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Let the Stress BEGIN! #JustBreathe

July 16, 2020

Do you feel like you are continually in the state of Fight or Flight? Do you walk in the door of your veterinary hospital thinking, “Let the stress BEGIN!”?

Who knew being in a constant state of the Sympathetic Nervous System (Fight or Flight) all the time can be so detrimental to our health and career? This is when the body is stressed. When the body is churning and burning in the release of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol.

The other day, while sitting in on a class delivered by Dr. Leann Benedetti, Let’s Live a Smarter, Safer and Healthier Life, I began putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), cortisol, stress and the power of Mindful Breathing. An epiphany for me! 

This is what I learned and am eager to share with veterinary teams so they too can find peace in each day, within a matter of minutes, offsetting all the stress response we experience throughout the day in the delivery of veterinary medicine. It’s a lovely, easy gift to give and receive. #JustBreathe

The mechanics of Stress (SNS)

“Behind the wide range of both physical and mental reactions to stress are a number of hormones that are in charge of adding fuel to the fire,” writes Sarah Klein in her article discussing the 3 major stress hormones.

Check all that apply:

____ Feeling in a state of conflict, or defense, when relaying a treatment plan to a client

____ Heart racing when you notice your manager sends you a text message at 9:00 PM

____ You feel a pit in your gut when you realize the oxygen tank is empty without a backup

____ Realization the incoming client ripped you a new one last time they were in

____ Uncovering a financial mistake that will take a long-winded conversation with a client

____ Feeling the tension and stress rise in a scared dog that is on the verge of being aggressive

____ Having to give immediate feedback to a co-worker that you want to avoid altogether

We are wired to stay safe, protect our lives and loved ones, and recognize the danger in a way to respond to it. The examples may cause anxiety, defensiveness, or some level of stress. Is it any wonder veterinary team members feel in a perpetual fight or flight mode? We are constantly bombarded with scenarios or conversations that make us uneasy at the least and maybe even nauseous at the most.

What we are feeling are the rise and fall of hormones. Adrenaline can peak when there is a perceived danger. Norepinephrine may kick in when there is a need to be more focused or heightened alertness. When someone continually frets about the future or worries about the past, their cortisol levels may be elevated which can cause issues over the long run. Veterinary team members may be firing all these hormones, unconsciously churning and burning, fueling the fire in an unhealthy manner.

Does this describe you? A continual state of stress in a day?

The mechanics of Calm Relief (PNS) 

On the flip side of stress is a peace and calm. A state of mind in which you can create with intent and practice.

When in a Parasympathetic Nervous System state, the body can function normally, repair and rejuvenate. In creating the space for peace and calm, we give the gift of sanity, a needed sanctuary from daily stresses. This can be accomplished through several healthy practices, yoga, exercise, meditation and even mindfulness.

Anna Bohren states, “When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, our brain has short-term and long-term benefits. The short-term benefits can be a release of de-stressing hormones like prolactin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and acetylcholine. Our brains get a chance to relax and feel more at peace.”2

Mindful Breathing 

Now for this to come full-circle and tie it into the Mindful Breathing. As we stepped into COVID-19, I was stepping into a new coaching experience, one in which an exercise was to practice daily meditation. I began joining the Zoom The Next-Level Coaches at 9:30 in the morning for 30 minutes and reaped the benefits of gamma (DTM) breathing. Without going into too many details, essentially I was creating the state of parasympathetic calm and oxygenating my body at the same time. ALL GOOD STUFF! I simply continued the practice because I felt the positive shift in my focus, creativity and productivity.

Then, during Dr. Benedetti’s class, she gave all the examples of veterinary teams being in the Fight or Flight mode. That’s when I had my epiphany!  Through Mindful Breathing and/or guided meditations, we can literally train our brain to de-escalate, find the point of calm, and create a place to repair and rejuvenate, in a short period of time.

Yes, veterinary team members can learn how to build resiliency and rebound from the constant bombardment of stress. A commitment to as little as a few minutes a day can reset your sympathetic to your parasympathetic system! This can become an individual or group activity. The point is, give it a try. Commit to 10 minutes a day or a few days a week to start the healthy habit. Set a reasonable goal, make it actionable and consistent. In the moment, find the calm to success.

You are invited to join us weekdays for Mindfulness & Gratitude sessions (free of charge) at 7:30 Mtn Time. We help you find your peace and calm by engaging in a 7-minute breathing meditation, gently supported in your practice.

Yours in #JustBreathe,
Rebecca Rose, CVT, Certified Career Coach

  1. Adrenaline, Norepinephrine & Cortisol: The Three Major Stress Hormones Explained https://www.huffpost.com/entry/adrenaline-cortisol-stress-hormones_n_3112800
  2. Parasympathetic Nervous System; A complete guide, https://blog.cognifit.com/parasympathetic-nervous-system/