Studies have shown that there are high suicide rates amongst vets. In fact, people in the veterinary profession are four times more likely to commit suicide than those in the general population. However, we also know that burnout is a widespread problem that directly correlates to suicide and mental health problems.
Understanding what veterinary burnout is, what the symptoms are and what you can do to prevent it are key to your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Veterinary burnout explained
No matter what profession you work in, you can experience burnout. The World Health Organization describes burnout as ‘a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’
‘It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.’
While burnout is not considered a medical condition yet, it can have serious consequences on your physical and mental health. Experiencing veterinary burnout can impact those around you, such as family, friends and colleagues. It can also affect the success of your business. After all, how might a client react if you all of a sudden get angry or highly critical of them? It’s almost certain that they will seek out a different veterinarian.
Recognizing the signs of Veterinary burnout
In order to take good care of our mind and body, we need to check in with ourselves regularly. What I mean, is that we need to stop what we are doing to look inward and assess how we are feeling and our ability to cope with our day-to-day workload.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the need to self assess, especially when we are under pressure or focused on others around us. However, it is during these times in particular, that we must stop and take note of how we are feeling and whether we are coping in a healthy manner.
Additionally, recognizing the signs of veterinary burnout can help us take early action to overcome it.
Here are some common symptoms of burnout:
Becoming overly critical or cynical
Lack of energy or motivation
Feelings of dissatisfaction from our achievements
Reliance on food, drugs or alcohol
Feelings of emptiness
Causes and consequences of Veterinary burnout
Professional burnout can leave you feeling incredibly hopeless and lost and, if left untreated, can easily spill over into your home and social life. This can bring even more negative consequences, creating a vicious cycle of despair.
As such, it can be useful to understand the potential causes of veterinary burnout. Also, recognizing the consequences may encourage you to take early action.
Some of the possible causes of burnout include:
Overburdened and, as a result, in a constant state of stress
Lack of social support, leading to feelings of isolation
Losing an animal, due to sickness, injury or euthanasia
Emotional exhaustion brought on by managing clients’ grief
Negative work culture
Lack of balance between work and home life, which can increase stress, anxiety and feelings of guilt
Not surprisingly, the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion brought about by burnout can have negative consequences on your health. Veterinary burnout can increase your risk of:
Type 2 Diabetes
High blood pressure
Susceptibility to other illnesses
Taking action and seeking help
It is important to take action once you have recognized the signs of burnout within yourself. There are many steps you can take on your own, such as developing a healthy routine that incorporates:
Making healthy food choices and eating regularly
Practicing self care such as meditation, journaling
Leaning on those close to you so you do not feel alone
However, if the mental, physical and emotional stress is too much to handle on your own, seeking professional help is something to consider in order to help you regain a sense of personal wellness when recovering from burnout.
If you or anyone on your team is experiencing possible burnout, book a free consultation today to find out how I can help you get back on track!