At the end of our work day we are exhausted, physically hurting and mentally depleted. We stagger out of our hospital and drive home in a zombie-like state. We open the door to our home. We see our family members, spouse, child, roommate, significant other, friend, or pet. And that’s when we start, “You are not going to believe the day I had….” For the next few hours you vent about work to them. You are consumed in reliving the whole day over again. You brought all your work home with you.
End the Day Better
“It Starts Before You Walk Out the Door”
Before we even leave our hospitals we start to think about coming back the next day. We start worrying it will be just as bad the next day or how little sleep we are going to get. We think about the next day’s surgeries and how much work we need to do to prepare. All of these things produce negative thoughts which leave us in a negative space.
Leaving work at work starts with recognizing you are having the feelings of negativity, dread, fear and anger. Once you recognize these thoughts you need to focus on how to shift your mindset. For team and hospital leaders, working on having individuals leave with positive thoughts is important. It reduces their negativity about coming in for their next shift and improves their work/life balance. Leaders have a responsibility to ensure teams are leaving largely happy. It won’t occur every day, but if teams are always leaving with thoughts of not wanting to come in the next day leaders need to help reduce the stress they are going home with.
Tell Me Something Good That Happened Today
It’s as simple as that. Before the team or you leaves the hospital for the day, stop and have them say one thing out loud that went well that day. There's a lot of science showing that when a person verbalizes positive thoughts, these thoughts lead to the release of serotonin and dopamine. Both of these have been tied to happiness, reduction in anxiety, and both help to produce other positive thoughts.
We as leaders certainly need to verbalize how appreciative we are of the team. We have to let them know that we see their hard work, we value them and recognize their efforts. However, hearing a positive accolade and saying a positive accolade are two totally different things when it comes to brain chemistry. When you hear something positive it does make you happy. When you verbalize something positive you must create a thought in your own brain and then take the time to construct it into words. This has a much greater impact on the chemistry of your brain and the production of more positive thoughts then simply hearing something positive.
Whether it be yourself or the team, before someone leaves the hospital you should require them to verbalize something good that happened during that day. It may be a struggle to find something if the day was really difficult. But finding the win and really believing in that win is very important to leaving the hospital with less stress. When you leave the hospital with less stress you are less likely to bring work home.
Challenge every member of the team to stop and say something positive before walking out the door. If this becomes a routine for the team what ends up happening is they start thinking about that positive statement they're going to make before they walk out the door. Now they're getting their mind in a more positive place way before they're ready to even leave.
Shifting From Transitions
“Create an intention of what you want to happen.”
In his best seller, High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard describes managing transitions. This is where you create an intention of what you want to happen before you move on to the next event. You want to purposely think about the next event and what you want it to be like.
As you walk out of the hospital door, stop, close your eyes and breathe down from ten. Think about how you are going home and think about the goal that you want to happen when you get home. “When I get home I will say hello to my kids, hug them and ask them about their day.” When you get out of your car at your house, repeat the same process. Open the door to your home and now perform your intention. By setting an intention of something that you really want to happen after work you're more likely to obtain it. It could be that you want to set an intention to have an amazing walk with your dog once you get home. Set that intention and your transition from work to home will improve.
Set a Time Limit
Everyone needs the opportunity to vent and feel like they have a support system for situations that are less than ideal. Whoever that person is for you if you see them on a daily basis talk about setting a time limit that both of you adhere to when it comes to talking about work. Agree to only talk about work for only 10, 15, or maybe 20 minutes. At the end of that time the work talk is over and then the focus on something fun and more enjoyable needs to happen. Setting a time limit still allows you to express your frustration, sadness or anger but allows it to be productive and not spiral out of control. It also allows the other individual to truly listen and be engaged. They know there will be a stopping point to the venting . They are much more likely to be supportive if they know it's not going to be the entire evening focused around work conversation.
Before You Go To Bed
Before you go to bed you can also set yourself up for success the next day. Put a sticky note on your pillow with the words of something that you really love. As you go to bed when you see the sticky note that says “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup” or “Fluffy Mc. Pants” it will make you smile. It's hard to think about your dread of going back into work the next day when you're thinking about your cat, kids, or chocolate.
Many find it helpful to write in a gratitude journal. There has been a lot of research that indicates writing three things that you are grateful for before bedtime allows you to get a better night's sleep. If writing is not your thing, consciously thinking of a few things that you are truly grateful for and it will set you up for a more restful sleep.
It’s Hard, But It Starts With Wanting Change
Who doesn't want to leave work at work? Most everyone does. However, veterinary medicine is a field full of emotions and burnout. Just walking out the door and simply forgetting about it is difficult. It is hard to make a change and truly get into a mindset where we forget about work when we walk out the door. However, it starts with wanting that change and then finding little ways to reshape our minds as we leave the hospital. There are plenty of ideas and suggestions out there and these are just a few. Find one that works for you and hold on to it so that you can go home and truly enjoy life outside of work. As a leader, have this greater conversation with your team and encourage them to do the same.
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