I usually write articles which are more professional than personal, but this one is very much borne out of my current life experience in the light of World Kindness Day this week. Currently, I’m okay. But while taking myself for a little self-care jog in the sun, I was hit with the realisation that I would probably NOT be okay were it not for the incredible support I’ve had from a wide variation of people. And this is not by accident, but as a result of reaching out to people in a time of need.

Challenges make us human

Of course, it’s completely normal to face struggles – human in fact. Mentally, physically, relationally, or a combination of the above, we all face times in our life when we feel low and experience suffering of some kind. So, not only is it okay not to be okay, it’s something we will all experience at some stage of life. It’s inevitable. But what is not okay is when we feel we have to face challenges on our own. It’s so important to seek support and help – even when we don’t think we ‘need’ it. Sure, we can often limp by on our own, but it’s almost always harder to persevere and push through challenges going solo.

Opening doors to empathy

We often feel a sense of reluctance, or even shame, around admitting any perceived weakness and that we should just shut up and put up. However, it benefits no one if we put on a brave face unless we’re also addressing the root cause of what is negatively impacting us, and that often requires help and support. Additionally, by opening up and sharing it often opens the door for others to also share; a consistent theme in our recent health month facebook live discussions. It opens door for commonality, empathy and strengthens our sense of belonging when we find we’re not the only ones.

Finding your support tribe

We all have shared stressors of a global pandemic and its varied and profound impacts, plus Brexit looming. When we face additional challenges affecting our mental and physical health we can very quickly tip into a negative state of well-being. This was very much my recent experience as I felt the slide into overwhelm and the proverbial straw loomed above the camel’s back. But not for long! And that is entirely thanks to the support from a variety of communities I have had the fortune to belong. These human safety nets have not occurred by accident, but I have invested time and effort deliberately seeking them out. From finding a supportive team with a positive working environment for my day job, to investing time and energy into developing relationships with mentors and friends in a wide variety of places; both in the local community and the veterinary sphere.

Developing a new perspective

I also developed a new sense of perspective last month, as we tackled the common issues facing women’s health. The conversations with individuals and the wider feedback of the impact of such common health issues has helped me to understand that struggles are both extremely common and often hidden. It’s only by actively engaging in such conversations that we deepen our sense of perspective. I would encourage everyone to watch the health month facebook live chats. These powerful personal stories reflect common experiences for many of our colleagues. In addition, while a burden shared is not necessarily a burden halved, having these conversations opens up the opportunity for empathy, understanding and solutions to support one another.

Actively seek out support

In my current challenges the unwavering support, guidance, listening ears, advice and even surprise goodies have lifted me from dark moments into a much better place to reframe and move forwards. I find it helps me to practice gratitude; to be thankful for the positives in life. Our health month contributors faced huge personal challenges with grace and a drive to help others. They used their negative experiences to create something positive for others. In a small way, this is me trying to do the same; taking my current dark period to share what I’ve learned and experienced. It’s about finding not just light at the end of the tunnel, but points of light along the way. Rather than simply focussing on the destination (problems solved), we need to make the journey more positive by finding points of learning, gratitude and even joy along the way.

Thank you to my work colleagues for understand, flexibility and listening ears. Thanks to the veterinary tribe for the advice, championing me, and surprise goodies. Thank you to my friends in my village for sharing the workload and encouraging me to prioritise self-care. And to all the above for being role models and inspiration while coaching me on my journey. Thanks to my family for always reminding me to value every moment – time is indeed precious.

Be Kind to your whole selves

In my alter ego as co-founder of WellVet, I’ve always championed mind, body and soul wellbeing. We need to look after our whole selves; our mental and physical health and our relationships and sense of self. As we approach World Kindness Day this week, please be kind to yourself by taking time out to nurture your health by investing in supportive relationships with people you work and live alongside. As a caring profession, we need to make sure we show ourselves each other the same care and empathy we spread liberally to our patients and clients, now more than ever.

Take care everyone x

You might also like to read:

Covid and Gender Part 2; the impact on our mental health

When good is good enough; not doing it all

Wellbeing – what’s it all about?

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