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Managing stress – looking after yourself

We know stress is a problem in the veterinary profession, so what steps can you take to manage it? We asked Stuart Haydock, an organisational psychologist at Bupa, for some suggestions.

Managing stress blog

Stress is the response that happens when pressure exceeds the ability to cope. Some pressure may be motivating, especially at work. But if it’s too great, or too constant, we react negatively.

In the long term this can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Changing your environment

One way of tackling stress is by addressing your environment – seeing if you can reduce or remove some of the stressors that are causing you problems. We’ve already established that the profession is inherently challenging, so some of these steps will be easier than others, depending on the exact nature of your work. But it’s important to take control where you can. Even small changes can build up to have a positive effect.

Leave work at work

Increasingly we’re able to access work from home. Checking your email outside work hours may be linked to higher levels of stress. So try and set some clear boundaries, and don’t check your emails during your ‘me time’.

Nurture relationships

Quality of relationships is a key factor in mental health, so it’s important to get along with those you spend a lot of time with. Make an effort to socialise and find common ground with colleagues.

Looking after yourself

There are also ways you can try and nurture your ability to cope with work pressures, and to improve your general wellbeing.

Get regular exercise

Exercise appears to release serotonin, a ‘happy hormone’ that makes you feel good, and it’s thought that being physically active can reduce your risk of mental health problems.

Watch your drinking

You may handle stress with a couple of drinks at the end of the day. But this won’t address the problem properly. In fact, drinking heavily over time will increase your risk of anxiety and depression. Find more information on alcohol and health.

Learn some relaxation techniques

There are things you can do to actively try and de-stress. This could be as simple as basic breathing exercises, or more involved approaches like mindfulness or yoga. Check out Bupa's website for information from our experts.

Ask for help if you need it

If you’re feeling really stressed, don’t suffer in silence. If you’re employed, speak to your line-manager in the first instance. Remember, employers have a duty of care to look after your health and wellbeing. If the effects of stress (like feeling anxious or low) are affecting your daily life, make a GP appointment.

Putting yourself first

When trying to tackle your stress, it helps to have an underlying mindset of putting yourself first. You may find this difficult... as a vet your whole job is based around helping others. But it’s important to think of the bigger picture. Staying happy and healthy will allow you to perform to your best, helping your customers in the long run.


This information was published by BVA on behalf of Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence.

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