Start by Stopping

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In our last blog we explored the importance of prioritising wellbeing. Wellbeing is the foundation of feeling and functioning at our best, both in and out of work. In this blog, we look at the practicalities of wellbeing as an active process and what that can actually look like day to day.

Whilst there are various definitions, VetLed’s approach to wellbeing is holistic and can be categorised in many ways including physical, emotional, spiritual and social. For now, we want to focus on awareness as a first step to improving our individual wellbeing. 

Awareness? Yes, awareness of your body and mind in any given moment. Awareness of your environment and your interactions with it. Awareness of your tendencies, capabilities and limitations. Awareness comes in many forms and is a good starting point for addressing issues important to your wellbeing.

In the busy world of 2018, it is so easy to be completely caught up in ‘doing’. Doing the best job we can as veterinary professionals, doing the best for our friends, doing the school run, doing our online banking… doing, doing, doing. The problem with doing is that it can result in us living our lives highly focused on what is about to happen and worrying about what just happened. Much of the time, this is done in an ‘autopilot’ state. We forget to be present in the present!

Our brain’s default state is to subconsciously scan for threats and automatically react to them. This served us well in a world in which we depended upon survival, as was the case 200,000 years ago. However, most of the time in our modern world we have totally different ‘problems’ and it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of demands in our lives (e.g. work, financial, family). Couple this with the constant request for our attention that technology brings and unsurprisingly, our default mode of doing doesn’t serve us as well as maybe it once did. So now more than ever there is reason to sometimes adopt a new mode; that of ‘being’. 

Being is a state which, in many ways, is the opposite of doing. If doing is goal orientated and aimed to lessen the gap between how things are at present and how we want them to be, then being is devoted to achieving no particular goals. In this state, there is no need to be constantly evaluating, instead just allowing and accepting what is, without an urgent desire to do anything differently. 

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What does this mean in practical terms for you every day? Quite simply, it just means to stop what you are doing, to pause and to observe without judgement. This seemingly straight-forward task, like so many things, is actually sometimes quite difficult. Difficult because we simply forget. Until it is rehearsed and becomes routine most of us will need reminders and triggers to take moments such as these. 

‘Being’ is a skill and like any skill, it becomes easier and more effective with practice. Perhaps start by pre-planning a few moments each day when you will be uninterrupted. During that time, plan to briefly pause and observe something without assigning meaning or judgement. This could be how you physically or mentally feel, or simply what you can see, smell, taste or hear.

In essence, this is the foundation for mindfulness practice - something which has wide-reaching benefits and is intricately linked to wellbeing on many levels. However, at its most basic level, the focus is on taking a pause and interrupting your ‘doing’ mode for a few intentional moments each day. This allows us to develop a greater awareness, which is a great starting point. With awareness, we can start to notice our physical and emotional state and from there we can build on the positives and work to improve issues that may be holding us back.

Doing is an essential mode for succeeding and progressing in our modern world but sometimes stopping and taking a step back, whilst not intuitive, can ultimately allow us to ‘do’ more. 

And of course, feel better.

About VetLed

VetLed was founded to provide support to veterinary professionals who are faced with significant challenges every day. The VetLed team believe that creating a compassionate and professional workplace culture that puts people wellbeing and patient safety at the core of everything we do, will in turn, improve animal and people welfare. The VetLed performance approach supports veterinary professionals to maximise their own wellbeing and to fully utilise their skills to deliver optimal patient care.