Thrive Through the Holidays

November 19, 2020


The holidays can be stressful and your team experiences additional burdens during the upcoming months. How can you and your veterinary team support each other through this stressful time, especially while navigating the challenges due to COVID-19?

By identifying helpful measures, your team can not only get by but thrive during this particular season!

You may have realized, in the past, I have steered clear of focusing on the challenges the Global Pandemic has created, to a certain degree. We tend to focus on solutions for veterinary team members, in general. For this Blog, I felt it appropriate to identify the new hurdles because of COVID and solutions for the Holidays.

View a pre-recorded Holiday Open Forum Discussion with others from the veterinary community. We talked about preparation, keeping perspective, and managing expectations that were high on the solutions list to obstacles through the upcoming months. From that engagement we will further elaborate on:

  • Express Stressors, Name it to TAME it!
  • Prepare Ahead of Time – structure to events and expectations
  • Lower Expectations – keep things in perspective
  • Increased Euthanasia Services – debriefing may help
  • Be Grateful – even if you find it difficult

Mitigating the Stress

Express Stressors

The fact that we are having the discussion, now, is important! It may help, as a team, to name the stressors, identify helpful relievers, and have open discussions during team meetings.

Consider encouraging conversations around the upcoming holidays. Ask your team members, “What stresses you out during the holidays?” Instruct them to simply name the stresses, now is not the time to fix it. Naming stressors is a therapeutic exercise in and of itself. They may state, “All the meals, buying gifts, social distancing, anxious clients, or managing child care.” Write out their challenges and burdens either on a whiteboard or large piece of paper for all to see.

Remember, now is not the time to “fix it,” simply a time to Name It.

Next, allow team members to explain ways they relieve stress. This acts as support in two ways: 1) as managers (or engaged team members), you can see how to offer guidance and support for the relievers, and 2) your team members can see how they can support each other through the seasons.

As managers (or aware team members), you can also consider personal presents to show support. Some ideas are gift certificates to a nearby bookstore, a healthy catered meal or a gift basket with personal spa items.

After identifying stressors and relievers, some ideas will come to mind as to how to support each other that is from the heart!

Now is a good time to remind your team members of your Employee Assistant Programs or other benefits. Help them to be assured the services are confidential and available to them.

Preparation Ahead of Time 

It’s the middle of November. This may give you time to plan in advance to allow your team to prepare for the weeks ahead. Consider creating a billboard or some other way to share upcoming events or even changes in scheduling.

Will there be a Secret Santa exchange? When will the hospital close or changes in office hours to accommodate family time? What relief services will be used to cover the shifts when team members request time off?

Clear, advanced communications in these areas are appreciated. Transparency may help to alleviate some of the team’s concerns. It is courteous to post changes in routines as soon as they are made apparent.

Lower Expectations

This concept raised some eyebrows a couple of weeks ago when introduced in a previous Blog; Lowering Holiday Expectations. The point is to be less rigid and more flexible over the next few weeks. 

In the recorded session mentioned earlier, I talked about the need to have groceries delivered to my home instead of going to the store to shop. You, too, may have a favorite brand when shopping, but what will be my response if I prefer Ritz Crackers and receive Generic? This is a rather simple example, but how often do you watch a family member or co-worker get bent out of shape because of an expectation that may be blown out of perspective.

Maybe there are ways to set you and others up for success if expectations are verbalized, especially if you are planning to embrace the Generic brand in gratitude.

Increased Euthanasia Services

You may sense, or know based on your software query, during the holidays there is an increase of euthanasias. It’s not that the clients are planning it, but there may be other circumstances. Visitors may make comments about a declining pet, or it may be a convenience so that the pet doesn’t pass on the actual holiday while guests are present. Plus, a new pet can be introduced during the holidays to lessen the loss of the previous one.1

Is it any wonder your team may dread the holidays?

Introduce the idea of debriefing at the end of a shift or workday. Allow for the team to recap the day, what went well and not so well. While coaching an animal welfare team, they implemented day-end Glum & Glow sessions. They chose to gather at a pre-determined time each day (open 7-days a week) to discuss, in an inclusive manner, what was full of glum and what was glowing about the day. How can you and your team embrace debriefing through the Holidays and into the New Year?

Reflect on Gratitude

Another way to help minimize the impact of the holidays is by focusing on the positive aspects. By identifying what makes your job wonderful and why you enjoy working with your co-workers, it can actually make you feel better. People who experienced gratitude for at least two weeks showed significantly increased happiness, greater satisfaction with life, and higher resilience to stress; this group even reported fewer headaches and illnesses.2

In a survey, almost all respondents reported that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled”—but on a given day, only 10 percent acted on that impulse.2

During a recent Mindfulness & Gratitude session(join us!), we recognized how difficult it can be to acknowledge something you are grateful for. Keep in mind, gratitude in all doses is medicinal. Today I stated, “I am grateful for the wonderful kitten that greets me each morning as I crawl out of bed. He brings me great joy.” Today, that gratitude was enough.

What are you grateful for? Now is an ideal time to establish a Gratitude Board or some other ways for your team to expresses their appreciation and define that which they are grateful for.

The Holidays are stressful. But by taking an active role in identifying stressors and putting into place ways to relieve the stress, lowering expectations, and expressing gratitude the holidays can change into a time of thriving for you and your team.

You’re not alone! Reach out to CATALYST VetPC to see if there are additional ways we can help to find harmony for veterinary teams through the holidays!

Schedule a virtual Holiday Stressors & Relievers Workshop, today. Savings when booked by December 10th!

Cheers to your Holiday Season,

Rebecca Rose, CVT

Certified Career Coach

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References and Resources
1 Article:  4 Ways Pet Owners Talk Themselves into Euthanasia
2 Article:  Five ways to cultivate gratitude at Work
3 Book:  Veterinary Caregiver’s Book of Quotes
Self-Care Tips for Veterinary Team Members – a series of CATALYST VetPC blogs
Article:  7 ways to ward off stress during the holidays