A lot of attention lately is being directed towards veterinary wellness, and rightly so. Our profession has some serious issues with frustration, depression, and even suicide. Veterinarians are four times as likely as the general population to commit suicide, and twice as likely as other health professionals. Veterinary professionals have more than their fair share of financial issues, ethical dilemmas, stresses from negative outcomes and difficult clients, and work-life balance difficulties. We all have our own methods of addressing the negatives in our lives, and the approach that works well for one person may not be effective for someone else. However, I have confronted some of these issues personally, and have had friends and co-workers who have dealt with them as well. One of the best coping mechanisms that I (and others) have found is thankfulness.
When you are faced with frustrations and setbacks, it is easy to progress into a downward spiral of pessimistic thinking. When that negative mindset takes hold the sun can be shining, yet the only thing you notice is the one cloud in the sky. And, it frequently doesn’t take much to push a person from negativity to outright depression. Sometimes it requires professional assistance to battle through the darkness. But, if you take a moment to step back and objectively evaluate your life, your perspective can be greatly improved.
There are numerous methods espoused for people to learn to be more thankful. Some people use journals, some use prayer, some create a gratitude jar, or write a letter of thankfulness. There are even gratitude apps! Personally, I utilize a couple of techniques. Each night when I go to bed, I make a mental list of things for which I am thankful. These can be something as basic as having a job and a roof over my head, or something more specific, such as a good outcome for a challenging surgical case or a great exam score for my daughter. In addition, when I feel myself heading into one of those negative spirals, I make a conscious effort to find an up side to the situation. This can apply to both work and personal issues. Okay–I need knee surgery. But I am still mobile, and at least I have a fixable problem!
Not every day will be filled with happiness and sunshine. Even people with apparently charmed lives have their own frustrations and concerns. But, practicing thankfulness can help you to connect with the things that are positive in your life. Seeking reasons for gratitude can counteract the spiral of negativity—once you start looking for positives, you find more and more! Thankfulness has been a game-changer for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.