The notion of “work-life balance” as applied to veterinary school always strikes me as horribly ironic. Routine 11-hour days in the hospital and a wildly variable schedule preclude any work-life balance from ever being obtained, and we all kinda knew that when we agreed to go to vet school. What I’ve learned, however, is that self-care and work-life balance aren’t mutually exclusive. Even though I don’t have the time for my hobbies—swimming, sailing, reading, writing, swing dancing, singing—like I used to, there are still other small ways to stay healthy both mentally and physically.
For example, once a month I chat with one of my friends outside of veterinary school. It’s incredibly refreshing and motivating to spend time with people who are living a life outside of the little bubble I’m stuck in. We chat about movies, talk about our families, and reminisce about past escapades. It’s such a profound relief to step outside the veterinary universe for a few hours and just be me again, instead of Roberta-the-4th-year-veterinary-student.
I’m also getting better at making healthier food choices. Granted, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s may still disappear from the freezer after a long, brain-numbing day. My father even teasingly asks me during every phone call which vegetables I’ve had that day. But it’s easier and easier to add a few more fruits and veggies to my diet, and not feel guilty about the extra money it costs to do so. I also bit the bullet and began taking multivitamins for the first time in my life. The upshot? I’ve had 66% fewer colds this year. And believe me, I’ve been much more immunosuppressed this year than previously.
And lastly, I’m getting better at giving myself mental breaks when I need them without feeling guilty about it. I used to get annoyed and frustrated when my mind would wander when I was studying, or when all I’d want to do after coming home was eat dinner and watch some comedy clips after a rough day. But I’ve realized that my mind needs those breaks for a reason and that if I allow myself those mental breaks, I’m much better able to handle whatever comes next.