Veterinarian Interests   03/29/2023

Ten Ways to Get Out of a Veterinarian Funk

By Dr. Julie Cappel, DVM, The Veterinary Life Coach

Ten Ways to Get Out of a Veterinarian Funk

Do you ever wake up feeling not quite yourself? Not really depressed, but feeling unmotivated and unexcited? You’re not alone. Get help here.

To prevent a funk from worsening, it’s important to address it early. In this article, I provide 10 suggestions you can use to overcome a funk before it’s too late.

First, let me define what I mean by “funk.” You might wake up in a bad mood. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Maybe you’ve spent too much time around negative clients or coworkers and their vibe brought you down. Or, you may have had a crazy-busy day at work. Sometimes being stressed can trigger a funk.

Whether your veterinarian anxieties are short-lived— a day or less— or persist for days, understand that it’s totally normal. That doesn’t mean you should acquiesce to your funk. It’s essential to take steps to banish it before it takes over your life.

It’s also important not to beat yourself up. Honor your feelings and commit to do something about them.

What exactly? Here are 10 self-care tips that will help veterinarians of all experience levels. They’re in no particular order; just pick several that appeal to you and adopt them. If they don’t work, try others. The point is, don’t wait for your negative feelings to leave by themselves. Show them the door as soon as possible.

1. Avoid brain drama.

This occurs when you engage in comparing, criticizing or complaining behaviors. If you compare yourself to others, please stop! You are you and other people are other people. Everyone's journey is unique and beautiful. Comparing yourself to others and feeling bad about it is pointless.

Are you criticizing yourself or others? Stop doing this, too. Criticizing is negative behavior and will bring you down. The same holds true for complaining, which is an attempt to argue with reality. Reality always wins, so please accept your circumstances and avoid complaining about things you can’t change.

2. Do something creative.

Sometimes funks occur when you have suppressed energy. This can happen when you haven’t done anything fun or creative in a while. Remedy? Break out of your routine and try something like painting, photography, home decorating, drawing or journaling. Or, take an online class on an interesting topic. The point is to do something different that lifts you above the funk. The product of your effort doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; it just has to be creative and fun.

3. Express gratitude.

To combat your funk, take a moment to express or feel gratitude. This helps reprogram your brain. Reflect on what you love about your life. Call others to tell them you're grateful for them. Studies show expressing gratitude leads to improved health, more happiness, better relationships and even more income. With the state of student loans in our profession, earning more money right now would be beneficial and help lift your funk.

4. Connect with someone.

Try connecting with someone in person— not on social media. You might simply smile at a stranger or chat with someone at a store. You might call a friend or a family member to say hello. At work, you might ask colleagues how they're doing and really listen to their answers. Just getting outside your head by caring and speaking about others can be a powerful way to dispel negative feelings.

5. Make someone else's day.

Engage in random acts of kindness. You might pay for someone's coffee in the drive-thru lane. Maybe you pay for someone’s snack at your favorite coffee shop. Alternatively, you bring doughnuts or bagels to work and share them with your team. Has a colleague worked extra hard recently? Then give the person a thank you card. Or, simply invite friends out for coffee or dinner. Whatever the approach, offering yourself up to other people is a great way to work through a funk.

6. Share how you’re feeling.

Sometimes I think I'm in a funk for no reason. But, when I really take time to talk about it with either my husband, friend or coworker, it helps me pinpoint what’s going on. Once you identify the problem, it’s easier to reframe the situation in a more positive light. If you don’t have a good listener in your personal life, hire a coach or therapist with whom to discuss issues. Just escaping your own brain can be a great way to rid yourself of dark thoughts.

7. Create your own binky.

Babies need binkies— pacifiers —to calm themselves when they’re upset. The same is true for adults. We all have things that soothe us— either physical objects or activities that put us in a happy or energized place— and produce peace of mind. For example, if you play an instrument, sit down and play for a bit. I have a piano in my house because my kids both play. I took lessons when I was a kid, but I really don't play well. When I’m in a funk, though, I take out my beginner book and play some simple melodies. The act of sitting at the piano and challenging my brain to function in a different way helps neutralize my bad mood. Other adult binkies: puzzles, Rubik's Cubes, coloring books, LEGO bricks and more. Whatever your choice, opening yourself to a binky’s simple, relaxing pleasures should get you moving toward a more positive mood.

8. Dream a bit.

Allow yourself to daydream about something you’d rather be doing or somewhere else you’d rather be. It might never happen, but allow yourself to savor the possibility. Just thinking about it will transport your mind to a happier place. What would you do there? How would you feel when you were there? What would your face look like? Would you be smiling?

Another possibility is to dream in reverse. Recall pleasant times from the past. Remember how you felt when you got your first pet? Or, when your parents took you on a fantastic vacation? See if you can find photos from this experience, and write a story about it. As you ponder the past, allow your mind to savor the wonderful times you had. If you begin thinking about disappointing events, redirect your thoughts to something more positive. Allowing your brain to remember past joys increases positive brain hormones and reduces negative thought patterns.

9. Move your body.

Moving your body is a great way to feel better. You don't need a 30-mile bike ride or an hour-long Zumba session, but any exercise changes your disposition. If sweating turns you off, do something less strenuous. Still, I encourage you to sweat, because it always helps me feel lighter in my brain and body. When you have physical pain after working out, think of it as weakness— or even your funk— leaving the body. So, even if you’re not a habitual exerciser, challenge yourself to move in order to lift your spirits. It could be something as easy as walking for 10 minutes or doing mild stretches. Or, you might exercise with five-pound dumbbells. I keep a few hand weights in my living room. Sometimes they just sit there like paperweights, but, when I’m in a funk, I’ll pick them up and do a few repetitions. Within a few minutes, I can feel my heaviness begin to lift.

10. Breathe.

Anything that shifts your focus from your head to your body will reduce your sense of being out of control or overwhelmed. Physical exercise does this. So do mind practices, such as meditation or yoga. When you focus on your breathing, on relaxation, on quieting your mind, it will center you. It will dissipate stress, generate healthy brain hormones and move you away from funky thoughts. You don't need to meditate or do yoga for an hour. Start with a 10- or 15-minute session. Train yourself to become more aware of your breathing and body movements. Then, let your relaxation begin!

Hopefully, one or more of these ideas will help you escape your funk. If you’re currently experiencing one, I encourage you to try out these ideas. Let me know which work best for you. If you get stuck, feel free to reach out to me.

Finally, I’d like to close with a quote from the amazing Dolly Parton, who said, “If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.” The good news is that rain invariably ends and sunny, blue skies soon follow.

Dr. Julie Cappel, DVM, is a veterinarian and veterinary life coach. As a practicing small animal, avian and exotic veterinarian, business owner, wife and mother of two adult children, she has navigated the pressure of balancing a demanding veterinary career with a family life that is rich with experiences and love. She understands the feelings of being overworked, overweight, overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Through her coaching practice, she inspires veterinarians with compassion and humor to find themselves, grow their confidence and build the lives and careers they’ve always dreamed of. To learn more about Dr. Cappel, visit her website or listen to her podcast.

From 360 Coverage Pros, malpractice insurance for veterinarians is available for as little as $17.50 per month. Learn more on our website.