Vetlink Employment Service

Taking care of your mental health – Part 2: Isolation, work–life balance & gratitude

Last time, we raised the issue of mental health concerns within the veterinary profession and discussed the role of a good support network in maintaining a healthy mindset. This week, we focus on the importance of avoiding isolation, maintaining a balance between work and the rest of your life, and the value of gratitude.

Avoiding isolation

Humans haven’t evolved to be solitary creatures. Even the most introverted among us benefit from regular contact with other people. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to find yourself isolated from family and friends, particularly when you’re working long hours or have moved to a new area for work. Loneliness and fatigue are a particularly bad combination for your mental health, so it’s important that you do what you can to avoid isolation.

It can be difficult to keep in touch with family and friends when you’re super busy and don’t get the opportunity to see them as much as you used to. Making the effort to stay in contact through regular phone calls, Zoom sessions and social media helps keep you in the loop and stay involved in each other’s lives, so it’s easier to take up where you left off when you do catch up in person.

One of the easiest ways to avoid isolation is to avoid living alone. Life in a share house doesn’t just offer financial benefits; it also gives you the opportunity for regular social interaction outside of work. When you have to move for a new job, your work colleagues should be able to point you in the right direction to find suitable shared accommodation nearby, especially if you’re in a regional area. Alternatively, there are plenty of websites that advertise rooms in established share houses or profiles of potential housemates.

Actively reaching out to create new social networks is another critical element for helping you to settle in a new area. Whether it’s the netball or footy team, book club or a community group, it’s a way to connect with others who share a common interest. Feeling like a valued member of a community outside the confines of the clinic also helps you to feel more at home and less isolated.

Maintaining a life outside of work

Veterinary work can be physically and mentally demanding. Some days, you can be so exhausted after work all you want to do is flop on the couch. While you need to make sure you get enough rest on your days off and weekends, don’t fall into the habit of spending all your downtime hanging out at home doing mundane chores.

The concept of work-life balance might be a bit of a cliché, but for good reason. Sure, it’s important that you’re dedicated to your job, but if it’s at the expense of building a life outside of work, it’s rarely sustainable and you’ll probably be miserable.

So when you do have time off work, make sure you get out and do something enjoyable. Meet a friend for lunch at that new café you’ve been meaning to try, go see a funny movie, schedule a regular bike ride or plan a weekend road trip away; it doesn’t matter what you do, just make it something fun – and ensure you follow through and do it.

While we’re on the topic of time away from work, don’t forget about annual leave. It might seem like it’s never convenient for you to take some time off, but believe it or not your employer does actually want you to take holidays rather than accrue week upon week of leave. If you avoid taking leave during the busiest times of the year and give your boss plenty of notice, they’ll be more than happy for you to have a break. And you benefit from having something on the horizon to look forward to!

Be grateful and do something for others

When you’re working really hard or feeling a bit flat, it can be tempting to dwell on the things you don’t have, like free time, a good social life or job satisfaction. While it’s completely normal to feel this way at times, shifting your mindset to focus on what you do have can help you feel much more positive and, in doing so, boost your wellbeing and happiness.

It might sound a bit vague, but the concept of gratitude is gaining momentum as an important aspect of positive psychology. If you’re wondering how, exactly, you might go about expressing gratitude, here are some suggestions:

  • Thank people who help you or do you a favour. You’d be surprised how often good deeds go unacknowledged, so when you make a point of thanking a colleague for making you a cup of tea or give an exaggerated wave to a fellow driver for letting you in the traffic queue, you might just make their day!
  • Spend some time doing things for other people. This doesn’t just help them out, it makes you feel really good about yourself, too. You might volunteer for a local charity or community group, or take an elderly relative or neighbour for an outing.
  • Begin a gratitude journal. Write down three good things that happen or you are grateful for each day – it could be a sunny day, a well-behaved patient or a joke that made you laugh your head off – then take the time to read through them at the end of each week.
  • Truly appreciate your brain. It’s a very complex and powerful organ, and while it might give you grief at times, you wouldn’t be where you are today without it!

What’s next?

Keep a look out for next week’s instalment on mental health, where we’ll provide some tips on stress management and getting enough sleep.

If this article has raised any concerns, remember help is available:

Lifeline, 13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au
Suicide Call Back Line 1300 659 467
Samaritans Anonymous Crisis Support line, 135247, www.thesamaritans.org.au
Beyond Blue, 1300 22 46 36, www.beyondblue.org.au
Kids Helpline (aged 5-25), 1800 55 1800, kidshelpline.com.au
Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL) 1300 555 788

Last Updated: May 2024

DISCLAIMER: The above information is for guidance purposes only. Vetlink takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information, which is not intended as advice. We recommend you take advice from a suitably qualified professional. Vetlink takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information and does not endorse any individual or organisation. It is your responsibility to determine the suitability and qualifications of any individual or organisation.