As the winter season descends upon us, it is valuable to prioritise self-care, especially as
veterinary professionals. The colder weather, coupled with the shorter daylight hours, can take a toll on both our mental and physical wellbeing. Therefore we can benefit from being proactive in considering our self-care strategies and support network.
At Vet Empowered, we coach hundreds of professionals from across in the industry, and many share that the darker nights make a difference to them. Whether that is because outdoor activities that usually help some to recouperate might not seem as available or enjoyable, or if the colder weather makes a difference to pre-existing health challenges; we're all different. And in that, some people LOVE the winter months.
What's different about winter?
I'm sure everyone reading this has their own observations about what winter means to their case load at work. For some, it might mean reduced staffing due to flu and viruses. For others, extra layers on a farm and considering the best path to access certain yards. The small animal vet teams might think about the patterns they see in December around Christmas… mince pie vomit, anyone?
Furthermore, as human beings, the reduced amount of natural sunlight during the winter can have an impact on many individuals, leading to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. This is believed to be due to disruption of the body's circadian rhythm and changes in neurotransmitter levels, particularly serotonin, but also remembering that things like loneliness and reduced social connection can impact many people too. It is estimated that around ⅓ of people will experience a drop in mood at this time. For some, this has a profound impact, often termed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and is believed to affect around 2million people in the UK; you can find out more about this from the NHS. Of course, everyone is different, with a variety of factors in their lives - we wanted to highlight this as many people still don't know how the changing seasons can affect some of us.
So, if you're finding the change of seasons tricky, we're sending some kind words of
encouragement and support - you're not alone. It's also not that you're 'being too negative' or ‘failing’ - perhaps this is a nudge to take stock of what you need, would like to try and who's in your support circle.
In life we have different seasons, just as the planet does, and not every season has to be wildly productive with new projects and change; we love the book Wintering by Katherine May, many of our community do too.
We can start to take proactive steps to ensure that we're taking care of ourselves during these months, whilst also remembering that there are so many people available to help us if we need it. You are valuable, worth caring for and getting to know.
So, rather than us telling you what to do, we’re going to ask you some questions.
We’d always suggest asking these questions when you’ve got the time to reflect, in a safe and relaxed place; it’s ok if you’re not sure about the answers immediately or if you need to revisit them. Our number one rule of these types of prompts is: we answer without judgement, so let’s bring our kindest selves to asking this…
1. How does the winter season impact your mood, physical sensations, activities, social
connections, and overall wellbeing?
2. What strategies have you used previously to navigate these changes and embrace the
unique aspects of winter? What helped? What maybe didn’t?
3. What would you like to explore in terms of winter self-care that you haven’t previously?
Who could help you with that?
4. What could you do for you this week/month?
5. What do you enjoy about this season?
Some people find it valuable to write their answers down, chat them out with a friend or loved one, or voice note them to get their thoughts out and clear. Others may choose to discuss this with their coach, healthcare professional or therapist.
We wanted to share some of our favourite resources and articles to explore, to help you
investigate some of your answers to these questions further:
● Dr. Claire Gillvray gave a fantastic webinar as part of the WellVet winter wellbeing series which can be viewed here.
● Dr. Lowri Kew’s blog has some wonderful top tips, including covering information about
Vitamin D3 and the national recommendations for this over winter.
● This NHS Resource explains lots of options for boosting mood if associated with the
change of seasons, including information about using light therapy, such as sunrise
alarm clocks too.
● SADA is a UK charity (Registered charity: No. 800917), with lots of resources, reviews
and further information.
● This Mind Matters blog with Dr. Gillvray is full of resources too.
Our top tips and reminders for implementing and making winter self-care changes:
● Make it doable. In a world with many perfectionist tendencies, we often see people set
the bar really high and make lots of changes all at once (we’ve been there). Let’s look at
what is doable, and be curious in finding the things that work for us as individuals.
● You can only do your best with what you have available, and that will look
different each day. Our resources and capacity naturally can fluctuate, so see where
you can bring in a little flexibility depending on what you have available to you each day.
● You do you. Remember everyone is different, and what works for each of us will be
Remember that Vetlife is always available 24/7, via phone or email for all members of the UK veterinary community: 0303 040 2551, online support: https://helpline.vetlife.org.uk/.
About Vet Empowered:
Vet Empowered is a veterinary-led, personal development and coaching game changer,
founded by Katie Ford and Claire Grigson in 2020. We have over 27years' experience in
practice, and many of our team still continue to work on the ground in clinical practice too.
We offer the transformational Vet Empowered Signature Programme veterinary group coaching experience, workshops, 1:1 coaching and bespoke packages to boost confidence and allow individuals to thrive.
Above all, we value authenticity, compassion and energy. Vetmed needs genuine connection, and we believe in being 'real'. Our work goes way beyond the consult room, we do not care how many extra qualifications that you have - we treat you as a human.
Found out more at www.vetempowered.com, and follow us @vetempowered.