Wellbeing, From The Ground Up: The Physical Dimension of Wellness
By Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW, Chief Happiness Officer, VETgirl
In today’s VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, VETgirl’s Chief Happiness Officer, Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW reviews the physical dimension of wellness in veterinary medicine. Where do we start?
Physical wellbeing means taking care of the vessel from which we serve others (our patients, our clients, our colleagues, our loved ones). It also means making time to tend to our core physical needs, which have to be met before we can develop sound relationships, achieve our goals, and fulfill our purpose.
Even as I say this, I’m aware it is easier said than done.
#exhausted #passthecheetos #notimetopeetoday
Being physically capable of managing the day-to-day load of veterinary practice requires cultivating strength, energy, endurance and flexibility. Interestingly, those qualities form the foundation for staying cognitively sharp, emotionally balanced, and interpersonally functional -- all of which are also required in high pressure, high performance service environments.
So let’s think of this as preparing – and maintaining – our bodies to support optimum performance, both at work and at home. To do this, we need to give our bodies the core things they need to function: water, oxygen, glucose, movement and rest. But how do we do a better job at fitting physical wellness into our crazy busy lives? Believe it or not, there is some low hanging fruit on this tree, so we’ll start there first.
1. Drink more water. It can be fancy, fizzy, fruited… but drink it reliably and often. Dehydration is linked to any manner of complications, including brain fog, weakness and headaches. Drinking more water is one of the easiest ways to improve your wellness. And you can literally do it on the run, on the road, and in between appointments. My own personal rule is “no caffeine after 11:00am” – and I can only have wine with my dinner if I’m well-hydrated (alcohol dehydrates and also interferes with sleep… see #5).
2. Breathe. Seriously. Oxygen is critical for physical and cognitive function. Your breath is also a built-in pause button, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system and your natural calming response. Stand/sit up straight and take a deep belly breath simply because you can. Better yet, take a deep belly breath in the midst of chaotic situations, and you will find that you feel (and think) better.
3. Choose fuel wisely. Eat healthy, balanced meals (multiple small meals per day are ideal), and surround yourself with healthy snacks that make it easier to maintain consistent energy on the run. The science behind the brain-gut connection is building every day; sorting out fact from fad takes more time than we have in this blog, but suffice it to say that eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods is better for your body and likely better for your cognitive and emotional health, as well.
4. Move your body. Anything that builds flexibility and increases in respiration/heart rate will help you to discharge the stress that builds up over the course of a busy work day. The good news: interval training is efficient and effective, and there are multiple free apps that can get you in the habit of doing short workouts. All of us can find 7-10 minutes per day to get moving. Pair a short workout with a dog walk, a wall sit, or chair stretches, and you are well on your way to building a healthier body.
5. Last, but not least… sleep. I hate talking about sleep with busy professionals (especially working parents) because it’s the subject most likely to get me booed out of a room. Let’s be honest: most American adults don’t get eight hours of sleep per night. It’s also true, though, that sufficient sleep is critical for memory, emotional regulation, and peak performance. Regardless of where (and how long) you work, you can set yourself up for better rest by following these tips:
• Shut down your screens -- including your smart phone -- for 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
• Reduce the temperature in your sleeping quarters (cooler temps stimulate sleep).
• Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption, as both are sleep antagonists.
• Stick to a bedtime routine, and try not to swap shifts if you work overnights.
• Save the bedroom for sleep and sexy time. Binge watching and Fortnite are not recommended bedroom activities... don’t punish the messenger, people.
• If your mind keeps you awake at night, try a little bit of journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation before hitting the sack.
• If you just can’t manage more than a handful of hours of sleep, try power napping. Power naps of 10-30 minutes can work wonders.
So let’s put physical wellbeing in a nutshell. Sip, stretch and move every 20-30 minutes, and add 7-10 minutes of exercise to your schedule, 1-2x per day. Eat – and snack— wisely. Breathe mindfully. Develop a solid sleep routine. We cannot serve from a broken vessel, so taking care of the body first is the key to wellbeing, from the ground up.