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Ways to pass the stress test
  1. Carolyne Crowe


Stress is a reasonable response to tricky situations, unexpected scenarios and a busy life – and so probably an inevitable part of life in the veterinary profession. Here Carolyne Crowe offers some top tips on how best to deal with it.

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Carolyne Crowe is an experienced vet, coach and a consultant at VDS Training

Most of us are creatures of habit; we feel settled when we have a routine. We like to know what’s coming next and how we are going to get a job done. But life and veterinary practice have a habit of throwing curve balls that can leave us feeling like we’ve had the rug pulled from under us.

For our ancestors, uncertainty was a threat to survival. So it’s understandable that even today it can trigger our physiological stress response and lead to us feeling unsettled, anxious and out of control.

But we are surrounded by uncertainty – from Brexit, to bills, to that emergency that’s just been called in. That means an ability to cope with it is a really valuable skill to develop. Here are some top tips on how to do just that.

1. Identify your triggers

When are you most likely to feel stressed? What is happening? Who is involved? Writing this down can help you view things more objectively. What do you notice? Are there common themes that you can tackle?

2. Name the problem

What exactly is causing the uncertainty? Are you concerned about what you need to do, who will be around to support you, what you need to say? Being clear on the root cause of your uncertainty will help you take the right action to resolve it.

3. Be proactive

Go through the scenarios you are worried about and think: ‘If this happens, then I will . . .’ It’s important to remain flexible in your approach but by thinking about the possible situations beforehand you are more able to move from a position of uncertainty to a position of choice, putting you back in control.

4. Control the controllable and take one step at a time

What can you control or influence about the situation? What action can you take? You don’t need to have all the answers straight away, you just need to know what your next step will be. What can you do, say and think?

5. Be kind to yourself

Don’t let stress derail your healthy routines; this is when they are most important

Don’t let stress derail your healthy routines; this is when they are most important. Make efforts in times of uncertainty to eat well and sleep well, to exercise, and to talk to people.

6. Take your own advice

If a colleague came to you with the same worries, what would you suggest they should do? What is stopping you from doing the same?

7. Seek support

If you are struggling with feeling anxious, out of control or uncertain about your next step, talking to someone can often help. You could consider coaching to help you develop the strategies that enable you to feel more confident and in control of your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

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