Tag Archive for: wellbeing

Graphic illustration of workplace activity with VN Futures and MMI logos

Mind Matters and VN Futures expand training collaboration

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and VN Futures project are expanding their training collaboration to include self-compassion and anxiety workshops.

MMI and VN Futures have a long-standing working relationship and their common aims have seen them work together in a number of different capacities over the past few years. This has included undertaking joint research into the wellbeing and mental health of veterinary nurses, running an online student wellbeing discussion forum and, as part of their recent training collaboration, coming together to expand the reach of MMI’s civility and psychological safety training sessions.

The newest addition to the training collaboration includes a number of new evidence-based workshops on anxiety and self-compassion.  

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “We know that working in the veterinary professions is challenging and evidence shows that veterinary professionals are at higher risk of suffering from common mental health problems such as anxiety and burnout than that of the general population.

“Using insights gathered from previous joint VN Futures and MMI ventures, we are proud to be expanding our training collaboration to provide targeted support which has the capacity to actively make a tangible difference to the professions.

“When it comes to mental health, wellbeing, and the curation of positive workplace cultures, there is no quick fix – it takes time and dedication from all involved. We are grateful for the support of VN Futures as we work together to help create this positive shift.”

Jill Macdonald, VN Futures Project Lead, said: “At VN Futures, we aim to ensure that veterinary nursing is a vibrant, rewarding and sustainable profession and supporting mental health and wellbeing is a vital part of this. Veterinary nurses are an essential part of the veterinary team and creating workplaces where the entire team is able to thrive and feel valued and respected is of utmost importance. Working with MMI to expand the reach of the civility and psychological safety training sessions has proven effective in promoting this concept.

“Like our civility and psychological safety training, our new anxiety and self-compassion workshops are open to everyone in the veterinary team and are designed to provide people with the skills needed to create long lasting, sustainable positive change.

“We hope delegates will find the sessions useful and will apply the skills they have learned to support themselves and those around them both now and in the future.”

Initial training dates are as listed below and will take place in person (sessions cost £15 per person):

For more training sessions, including the joint MMI and VN Futures Civility and Psychological Safety training sessions, visit our training page.

Abi Hanson

My Mind Matters Campfire Chats Reflections

When I first joined the RCVS as the Mind Matters Initiative Officer in June 2021, I, like many others found myself thrust into a new job and a new industry in a primarily virtual world.

The pandemic was still rife and finding that all important connection was more important than ever before. People had slowly started going back into workplaces, but everything was still very unpredictable. Everyone still had to be hugely cautious and making any in person connections was somewhat challenging.

That’s why I was delighted when I first heard about the Mind Matters Campfire Chats, which took off in January 2021 as a way of bringing the veterinary community together to speak about important topics that mattered most to them. I was even more excited (if not somewhat nervous as an industry newbie!) to hear that as part of my role I would be heading them up. I would be able to choose the content, the panellists and coordinate the whole of the upcoming series. We have now run a total of four Campfire Chat series and have had nearly 20 chats!

The great thing about the Campfire Chats, is that I can honestly say I have left every single chat feeling more positive than I did when joining the call. All the panellists and attendees have been so open and honest that each and every chat has become a really positive shared experience of learning and growing together.

Mental health has always been something extremely close to my heart, and whilst there are undoubtedly some wellbeing challenges that are more specific to the veterinary professions, mental wellbeing is something that unites us all. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or which sector we work in, we must all learn to look after our mental wellbeing. No wellbeing challenge is unique to one specific person or one specific profession.

This is why we were really eager to have a wide range of voices included in these conversations, from both within and outside of the veterinary world. It is all too easy for us to make assumptions about the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others, which is why it is so important to gain a range of perspectives on a number of different issues.

None of our Campfire Chats are ever recorded as we like to keep them as intimate as possible – people often feel less comfortable opening up if they know they are being recorded. We want the conversations to be authentic – as if we really are all sat round a real campfire having a genuine chat. The information shared is often really useful as we regularly invite experts to come and share their knowledge on a specific topic, but more often than not it’s just as interesting to see how people from different backgrounds perceive things in different ways. Varying human perspectives and experiences are fascinating and often provide value beyond knowledge alone. Learning to view things from others’ perspectives can teach us invaluable lessons.

Over the past year and a half, we have run sessions on a huge variety of topics, some summaries for which can be viewed on our Campfire Chats resource page. No matter what the topic, there are always valuable messages to take away from every chat. Some of my favourite takeaways from our panellists are as follows:

“Make sure you look after yourself and understand that you are more than your job. You are you, and that’s enough.”Overcoming Self-Doubt and Stressing Out

“Comparison is the thief of joy – there is no hierarchy when it comes to creativity so do whatever you want to do for you. Not for anyone else. It’s about the process and doing something that you find meaningful. Keep going until you find something that works for you.”The Joy of Creativity

“Being anxious, fearful, or worried is never a good thing, but it means you care. Caring makes you a bigger part of the solution than those who remain disinterested.”Combatting Climate Change Anxiety

“When we talk about differences amongst individuals, the focus is often on the challenges people face and the specific label which marks them as different. Not only is this degrading, but completely misses the point about how we as humans relate to one another.

If we turn the tables, there are so many positives to be found in difference. For example, those living with a disability are hugely resourceful and fantastic problem solvers because of the challenges they have had to learn to navigate in order to lead their lives.”Celebrating Diversity

“When you feel like you’re lacking confidence and everyone else appears self-assured, remember that everyone is feeling the same inside. Appearing confident and feeling confident are not the same thing.”Navigating Change

Despite being online, there is something distinctly different about the MMI Campfire Chats – they’re not just there to provide information but, as the above quotes show, to appeal to people on a real human level. Having recently moved into the RCVS communications team, I am no longer involved in organising the chats but still attend to take notes to share after the events. I even ended up chairing a couple of the sessions which is something I had never done before! I couldn’t imagine a more welcoming or rewarding environment in which to host an event for the first time. I was initially worried that, as a junior member of staff, I wouldn’t be senior enough to lead, but that’s part of what makes the campfire chats so brilliant – they’re for everyone as human beings, and that comes before any job title or self-imposed idea of status.

To come full circle, the Campfire Chats are all about pausing to share, learn, and grow together. This is something that is all too often forgotten in our busy hectic lives, but something that is essential in forging a collective sense of wellbeing. When we stop and listen for a while, it gives us the space to realise that we are all more similar than we might think. The Campfire Chats have proven that even when we haven’t been able to be together physically, we can always find common ground. Meaningful connection is a fundamental part of being human and speaking authentically about topics which impact each and every one of us, is something that will always unite us.

Graphic of a a log fire on a green MMI background

Letting Go of Perfect

Working hard and doing your best is never a bad thing. However, consistently setting unrealistic standards for yourself and constantly striving for perfection can have a hugely damaging effect on your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth. This, in turn, leads to an increased vulnerability to developing certain psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

In this Campfire Chat, we discussed why so many of us feel the need to achieve perfection, why it’s important for us to try and stop being so hard on ourselves, and the ways in which we can start letting go of perfect.

Key discussion points in the Campfire Chat included:

How would you define perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait that everyone has to some degree. Just like people can be more or less neurotic, people can be more or less perfectionistic. There are two core features of perfectionism:

  1. Setting overly high standards
  2. Being hugely self-critical

What are some perfectionistic traits and tendencies?

  1. Engaging in all or nothing thinking i.e., if I don’t achieve this really high standard that I’ve set for myself, then I have failed.
  2. Self-criticism – people who are high on perfectionism are very self-critical and chase after impossible standards which means they always fall short. High levels of perfectionism can be linked to having a greater risk of developing other mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
  3. A need to validate who you are through your accomplishments.
  4. Are concerned or have negative thoughts towards imperfection.

How can we recognise perfectionistic traits and tendencies in ourselves and others?

Generally, people are good at recognising perfectionism in themselves and others. However, when this isn’t the case, it is necessary to look at three things:

  1. How perfectionistic are your goals?
  2. Why are you aiming for them?
  3. How do you feel when you fall short?

People with high levels of perfectionism often have low self-esteem, as they rely on their achievements to give them value. When a perfectionist sets goals which are often unachievable, this can be very damaging for their self-esteem as they will always fall short of their own expectations.

People are multifactorial and levels of perfectionism vary from person to person. For example, new graduates may often feel anxious if they don’t match up to the idea of what they think they are meant to be.

Finding perspective can be difficult, particularly for the younger veterinary community. It’s difficult to be perfect in an ambiguous world – there is a gap between education and work. At school you know you have to learn a certain thing in order to gain a certain grade, whereas inevitably in the world of work you are more likely to suffer setbacks. It’s much less predictable.

Perfectionism can sometimes be associated with conscientiousness. However, doing your best isn’t a bad thing – it is the constant self-criticism that can cause damage.

Why do so many people feel the need to be perfect?

Perfection is the ideal that we have been presented with on a societal level – it is sometimes encouraged and even rewarded by society and can be considered a necessity to work at the highest level.

Perfectionism isn’t specific to any one group of people – however it can be exacerbated by certain environments i.e. peers, education, workplace, upbringing etc. In the veterinary sector, there is a certain pressure in that society holds vets to a particular standard i.e. they should love animals, should look and carry themselves in a certain way etc. Vet students then often use these expectations as barometers for what makes a good vet.

These societal expectations can become inextricably linked to how people see themselves which is inevitably damaging. In the campfire chat, panellist Fabian Rivers (a.k.a. DreadyVet) spoke about the fact that he has highlighted his dreadlocks as a part of who he is on social media and beyond – in his words, being known as DreadyVet shows how ‘he can still create value without being reduced down to his ethnicity’.

Vets are often stereotyped, and we all have a responsibility to humanise people working in the veterinary community.

How does perfectionism impact mental health?

Perfectionism isn’t a clinical disorder – it’s a characteristic. However, as you become more perfectionistic, this can lead you to become vulnerable to mental ill health.

There are recognised risk factors for high levels of perfectionism including for eating disorders, anxiety, and suicide. However, this is not to say that perfectionism causes any of these things as all mental health conditions are multifactorial. Excessive self-criticism, however, can often be indicative of mental health issues.

How can you support people who are perfectionists?

If you are worried about your mental health or the mental health of someone else, you should always consult a mental health professional. However, if you’re not experiencing a mental illness but would like to improve your perfectionism, there are lots of psychoeducational resources available. Talking to others about it can also help inform the way you think about yourself and others.

How can it impact our relationships?

Not only do perfectionists expect perfection from themselves, but from those around them too. This can lead to a lack of empathy, hostility, and an absence of social support. It creates a social disconnect as people deny themselves rich, rewarding, and supportive relationships.

It can also diminish trust as perfectionists always feel like nobody else will be able to meet their standards. This can easily cause fractured relationships as quite often, if someone is trying to be compassionate, a perfectionist may see this as interference and adding to the problem. This can become really damaging, especially when working in a high-pressured working environment, as when relationships start to break down, the repercussions can potentially be fatal.

Panellist Takeaways:

  1. We must all try to understand that whatever we are able to achieve is within our grasp and must be prepared to not achieve certain things that we have conceptualised. We grow when we are open to change. The learning process and benefits gained from our concerted efforts to achieve something is often more valuable than the result. Enjoy the process and don’t fixate on the goal.
  2. Perfectionism has few benefits and many costs both for you and for others. Having high standards isn’t a bad thing but you must enjoy your successes, your failures, and be proud of yourself.
  3. Talk about perfectionism and know you’re not alone in your feelings. If it starts to impact your mental health, talk to a mental health professional.

Further resources:

Books:

  • The Art of Being – Erich Fromm
  • Mans Search For Meaning – Frankl
  • The Art of Happiness – Tao Te Ching
  • Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world – Professor Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Perfectionism – Sarah J. Egan, Tracey D.Wade, Roz Shafron, Martin M. Antony
  • Overcoming Perfectionism: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behaviour Techniques – Sarah Egan Wade
  • Freeing Our Families from Perfectionism – Thomas Greenspon

Academic papers (free to access articles from panellist Professor Andrew Hill):

https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/view/author_id/861.html

Animations on Perfectionism:


Further support:

If you’re currently struggling with your mental health, Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551. Or if you prefer, you can send them a confidential email.

The Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or send a confidential email to jo@samaritans.org.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters Initiative focuses on new wellbeing webinar series

We are pleased to announce a new series of webinars to be hosted by The Webinar Vet, focusing on how to increase wellbeing.

The first webinar takes place on Thursday 13 December at 1pm and will focus on the link between psychological wellbeing and regular outdoor exercise. The webinar will be hosted by Oli Glackin, the RCVS Leadership Initiative Manager who is also a consultant in the psychology of exercise, and Nat Scroggie MRCVS, a keen marathon runner who is known for her blog, ‘This Vet Runs’. The webinar is titled, ‘”I know it’ll be good for me tomorrow”: physical activity, the elixir that’s just around the corner’.

The webinar will explore what is commonly known about the positive relationship between physical activity and psychological wellbeing and mental health, including details of exercise ‘dose’ and intensity. It will also focus on changing the way we approach physical exercise, the sorts of motivators that work for us individually, the introduction of fun and pleasure into the regime of exercise, and will seek to help participants improve their own relationship with exercise.

Nat Scroggie will also be speaking personally about her own journey with exercise and how it has had a positive impact on her wellbeing.

She said: “It’s been an absolute honour to be involved in promoting well-being in the veterinary profession, and to share my own story. Exercise has been my biggest tool in managing my first few years in practice. It has been a relief from the day to day stresses, whilst also giving me a challenge and identity outside of my working life. I’m a pretty average runner, but I recently ran my first marathon, something I never ever thought I could do. It’s hard to explain how much confidence those 26.2 miles have given me in my working life, even if it seems like it’s nothing to do with finally nailing a bitch spay.

“Making time to do something that’s great for your body, and your mind, is allowing yourself the time to prioritise you. As veterinary professionals we are brilliant at caring for our clients and patients, but it’s amazing what we can achieve when we allow ourselves that same compassion.”

Sign up to take part in this webinar, which can also count towards a veterinary surgeon’s or veterinary nurse’s continuing professional development.

In January 2019, the RCVS’ MMI project will be holding a series of webinars on the evening of the ‘Pre-Congress Associates Day’ on Friday 18 January 2019, ahead of the Webinar Vet’s Virtual Congress from Saturday 19 to Sunday 20 January.

The webinar series focus on veterinary wellbeing and are as follows:

  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Qualified accountant and wellbeing advisor Jo Stevens will present ‘How to stay positive in a negative world’.
  • 7.30pm – 8pm: Positive psychologist and professional wellbeing coach will present ‘How thinking positively makes life easier’.
  • 8pm – 8.30pm: Leadership coach and trainer Anne-Marie Svendsen-Aylott will talk about ‘Understanding the concept of “mindset” – a key to finding a more positive outlook.’
  • 8.30pm – 9pm: Dr Sara Tai, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, will be presenting ‘Living the life you want’.

Any member of the veterinary team is welcome to take part in the Webinar Vet Virtual Congress and the sessions being run by the RCVS. Visit the Virtual Congress website for more information, and to purchase tickets.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters to host International Virtual Congress session on mental health

We will be hosting a session on mental health as part of The Webinar Vet’s International Virtual Congress, on 19 January 2018 from 7pm to 9pm. This will be the third time that we have taken part in the International Virtual Congress and will see Stuart Reid, RCVS Council member and Chair of the MMI, chair a series of MMI-sponsored talks focusing on shame and blame, the ‘arrival fallacy’, and wellbeing in practice.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons launched Mind Matters to increase the accessibility and acceptance of mental health support, and encourage a culture that better equips individuals to talk about and deal with stress and related issues.

The session comprises three talks:

  • ‘The surprising truth behind genuinely living with passion and purpose,’ with Jenny Guyat, founder of Vet Harmony. This talk will review the research data on shame and vulnerability, and look at their impact on the veterinary professions.
  • ‘What’s your Ikigai? Overcoming the arrival fallacy and finding meaning in everyday life,’ with Jen Brandt, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Director of Member Wellness and Diversity Initiatives. In this webinar Jen will discuss how to identify and pursue values, rather than external goals.
  • ‘Happy you and happy team – change one thing and you could change your life’. In this webinar Rachel Duncan, co-director of 387 Veterinary Centre, will review some of the initiatives that helped make her practice one of the SPVS Wellbeing Award winners in 2017.

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “These online congresses are a great way to reach the many members of the veterinary team. We hope that a wide range of people will be able to listen and benefit from the speakers’ practical advice on identifying areas for personal development that can have a positive impact on their own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of their colleagues.”

Register now for the stream on The Webinar Vet’s website.