I Matter

Your mental health and well-being is within your control. This page offers a variety of strategies to help manage and improve your wellness.

Check In: How Am I Doing?

Being aware of your own mental wellness is the first step towards wellness. This is a method of self reflection that can help you understand who you are, and why you think and act the way you do.

There are many short tools out there to provide a self-assessment:

Mental Health Meter

  • This tool, from the Canadian Mental Health Association, offers a general check-in of how you’re doing.

Professional Quality of Life Assessment

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association created this tool for assessing yourself for burnout and compassion fatigue.

Checkup From the Neck Up

  • The Mood Disorder Association of Ontario offers this simple tool to self-screen for anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders.

You can also use a tracking program or diary to monitor and understand your own mental health. Here are a few great tools to get you started:

Interested in an Ontario veterinarian’s perspective on this topic?
Check out this podcast featuring Dr. Aron Bahn – The Importance of Prioritizing Yourself and Being Accountable For Your Own Happiness.

In the Moment: Short-Term Wellness Strategies 

We all face times when we feel stressed, anxious, or uneasy. Try some of these strategies to help anchor yourself in the present. Take yourself from “mind full” to “mindful” by finding a strategy that helps remove distractions and emotions. 

Here are a few examples we like:

Build Resilience: Buffer Yourself Against Bad Days

As much as we would like to keep home and work life separate, your brain doesn’t necessarily see it that way10. This is why it’s important to find strategies that work for you! Here are a number of evidence-based strategies to help build resilience4:

Resilience training – try this free, online
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy/Stress Reduction course
for a more structured approach to resilience-building

Download an infosheet on building resilience

Set Boundaries

We’ve all been there. The client with a sick pet that can’t afford the treatment, the coworker that needs you to cover a shift, the boss that can’t afford for you to take that day off, the client that texts at night. Whether it’s family, a friend, a coworker, or a client — It’s hard to say no. 

This is especially true for those who work in a caring profession. But never saying no has its consequences, it stretches you thin. Something will eventually give, and we don’t want that to be you!

Strong personal and professional boundaries are key to your mental wellness and to your ability to be the best version of yourself. Your time and energy are limited resources, you need to use them wisely.

There is a tradeoff with every “no” you give. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of saying no — the patient won’t receive the care it needs, my boss will be mad, my client will need to wait. But, there are positives to boundaries; they:

  • Define the parameters that allow you to be effective and efficient.
  • Reflect your priorities.
  • Enable you to offer the best service possible.

Boundaries aren’t about finding ways to keep people out, it’s about focusing on what’s important and setting reasonable limits on what you can take on. Take a moment to think about what’s important, what you need to be the best version of yourself (as an individual and a professional). Write them down, put them somewhere visible to remind yourself of what you value, and prioritize them!

Download an infosheet on setting boundaries

Download an infosheet on seeking feedback

Seek Feedback

Your current abilities can be improved through effort and feedback. Challenges, failures, and feedback can help you improve IF you embrace them as opportunities to do so. We call this a “growth mindset”. There is some good neuroscience to back this up too! 

For more information:

Consider the Following

Ask your supervisor for feedback, or even a performance review. Receiving feedback (positive and negative) is consistently associated with work engagement and personal growth10.

Learn how to deal with negative feedback. Start by taking a deep breath and remaining calm. We are often defensive too soon, and are too quick to react. Acknowledge the feedback, recognize the issue, and take ownership over the feedback. Be respectful and assertive and ask for more information. Take some time to reflect on the issue in question and consider what changes might need to be made (by your and/or other parties involved) to prevent the situation in the future. 

For more information:
The Right Way to Respond to Negative Feedback
Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

If you are a sole practitioner. Consider forming a practice group with other local (or online) practitioners to meet regularly, discuss cases, discuss veterinary-specific challenges, and solutions. Peer groups provide both social and professional support, and have been shown to reduce burnout and promote well-being in physicians17. Not One More Vet is a good place to discuss mental health challenges.

Interested in an Ontario veterinarian’s perspective on this topic?
Check out this podcast featuring Dr. Colleen Best – Using Self Reflection To Manage Personal and Professional Challenges.

Shake Self-Doubt: Imposter Syndrome

Know that you are not alone. The experience of imposter syndrome is well-described in veterinarians. It is important to admit failures and recognize them as teachable moments and learning experiences. But, it is also important to celebrate successes! Here are a few tips to dealing with feeling like an imposter:

Seek a mentor

Engage with experienced veterinarians who can help support you while you build confidence. Bounce ideas off them, and ask for their advice. Remember, we are all “practicing” medicine, some just have a lot more experience (successes and failures), which you can learn from! 

Acknowledge what you know

Try being a mentor yourself to a new graduate or student veterinarian. This will build confidence and reassure you that you are indeed skilled and knowledgeable. Sometimes all you need is time to get more comfortable in your own skin as a veterinarian. Give yourself credit for what has worked well, even if they are small wins.

Talk about it

Discuss cases with colleagues! Talking about appointments, surgeries, or farm calls that went well or didn’t go well openly can open up dialogue about teachable moments, knowledge or experience gaps, and potentially even clinic protocols or training that needs improvement. It can be important to form a practice group. There are also online communities and medical resources for difficult cases, such as the Veterinary Information Network. Anonymous postings (Not One More Vet) can also provide feedback without fear of reprisal.

For more information:

Interested in an Ontario veterinarian’s perspective on this topic?
Check out this podcast featuring Dr. Shannon Finn – Navigating Life as a New Graduate in Food Animal Medicine.

Check out this excellent Ted talk:
What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it?