3 Rare and effective strategies to avoid and overcome veterinary burnout

Have you ever second-guessed your decision to become a veterinary professional because you are feeling physically, emotionally, or mentally exhausted? 
If so, you are not alone! There are 3 things that helped me overcome my burnout that I wish I knew while I was a vet student, and that I wish I knew when I was seeing 25-35 cases/day as a new grad. Once I learned these, life and vet med became WAY easier and more enjoyable!
More importantly, some of the mainstream suggestions for overcoming burnout may not be as useful as they're meant to be. 
However, there are some strategies that address the root problem of your burnout, and you're going to discover 3 of them in this article. 
Some of the commonly recommended burnout solutions are: 
  • take more vacation
  • get more sleep
  • take more time off
  • do something relaxing like yoga or meditation
  • the classic “get more exercise” 
These are ALL EXCELLENT STRATEGIES, but they probably aren’t the solutions to your underlying problems. 
They’re all SO TEMPORARY! 
Are you going to vacate for the whole year? 
Are you going to sleep for 24 hours a day? 
Guess what, when you get home from that vacation, the pre-vacation problems will still be there
When you wake up from your 10 hours of sleep, you’ll just be more energized and more awake to deal with the crap that you have in your life situation! 
I don't know about you, but I don't want to only solve my problems temporarily by sleeping more and vacating more - though I do love to vacate... especially to places with nice beaches like this one...
This is me in Negril Jamaica! I LOVE beaches like this and vacation, but I KNOW that there aren't enough nice beaches and vacations in the world to truly resolve vet med-related burnout.
This is me in Negril Jamaica! I LOVE beaches like this and vacation, but I KNOW that there aren't enough nice beaches and vacations in the world to truly resolve vet med-related burnout.
You can exercise all you want, but you’re going to be miserable with six-pack abs if that’s all that you change! 
So, while I do encourage exercise, yoga, vacation, and getting plenty of sleep, I strongly suggest that you incorporate the 3 strategies in this article for the ULTIMATE burnout crushing game plan!

I’ve been there

I know what it feels like to try to vacate your way out of unfavorable circumstances and conditions. It doesn’t work. 
I know what it’s like to invest in an expensive bed and sleep-in until 7:30 before rolling out of bed to go to work. It really doesn’t work. 
Unless you have some spiritual awakening or esoteric insight during your sleep or unless you learn something revolutionary on your vacation or during your time off, you’re going to end up exactly where you started when you return/wake-up. You already know this to be true. 
Perhaps you’re in better spirits for a few days, weeks, or maybe even a couple of months after you return, but you know as well as I do, that the pain and the struggle just seem to come right back. 
Let me be VERY clear: 
You cannot vacate, time off, sleep, or meditate your way through a shitty life situation. 
Likewise, you cannot sleep your way to the life of fulfillment and inner peace that you desire. My intuition tells me that such a thing has never happened in the entire age of the universe. 

There's good news! There’s always good news! 

You are about to uncover 3 strategies for overcoming burnout that is damn near free, super effective, and are permanent in their efficacy. 
Yet, people rarely talk about these during wellbeing talks. In vet med, I sometimes feel that it’s almost heresy to talk about these things. 

These strategies are universal and evergreen

It doesn’t matter whether you have burnout or some other life struggle. These strategies are evergreen and work in many situations. 
These are the strategies that you can use to obtain just about anything in life and vet med - especially a life of wellbeing! 

3 strategies for handling burnout and other things

1. All hands on deck! Immerse yourself in all things burnout/wellbeing!

Study like you’re trying to get your DVM/PhD in burnout. Better yet, proceed like you’re trying to get your DVM/PhD in wellbeing! 
Why? You're going to learn so many different strategies and tools for living a life free of burnout that you can enjoy! 
It just makes sense! For the same reason, a cardiologist understands the heart better than a mechanic or general practitioner, you will understand wellbeing and inner peace better than the current version of yourself who isn't relentlessly studying wellbeing!
Wellbeing PowerNote: What you really want is wellbeing. It appears that you want to be free of burnout, but what you’re searching for are inner-peace and fulfillment. You’re searching for a life of balance. That’s what wellbeing is! So instead of fighting against burnout, fight for what it is that you want - wellbeing! That which you focus on will EXPAND in your life!
For example: 
If I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, I’d do a lot of things that I’m not doing right now: 
  • I'd talk to people who are already vet surgeons and pick their brains
  • I’d find surgery mentors
  • I'd read surgery books
  • I’d go to surgery conferences or go to the surgery lectures at the AVMA conference and at VMX 
  • I’d attend webinars about vet surgery
  • I'd look into how to become a board-certified surgeon
  • I’d watch lots of YouTube videos about being a surgeon
  • I’d shadow people who do the types of surgeries I want to do
  • I’d listen to surgery podcasts
  • I’d join Facebook groups and social media groups that talk about surgery
  • I’d try to find friends who loved surgery
  • I’d try to find people who were interested in becoming board certified in surgery and try to help them succeed. 
  • I’d be more in-tune with my surgeries as a general practitioner
In essence, I’d IMMERSE myself in veterinary surgery if I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon! 
You can do the same thing with wellbeing: The only difference is that prioritizing and cultivating wellbeing is WAY easier and costs way less! 
If someone were to look at your thoughts and actions, would they be able to tell that you were a person who valued wellbeing? 
Or, would they see someone who isn’t taking any type of action towards a life free of burnout and full of wellbeing? 
Why am I HERE_.png

2. Re-evaluate your purpose, clarify, and idealize 

Set aside time daily to evaluate your life purpose. 
Are you currently living a purpose-driven life? 
What is your life purpose? Is it to treat animals? Is it to do something other than veterinary medicine? 
Is it to do vet med and something else? 
When I was feeling burnt out, I DID NOT have a feeling of purpose. I really didn't know why I was doing what I was doing.
DEDICATE TIME TOWARDS THIS UNTIL YOU FIGURE IT OUT IF YOU DON'T KNOW CLEARLY ALREADY! THIS IS VITAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For example, my life’s purpose is to help people through helping animals and to help animals by helping veterinary professionals find inner-peace and fulfillment in their work lives and home lives. 
Everything I do in life is in some way directed towards that purpose!
How much time have you spent looking into your true purpose in life? 
You must clarify your purpose. You must clarify what your “why?” is. 
Your purpose will pull you through those tough moments because you will know why you’re here on Earth! You’ll know why you wake up each morning! You’ll know what it (life) is all about! 
Lastly, once you have your purpose in mind, or as you’re trying to figure things out, start to do what I call “idealizing”. Vet tech and mindfulness expert, Renee Machel, and I discuss idealization basics in this video and we go over a 7 step process to effectively idealize in this video
Idealization is the process by which you map out how your life would be if you could wave a magic wand and get things exactly the way you want them to be. 
For example, maybe you determine that you want to just be a veterinarian. That is very vague. 
Technically, you can succeed at 'being a vet', but end up in a hospital where your boss is an asshole, you are underpaid, your coworkers hate you, your clients are broke, and the caseload is ridiculous! 
But, all you said is that you wanted to 'be a vet'. 
Rather, map out the details of your ideal veterinary experience. Know exactly what it is that you want for your veterinary experience. 
As you begin to idealize and eventually visualize what you’ve created in your mind and written down, you will be able to either find it or create it. Guaranteed. 
The veterinary experience that I have now is EXACTLY the one I idealized and visualized years ago! Even more surprisingly, it kind of fell into my lap. When I saw it, I instantly knew that I had found what I was looking for! 
You've got THIS!.png

3. Believe in yourself

Most importantly of all, you must believe in yourself, and here’s why: 
Years ago, you decided that you wanted to be a veterinarian or vet tech. You found experiences in vet med as a pre-vet/tech student. You took many pre-requisite classes that helped you build a ‘foundation’ for becoming a vet/tech. 
You paid a LOT of money to go to school (and maybe even undergrad), but you knew where you wanted to go. 
You studied HARD in veterinary/tech school and endured the long nights and large volumes of information. 
You passed the courses, graduated, and now you are treating animals, helping clients, and saving lives! 
That was at least a long process, and you put a lot of time, money, and energy into it! 
Just imagine if you put even a fraction of that into YOUR wellbeing, self-care, and personal development… 
What would THAT end result look like? 
I’d love to see what you would look like if you believed in yourself and went all in! 
I’m sure your friends, family, co-workers, clients, patients, the profession, and the entire world would benefit from YOU finding the life of inner-peace that I know you want for yourself. 
As a matter of fact, I challenge you to believe in yourself and start taking action towards your best life. 
An easy way to start is by enrolling in Get MotiVETed University for FREE! You can enroll today and start listening to our robust and deluxe veterinary wellbeing podcast episodes today!  
I challenge you to make burnout a thing of the past in your life. 
I challenge you to immerse yourself in all things wellbeing. 
I challenge you to prioritize YOU! 
As the wise carpenter said on a mountain: “It is done unto you, as you have believed.” 
If you're ready to take a deep dive into wellbeing, we invite you to join the GMU community, your one-stop-shop for all things veterinary wellbeing related!