You must give your brain a break!
I hear it. You are too busy to take a break. I have been there myself. For many of us, our veterinary hospitals are experiencing record high caseload counts. We are stretched thin and barely able to keep our heads above water. We are provided breaks by our state and federal governments, but the reality is very few of us get the time to sit down, relax and enjoy our breaks. Our patients pull on our heart strings and our clients need our compassion to get through a difficult time. We give to our team, our pets and our clients often to the detriment of ourselves.
But seriously, I don’t want to hear about how you have no time for a break and here’s why.
“Start thinking about ways you can free your mind from the thoughts of work.”
Stop the Excuses
Too often we just need to finish “one more thing” and then we will take a break. The problem is, there is no end to the things we need to do in our day. If we never stop and take our brain off of work, we will never get a break. Certainly there are true emergencies in which you cannot take a break, but the rest of the day toddles along at a fast pace. If you don’t pull yourself out of the fast lane you will be trapped in it and not able to take care of yourself.
A break doesn’t have to be 30 minutes or 15 minutes. It can be a short, unstructured amount of time. Studies have shown that taking 10 minutes every other hour results in less medical mistakes and less burnout in registered nurses. Short, microbreaks have been shown to improve your ability to concentrate and help you avoid injury. These things are imperative to allow us to get out of the way of the angry feline patient coming at us with all its weapons drawn. We need our wits about us in order to be the best veterinary professional.
Stop thinking a break needs to be 15 or 30 minutes in which you sit down. Start thinking about ways you can free your mind from the thoughts of work.
It starts with distracting your brain from the work stress. Too often, when you take a break to eat food, you are shoveling down your food with lightning fast speed and still thinking about what is happening in the clinic. As you eat you are really focused on that next surgery, the next client coming in, or the next catheter you need to place. You are not really taking a break. You may be fueling your body with food, but your mind is just as stressed as it has been.
Find a physical activity to take your mind off of work. Some of these include
· Lunch time planking challenge: The team drops to the ground and planks
· Dance-off: Pick a song with known dance moves and get the team to dance (macarena, chicken dance, electric slide, country line dancing)
· Coloring books
· Challenge each other to a “best of three” tic-tac-toe challenge
· Walk around the clinic outside and count how many birds you see
· Have a room set up with arts/crafts to get creative with
· Place a punching bag in the breakroom and punch away for 5 minutes
· Work on a puzzle
· Quiet meditation and focus on your breath
· Stretch and focus on your breathing and body
· Write what you are grateful for in a journal
The key is you must truly take your mind off of work. It’s hard to focus on work when you see your coworker busting a dance move or planking. Each one of the above suggestions last less than 5 minutes, but are fun and meant to take your mind away from the stress of the day. While I am not a fan of taking your mind off of work by using cell phone technology, there is likely some therapy that occurs when playing 5 minutes of a viral internet game or flipping through social media. Whatever it is, get your mind off of work! Otherwise you missed the point of the break.
Give Yourself & Each Other Permission
A hospital told me of a wonderful idea they had to try to get individuals to take small breaks. They created permission slips. Too often we feel guilty about taking a few moments to ourselves away from our team. Too often we want others to take their breaks before ours. Create a permission slip system. Throughout the day when it is obvious that someone needs a break give them a permission slip
“You Have Permission to Take a 10 Minute Break”
Imagine if your coworker handed you a slip and said, “go take a break.” That would make you feel cared about and like it truly was okay to give yourself 10 minutes. Now go take care of yourself and when you return give a permission slip to one of your coworkers.
If you are in a leadership role you must promote a culture of breaks. Too often leaders fail to take breaks for themselves so the team views it as a “weakness” if they take a break. In some hospitals team members chastise another member if they dare take a break. NOT taking breaks is abnormal. It doesn’t make you tough, better or more dedicated to suffer the entire day without a break. It results in burnout, anger, despair. All of that results in veterinary professional quitting or leaving the professional entirely. Take care of yourself and each other. No matter how you take your mind off of work, be sure to do so. Ideally take a small microbreak every other hour so you can be a better veterinary professional to your pets, clients, team and yourself.
In conclusion, take your #$@! breaks.
Accept the challenge.
Check out my rant about breaks on my Facebook page: