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Coping with Covid-19
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  1. Caroline Pearson

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Caroline Pearson is the founder of Progressive Vet Consulting.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, ‘It doesn’t seem real.’ Yet, when we collected our children from school on 20 March as they closed for the foreseeable future, there was no denying that this is very real.

The veterinary profession has rallied to adapt and innovate to maintain a high level of service to clients and patients. Nonetheless, restrictions have tightened and the impact is palpable.

As a self-employed mum, wife of a production animal vet and daughter of septuagenarians, what lies ahead is uncertain. What will the financial impact be? Can we balance home working and home schooling? How will we stop the bickering? What if…? Each of us will have individual worries, but to protect our health, both physical and mental, I believe that now is a time for self leadership. We have little control over Covid-19, but we can control our reaction to the circumstances.

So, what can you do?

The first thing is to understand how this will change your immediate everyday. My vision of a utopian springtime with the kids in the garden dissipated early on Monday with my 22nd trip upstairs to, ‘Muuuuum, can you…?’ Change is difficult, especially when combined with uncertainty. Until last week, as a member of the veterinary team you had a physically active, intellectually stimulating, social job. Now what? To prepare for this change, we all revisit our values. What is important right now? Three months from now, what would you like to have achieved? Making decisions in line with our values is one of the greatest protectors of our emotional stability. It helps to stem any guilt we might feel, maintain perspective and focus our attention on the possible and important.

Get the basics right. While it is tempting to fill the freezer with chicken nuggets, eating a healthy diet is vital to our ability to cope. Pasta may be scarce, but I’ve yet to witness a shortage of fruit and veg. If there are several people in your household, taking control of your environment with basic rules around tidiness, cleanliness and private spaces will reduce unnecessary angst. A daily routine sets expectations for the whole family. Proactively timetabling work hours and communicating your availability will aid efficiency, while reviewing and mapping tomorrow’s tasks before bedtime protects sleep. Crucially, also plan how you will stay active and get access to much-needed sunlight (within the guidelines). An hour in the garden cutting grass, practising Pilates or playing football with the kids releases much needed endorphins.

Make sure you connect with others. With isolation comes greater risk of poor mental health. However, not all connection is healthy. Avoid becoming overloaded with Covid-19 updates and ensure your information sources are accurate. Misrepresentations cause unnecessary stress. Decide what connections are beneficial and essential. Professionally, allocate time to connect with those in similar job situations to share experiences and advice. Engage with your work team to plan, support and communicate the next steps. Business managers and leaders can share solutions to problems that teams may face on forums, such as the Facebook discussion forum for members of the Veterinary Management Group. Also take the time to connect with those in your household. Sitting down with your partner and reviewing your financial and social stability provides clarity and unity. Regular remote contact with close friends and family is time well spent, while calling or helping someone in need will feel rewarding.

Now is a great opportunity to explore. Many of us will find we have more time on our hands as the work we can do from home is limited. Why not write a list of jobs and schedule them into your plan? Having a clear out, writing emails, decorating or finally researching the most cost-efficient energy provider will all bring about a sense of achievement. Professionally, stay intellectually stimulated by engaging with podcasts, completing an online CPD course, or offering to research and collate practice data with a view to helping improve work processes when things return to normal.

The reality of Covid-19 is hitting home as we navigate new and uncertain terrain

The reality of Covid-19 is hitting home as we navigate new and uncertain terrain. To cope as individuals, I advise to focus on what you can control today and on what is important, stay connected and look for opportunities to adapt and contribute. ●

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