut. And it's so important to know that stress and ultra processed food, all of that can contribute to an unhealthy gut. And your gut can influence feelings of anxiety and depression. Your gut microbes can. If you really want to be listening to your gut as well. Are you tired? What can you do to start supporting your energy and honoring rest? And we'll talk more about this and another question. Right now, you're at a point where it's really important to start getting clear on what you want and need and what helps you to feel alive. And when you are in freeze or shutdown, it's important to know that you also become very disconnected from your emotions and from what your body is telling you. And if fawn mode is familiar, then you also are probably very in tune with how other people feel. You may be very influenced by their energy or emotions. And yet it might be very hard for you to talk about how you're feeling or to even know what your preferences and needs are. And so with all of these, that's why it's really important to just start noticing the most fundamental needs and signals from your body so that you can start reconnecting with what your body and heart need instead of just living in your head, doing all the things that you think that you should be doing. Because all those messages you've been fed about what you should be doing, they don't always lead you to where you want to go, as you're probably finding. But your body and heart they're here for you. They have good intentions. Because the more that you can really reconnect with your body and your feelings and tune into and connect with the wisdom that they're giving you, the more, you can really start having clarity on a path that's going to lead you to really awesome places. And I know that can sound kind of vague, like, okay, What does that mean to tune into the wisdom of my body and heart and what they're telling me? But, what that can look like is as you're navigating and even just thinking about different options, notice how your body reacts to that. So not your thoughts, but noticing when you think about a possible job opportunity, is there a sense of an energy boost? Is there expansion or relaxation in your body or is your body becoming tense and constricted? Or resisting? And just really observing what your body is telling you. My beat the burnout resource talks more about how to be prioritizing these basic necessities and giving examples of how you can do that both on an individual level and also gives ideas for how hospitals can really be supporting the basic necessities so that they are creating an environment where it's convenient for employees to thrive. or if you really want support for a three or six month period my programs are all about helping you to reconnect with what your body, heart, and mind all need and finding the path That feels fulfilling and sustainable. True health and success, the whole point is that it's supposed to make you feel good. Right? It's supposed to make you feel alive. That's why we want it. And yet, so many of the messages and approaches towards health and success end up doing the exact opposite. And they drain us. So that's why it's so important that you are finding an approach and starting to listen to your body in a way that feels energizing and fulfilling and helps you to feel alive with every step. So speaking of energy, that leads to the next question. And I'm realizing that there are actually six questions. So number four is what are the things that boost your energy and what are the things that drain them? This question is so important for problem solving. Because if you're experiencing burnout, what that tells me is that there is a lack of boundaries somewhere. Your nervous system is feeling unsafe and overwhelmed. And there are needs that aren't being met and we need to get really specific on what those are in order to find an approach and an environment that works for you. One scenario that I hear a lot when I'm speaking with veterinarians who are feeling burnt out, is that they've already been to several different hospitals and it's just the same, no matter where they go. And so they're at the point where they're just like, you know what, clinical practice isn't for me. But when I hear about each of those hospitals, it really is the same thing. Like you're working long hours, like 40 plus hours a week. You are understaffed. You're in a rushed environment. You're not getting lunch breaks, maybe you're staying late and that's very understandable that you're feeling burnout, right? That is not an environment where you can thrive or where you're being set up for success. But it is important to know that there are other opportunities out there where you are having time to have a lunch break. There are many hospitals that'll stop for two hours in the middle of the day, so you can catch up and actually eat and actually leave the hospital. 40 hours a week is a lot, maybe you're needing to work much fewer. That's very reasonable. That 40 hour work week was not designed for vet med. This is why we really need to be acknowledging and talking about the emotional roller coaster that is a part of that med, because we need to be thinking about how much time is required in between shifts. In order to recover, that's going to be individual for each person. And what needs to happen in the workplace to minimize stress. Because, while it's inevitable that there are going to be stressful and hard moments, if the overall environment is chaotic, there are things that need to happen in order to create a more safe and supportive space. I have worked in over 30 different hospitals. I worked in general practice as an associate in two different hospitals. I did urgent care. And then with relief work, I have worked in a huge number of different environments. And I am the same veterinarian, but depending on the environment that I'm in, I feel very different throughout the day and at the end of the day. There are hospitals where the entire time I'm just feeling so fulfilled. I'm happy to be a vet. I'm getting to do my work in a way that feels really fulfilling. And on those days I leave work and I'm in a good mood. Like I have a pep in my step and I still want to do things when I get home. And then there are days when I am just done. I have nothing left to give. I'm kind of just pissed. You know, the entire day, it just feels really hard. And I'm the same vet. And that just means that there are certain environments that really work for me and there are other ones that don't. And relief work was really helpful in helping me to see just how much that matters and helping me to have clarity on what specifically is important for me, what boundaries do I need in order to feel supported? And so by starting with this list of starting to notice, what are the things specifically that are boosting your energy, feeling fulfilling. And what are the things specifically that are draining your energy? If you recall from the beginning of the episode, when you're in survival mode, your brain starts making these big generalizations and they tend to be negative. So it's like work sucks, vet med equals bad. All clients are annoying. And so by starting to be attention to specifically, what is boosting your energy versus draining it, you are priming that reticular activating system, your brain filter to start seeing their little parts that are positive and supporting your energy and the specific parts that are draining your energy. So I really recommend starting a list on your phone, like using the notes app. So that you can just continue to be embracing your inner researcher and collecting data points so that you can start to get specific because when you're specific, that offers the opportunity to really problem solve so you can have clarity on what you do need, which is going to be so important, whether you are making a choice of doing something in vet med or outside of it. And I recommend doing this, not just at work, but in all aspects of life, because everything is connected and it's so important that you're supporting your energy in and outside of work. So with your job, looking at what specifically are the times that are feeling really draining? If you're experiencing bullying in any way, whether that's from coworkers or clients that can be hugely draining and of course makes your nervous system feel unsafe. So, if you are encountering that, definitely check out the no more bullies video in my beat the burnout series, because I talk about how we can be creating a fear-free approach and also how you can be navigating those situations in a way that starts to feel more empowering and even energizing versus draining. Other things that can be draining: a negative work environment. So if there's a culture where everybody just has that negative brain filter and everybody's complaining. A huge one is feeling like your hands are tied or not being able to help because one of the parts of vet med that probably feel very fulfilling and give you energy is when you are able to help an animal. And so it can be hugely draining if you are in a situation where you feel like you're seeing an animal that needs help, and you're not able to. And that could be for a number of reasons, whether the client is having financial reasons or they just don't think that it's important. Or if you are in an environment where you just don't feel like you're being set up for success. So maybe there is just too high of a caseload and you don't feel like you're able to be practicing in a way that feels good. At a certain point the patient care, the quality just starts decreasing if you are accepting too many patients. And so it's important to know what that limit is for you, or to get really specific about why, In those Scenarios why that's happening. If you are not getting basic necessities, like if you aren't having time to eat lunch, or if you're not having time for a brain break, right. A lunch break isn't cause so often I see people typing notes while eating right. Your brain is doing a lot of work in a day in vet med, it's constantly thinking, and it needs little brain vacations and moments to not be thinking. Do you not feel like your opinions matter? Do you not feel respected by management? When it comes to surgeries versus appointments, is there one that you find more draining than the other? Are you in an environment that hasn't adopted a fear-free approach and there are a lot of fearful or stressed patients that require a lot of restraint or time, and that's really draining. Is it sensory overload? Are you more sensitive to sounds and are you in an environment that's just really chaotic and overwhelming for your nervous system? The more, you can start noticing the areas that are feeling draining. Then you can start getting really specific about why. And what do you need instead? I'm always gonna lead you to curiosity because that can provide so much insight and clarity for you. Because it may be that there are things that can change the way that you're feeling. So with interactions, with people and bullying it may be right now that it's draining because you have been in fawn mode and it really hurts when somebody doesn't like you and it feels really personal. And it also may be because you are in survival mode and so you are interpreting what they are saying as very negative and your brain is having this negative brain filter. And maybe if there were different ways of communicating or if you had a different mindset and perspective, like for example, knowing that a difficult client is a human who is just feeling scared and overwhelmed, right? Their nervous system is in fight mode. And so they are acting impulsively. Saying things that they're going to regret. And that's just making it A negative experience for everybody. And so when you can notice that this isn't about you, this is something hard is happening in their life. Maybe it's because their pet is sick, maybe they're stressed about finances, maybe they're just dealing with something really hard in their life that has absolutely nothing to do with you or the pet. All of those are possibilities. And so when you start to have that perspective of seeing that this is a human who's just feeling really overwhelmed and what needs to happen to re-establish safety and mutual respect? Or do you need to create a boundary if this person isn't willing to be respectful? Then that can really start to feel like a much more empowering interaction. Another example is maybe you find surgeries really draining. So what specifically about that? Is there a specific part? Is there a specific surgery? Is it that you don't have enough support? And what would you like instead, would it change things if you had more continuing education or some mentorship in that area? Would you like to not do surgeries at all? Or would it help to have maybe one fewer day of surgeries or a shift in your schedule? Really getting clear on what you would like. If you're staying late to do medical records or callbacks all the time, then, then what needs to change? Would it help to have time blocked off in your schedule to do that during the day? Could support staff, maybe do some of the calls that aren't absolutely crucial that you speak with the owners. Are you able to use AI for note taking to dramatically decrease the time that you're doing that? Is your caseload just too high for you right now and why is that happening? Is it that you feel bad saying no to a patient that you know, needs help Or is this more of a hospital policy or culture that needs to change? And then also collecting data on the parts that do feel fulfilling and that do support your energy. Maybe a client says something really nice. Maybe you get to have an enjoyable conversation and maybe you get to laugh with a coworker. Maybe you get to cuddle with a puppy. Maybe you solve a really tough case. Maybe you get to see a pet that was sick walk out, feeling like themselves again. What are the parts that are still rewarding? And start noticing that outside of work as well and all areas of life. And I recommend even noticing what are the foods that give you energy versus drain them? What are the interactions with people that boost your energy versus drain it? Which relationships? What kind of movement? One thing I see often, and this was totally me, is that a lot of vets tend to be type a and you're in that flight mode and that perfectionism. And that really influences the way that you're treating your body and your approach to working out. So for me, I had such high standards of how I wanted my body to look. And I also was very into tons of cardio, super high intensity workouts. And that was my only form of stress relief. And so I was definitely justifying it, thinking that that was something that was healthy, that I was doing for me. And it made me feel good in the moment. But the reality is that that was actually depleting my energy. I was already in survival mode. And so by doing the super high intensity Work out I was just stressing my body even more. And really that was draining my energy where at that time, what I needed in order to be more balanced and to be gentle with myself was to start embracing more walks versus runs to be doing more strength training. To be listening to my body instead of having that, like no pain, no gain mindset. And along those lines, really paying attention to the thoughts in your mind that are really draining, right? Like all of those high expectations of what I needed to be like as a vet, but also what I wanted my body to be like and how I was talking to myself when I was looking in the mirror, all of those are so draining and really starting to call out my inner critic was huge. The other thing that can happen in that flight mode is that you have this all or nothing mindset because of that perfection, you have such high standard on what you should be doing in terms of eating or working out so that anytime when you feel like you're not able to go all in or do it exactly the way that you want, then you're just not doing it at all. And that can also happen certainly if you're just feeling totally overwhelmed and you're more in freeze and shut down of just having no motivation And that's where it's helpful to start noticing the things that can boost your energy and allowing yourself to not have that all or nothing mindset, because it may be that just a little bit of really gentle movement is going to have such a huge impact like even if you were to go out for a walk during your lunch break, just for 10 minutes. You're not thinking about calories or anything like that, but like the amount that that can do for your energy and your brain, just to have that short break and some fresh air can be huge, or even just stretching your body for like five minutes before you go to bed at night so that you're just noticing where your body's carrying tension. And releasing it. The more, you start collecting data on the things that boost your energy versus drain it the more you can get out of your head and stop feeling driven by all those shoulds and things that you think that you should be doing, or the person that you think you should be. And the more, you can really start understanding yourself and doing things because you have the confidence in knowing what you need in order to show up in a way that feels good and in order to be practicing medicine in a way that feels good. And that makes it easier to start having the confidence to speak up for your boundaries. Whether that's at your current workplace, in your life, or as you are looking for the next opportunity, the more you understand, okay, These are the non-negotiable things that I need, the more it's going to help you to find a workplace that is great for you. For example, as a relief vet I started to have more clarity on certain things that were really important to me and where I needed to establish a boundary for myself even if that wasn't what the hospital's norm or policy was. For example for euthanasias I always want a catheter to be placed, even if that's not the norm at the hospital, because that's something that it's really important to me that that's very peaceful and everything goes smoothly. And for me, having a catheter placed is an important piece of that. Another one that's really important for me is a fear free approach. And I believe that in vet med, we really need to be adopting a fear-free approach for everybody, humans and animals. As soon as we are seeing signs of a stress response, we need to be pausing and getting curious about what is feeling overwhelming and what needs to happen to reestablish safety. And if that's not possible, We need to create a boundary. And so what that looks like for me, in hospitals, there were certain hospitals where, you know, that norm was just to kind of push through to restrain just to get it done because they're there. Sometimes the owner is pressuring you to do that and just really recognizing that no, that does not feel good to me. That is not in the best interest of my patient. This is an area where I need to be educating the owner and letting them know why that's not going to happen. And if there isn't a way to reestablish safety and to create a more positive experience for that pet, then I'm just going to send them home with Gabapentin and Trazadone and they can come back another day. And it's important to have that confidence and clarity in myself so that even if the hospital is disappointed with that approach, I know that I'm doing what is really important for me. So just take some time to think about what are the specific things that really aren't working for you right now, and what do you want instead? And you can think about if you do want to have a conversation with your current employer. There's not a lot to lose, right? Especially if you're thinking about changing jobs. Your employer doesn't have your perspective or know how you feel unless you specifically share it and ask for it. And one thing to keep in mind is that it's definitely possible that your boss or the hospital owner is also in survival mode. I see that so often they're just doing the best that they can with the information that they have and their perspective. And it can be a gift to them to share information that helps them to understand what you need in order to feel supported. They may want to be supporting you, and they just may not know what that is. For support in this area, the beat the burnout resource that I have energy and boundaries that starts talking about how to be speaking up for the boundaries that you need, even if that feels super uncomfortable right now. And then my game changer and six month mentorship program, I will support you every step of the way into having clarity and what you need and feeling comfortable and going through those negotiations and speaking up for your boundaries and sticking up for them in all aspects of your life in and outside of work. And then I have a project that I'm really excited about for the vet profession. I am putting together a list of unicorn vet hospitals, because there are some hospitals that are really doing it right. They are breaking the norm and they are understanding the importance of supporting the energy and wellbeing of their team. And by doing that, they're also prioritizing a positive experience for everybody. Because vet med is this beautiful ecosystem where the pet, the veterinary team, and the pet owner, we all need to be working together. Everybody needs to have a positive experience. If any one of those three components of this ecosystem doesn't feel safe or supported, then it ends up creating a negative experience for everybody involved. And so the hospitals that are already doing it right. They really deserve the recognition to be on this list. I also want to be showing proof of what's possible in vet med. Proof that when you are prioritizing the wellbeing of everybody, then that leads to sustainable success and increased productivity. And I think it's really crucial that there is a resource that you can turn to. Where, if you are looking for a change and you know what you need, that you're able to find hospitals that are doing it right. Because the reality is it can be really hard to sort through the hospitals that claim to support a work-life balance or wellbeing, or to have good mentorships, but aren't actually versus the ones that really are living up to what they claim. So the goal here is that you can have a resource that you can turn to and trust of hospitals that have been vetted, and that actually have data and proof showing that they are a really supportive environment that is going to create an environment where you are set up for success to really thrive. And part of how I am finding these hospitals is through a wellbeing assessment. So every single member of the team needs to take this assessment that is allowing them to have a confidential, safe space to provide feedback and to answer questions about how they're feeling in and outside of work physical and mental health. Do they think that their hospital is a unicorn hospital? And the cool thing about this is that I am collecting data so that we can really be getting information about what does lead to high workplace satisfaction. What does improve the energy of the team? And what doesn't work. And with these it's basically either they are already a unicorn vet hospital or they are going to be because without that assessment, they can then have clarity on what are the strengths, what are the things you're doing really awesome. And where are the areas where there's room for improvement. Even if they are unicorn vet hospital, there's always ways that you can better support your team. I'm excited about this because it's really about just empowering and lifting up everybody together. Not placing blame, understanding that we all have different perspectives and allowing hospitals to and owners to have the perspective of everybody. Because in survival mode, again, it's always, you're focused on short term what do you need in the moment to try to feel safe and that's not always ideal for sustainable success. And so in this we're able to zoom out, look at the big picture. How is everybody doing? How can we be contributing to sustainable success? If you, would like your hospital to participate, if you feel like they're not yet a unicorn hospital, but you do think that they would be open to having insight and support to become a unicorn hospital, then I'll leave the link for them to sign up for a unicorn vet hospital consult. But also if you are looking for a unicorn vet hospital, Then, let me know, because I'm in touch with lots of hospitals, I'm on the lookout and if I know what you are looking for, I can let you know if I find something that seems like a good fit. And that is the perfect segue into the fifth question. This is a fun one. What would your dream job look like? Don't worry about figuring out the logistics and whether that is actually realistic or not. Just let yourself be honest and dream. Okay. One thing that I see super often with vets is that you want to figure it out, right? You are very analytical and there's a tendency to just start dismissing or negotiating yourself out of what you actually want before you even give yourself space to dream. Because you don't think that it's reasonable or you don't think that it's possible. And a lot of the times it actually is. But if you don't give yourself space to just first dream big and think about like in an ideal world, what would you like and you negotiate yourself down and then you use that to guide what opportunities you look for or what you ask for in negotiating, then you're going to feel disappointed. Because even if you get what you want it's not truly what you desired. It's important to allow yourself to really connect with what you desire. For example, I love traveling and the idea of having complete flexibility of my schedule. And as an associate, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that that just wasn't going to be possible. Like I was always going to have limited vacation time and I'd always have to be working with other coworkers to figure out holidays and I felt so jealous of people who could just travel when they wanted to. And didn't have to worry about that. And that actually was totally possible. Like I have that. When I went into relief work, I realized like, wow, I can have complete control of my schedule. And even before I went into relief work, I had a conversation with my bosses and I was able to get more vacation time so that I could start to travel with my husband, because that was something that was really important to us. And I could start having more time to not be thinking about work. And so just make sure-your beliefs are the biggest thing that are going to get in your way. So allow yourself to really dream. And think about what would your ideal schedule be like? How often would you work? What setting do you want it to be? What kind of vacation time? Do you need benefits? And then what are you doing? Like what, what is the type of work that feels really fulfilling? Is there one part of vet med you really like? Like, what if you could only do surgeries or never do surgeries? Once you have your wishlist and this idea of what ideally you would like, then you can start working into the logistics and looking at how to make that happen. Like me when I went into relief work, especially because I wasn't going to be super familiar with the team that I was working with, I decided to stop doing surgeries and that decreased a lot of stress for me. So as you're collecting that information about the parts of vet med that are draining versus boosting, you can really start getting clear on what you need instead. So if it is lots of sensory overload, a hectic environment, maybe fear-free is really important to you or having more time with owners. It may be that something like mobile practice would actually be great for you because you have time to decompress in the car. It's quiet. You are going into the homes where the pets are really comfortable. It might be that that's a good fit for you. When I was an associate, I really had no idea how many options are out there. I really felt like what I was doing was pretty much like the only option. And that's so not the case. That's really like, sky's the limit. So when you start really getting clear on how you want to practice medicine and what feels good to you, there are options out there. And there are even opportunities that make it really easy to go into practice ownership if you're tired of knowing that things could be better and you want to be your own boss, For some vets really focusing just on one area. So even like in-home euthanasia is of course that is not for everyone and it can be emotionally draining. But I know some vets that are extremely fulfilled, with that, because they are able to have complete flexibility of their schedule. You have very few patients per day. The compensation is great. And they feel very supported by their company, making that feel very doable. For me when I went into relief, I thought that that, that just seemed so overwhelming, but I found a company that took all of the parts that were feeling really scary and overwhelming, and they dealt with it. And for me, I didn't need to be making the maximum amount of money what I wanted was just an easy way to start having a flexible schedule. And with relief work, I have friends who are living the van life. If you love hiking and traveling and you don't like feeling tied down, that can be such a cool option, even if it is temporary. If you're wanting to have like a year just to, you know, see the country, these are options. I know what it's like to experience burnout and what it takes to fall back in love with vet med and to find the right fit for you. And I also know what it's like to follow a totally different path outside of vetmed that feels fulfilling. So, don't hesitate to reach out if you want to brainstorm and absolutely come into the beat, the burnout Facebook group, because that's a space where we can really brainstorm and share ideas to support one another. And that's such a huge part of manifesting is really getting crystal clear of what you want because when you have that written out, that's when your brain filter is also going to start noticing opportunities that are going to get you closer to what you want. And I teach the steps of manifesting and working towards the life that you want in my game changer and mentorship programs. Manifesting is not some woo magical kind of thing. It really is all about just understanding how your brain works and doing specific things that are always helping you to move towards the change that you want. And then also learning how to be regulating your nervous system so that you have the courage to go for these things that sometimes can be, or always are going to be, outside of your comfort zone. And then the final question number six is what are your core values? I think core values are so important that that was the very first podcast episode that I did. It was all about core values. Because they are such an important guiding light, especially when you are making big decisions in your life. And if you're not familiar with core values, it's basically when you think about all the things that are most important to you in life, the things that you are really drawn to the things that energize you, the things that are meaningful. If you were to boil all that down into two to four words. What would that be? And Brenee Brown does have a list. If you just Google Brenee Brown core values. It's from her dare to lead book. She has a list of words that can be helpful for inspiration. But I recommend really taking some time and just doing a brain dump of okay what are all the things that matter most to me, and even thinking about like, when you are looking at a magazine, what are you really drawn to? What do you like to read about?What are the things that you could talk about nonstop forever? What really lights you up? And just making a list and then starting to look for the common themes. So, for example, my core values are adventure, connection, influence and wellbeing. And so when I was thinking about my core values, I was thinking about, well, family is important. Friends are important to me. Nature's really important to me. And so in thinking about those, it was like, okay, what is it about those though that are really important to me? And it all boiled down to connection. When I have a genuine connection. This feeling I get when I'm with family who get me. When I am with, it could be a stranger or it could be a friend, but when I'm having like a really genuine connection with that person that really energizes me. But even more, it's important that I have time to connect with myself. And when I'm in nature, I have this sense of connection to something bigger. And so for me, that was one of my words. Having clarity on these is so important. Even as you're recovering from burnout. For example, knowing that connection was important to me, one thing that I started doing was when I was at the height of my burnout was when COVID was just starting. And so we were not getting to have clients in the hospitals. And so that was a part of practicing medicine that I really enjoyed was getting to have the conversations with owners and getting to do the client education and just that whole experience of connection. And that was completely gone. And instead it was like all just like totally new things. Masks, not even being able to see facial expressions, that was really a draining for me. And so I would start the day setting the intention: okay, I am going to see how many genuine connections I can make with people on the phone. Like, this is a new skill that I want to practice with really not just reporting the findings, but making it a challenge to actually have a good conversation and connection with that owner. And when I made the point of prioritizing that thing that was really important to me, it helped to make the days feel so much more rewarding, even though there were so much that was feeling really hard at that time. And this is also why for me, relief work was awesome. Because adventure was another important one. That's why I love traveling. But I also love novelty. And so getting to go somewhere new all the time and getting to meet different people and the adventure of having that novelty and not just going to the same place and doing the same thing over and over. For me, that was very energizing. But of course for you, if one of your core values as something like stability, Then probably relief work is the absolute opposite of what's going to feel really rewarding for you. And one thing that I will note is this is why it's so important to be working on shifting out of survival mode. Because it may be that some of what feels like your core values and identity is actually more tied to those patterns or that trauma response. Right? So like, if you are in shut down or freeze right now, then probably you're going to really be drawn to things having to do with safety and security and like being alone potentially not being around people. Or if you've been in fawn mode, maybe giving and things that are almost related to self sacrifice may be what you're really drawn to. Or if you have been in flight mode and you have been a high achiever, then it may all be about success and drive and always being better. And so that's just something to keep in mind is to think about are those things that you're drawn to are they helping you to support yourself in a way that is feeling good and sustainable? Or are those things that you have been drawn to, but because you've been conditioned and rewarded for doing that, not necessarily because it is helping you to feel more alive and fulfilled in life. This is the kind of thing we really dive into in my game changer program and my six month life boost mentorship. All of what I've talked about, shifting out of survival mode, reconnecting with yourself, creating boundaries, paying attention to the things that are boosting versus draining your energy, giving yourself space to dream, connecting with your core values, starting to manifest the life that you want, I walk you through that one small step at this time. And you also have group and individual support along the way. this point where you're feeling stuck right now, and things are feeling hard, it is temporary. I have been there. I get it. And I'm so sorry that you were having to go through this point right now. And this is going to lead you down a path. Uh, it gives me chills, just thinking about it because I am so excited for where you are going. It's these low points in life that are going to lead you to the high points. It was at the point where I would just feel totally numb and drained by the end of the day. I would just go sit on my couch and I would cry. Or I would just be totally disconnected. And I just felt so stuck. I regretted spending so much time and money and energy getting to that point working to achieve my dream, and then I was like, what happened? Like I worked so hard. And yet why. Why am I just regretting this entire path? And I stayed stuck for a long time and honestly it took me a while to even realize that I was burnt out because my brain was really good at just dismissing it and acting like it was normal and fine until it just really wasn't. And it was so easy for so long to think about all the reasons why it couldn't change, you know, like all my student loans and the amount of time. And like I had no idea what else I would do if I didn't stay in vet med. And the biggest gift that I could give myself was to start getting curious. Just start thinking about what did I need. To start dreaming big without having to figure out the logistics. And then to start shifting out of survival mode. And it took me a long, long time to shift out of survival mode because nobody's talking about that. And so it wasn't until I went into coaching and had been coaching for a long time and just wanted to get to the root of like, you know, I could help with healthy habits, but when they didn't stick, what was happening. At the root, it always comes down to your nervous system. Your nervous system needs to feel safe. If you really take some time to explore these questions, now I'm living this life that I'm so grateful for. And part of what makes me so obsessed with it is because it's in contrast to that low point. I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm so grateful for what I have. And that is possible for you too. And you don't have to do this alone. So if you listen to this and you want to just reach out and talk about anything that resonated, or if you have any questions or you want to be brainstorming a little bit don't hesitate to reach out. I'm always so happy to connect with other vet professionals and we need to be making changes in the vet profession. And a huge part of that is that we need to be acknowledging how so much of what we have normalized is what is contributing to burnout. So if you're experiencing burnout, that is very understandable. And also, this is the start of so much positive change. You've got this and I'm here for you. If you enjoyed today's episode, please share it with someone who you think could benefit. And if you're enjoying this podcast, it would mean so much to me if you would take the time to leave a review so that others can find me. And as a thank you, if you leave a review, send me an email, letting me know, and I'll send you a free guided meditation for mental rehearsal. So that is exactly what elite athletes, executives, incredible surgeons all use at the scientifically proven way to improve performance. And the reason this works so well is because when you are mentally rehearsing, the same area of your brain is lighting up as if you were actually doing it. And so it's a safe and effective way to be preparing and practicing and improving your skills for when you're actually living it in the moment. So send me an email at amelia@lifeboost.Today if you leave a review and i can't wait to share that with you cheers your inevitable health happiness and success

Resources mentioned:


Frederic Abidos


Wow.... thank you so much for all these insights. As a vet in Milan, I get what you're saying. We see a lot of suffering that we can't always cure. It takes a toll on you.

Milan, Italy

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Amelia Knight Pinkston

@Frederic Abidos you're welcome and thanks for sharing your experience in Italy. Sadly, the burnout in vet med really is world wide! Feeling like our hands are tied when we see suffering and feel like we can't help is something we need to talk about more. Often, we bury/compartmentalize our emotions in an effort to be "professional", but we need to start viewing prioritizing time to process and release hard emotions a part of being professional, too. ❤️

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