Appointment days can be a revolving door of pets, clients, and complaints. With all these competing priorities, it can be challenging to be fully present when you’re in the exam room. Yet being distracted by something that happened during the previous appointment can interfere with your ability to focus on the patient in front of you.
But, don’t despair! Even the busiest vet can benefit from quick meditation. Short meditations are a simple and easy way to maximize the brief window of time between appointments. It’s well worth it to give yourself a mental reset before knocking on the next exam room door.
Benefits of meditation for mental health and wellness
Meditation is a well-established and effective stress-relief technique. However, as a busy veterinary professional, you may be deterred by the mistaken assumption that meditation requires long spans of uninterrupted quiet. While extended or deep meditation can unlock impressive physical and emotional changes, even a short, five-minute session can provide surprisingly powerful mental health and wellness benefits:
- Enhanced focus and brain function — Put other tasks in the background and prepare your mind for the next appointment.
- Improved self-compassion and emotional wellbeing — Meditation helps you rehearse positive self-talk.
- Better mood — Meditating regularly improves your brain’s dopamine levels.
- Lower blood pressure — Rhythmic breathing and an unhurried mind naturally relieves tension and lowers blood pressure.
- Increased immunity — Meditation can strengthen immune system function without triggering inflammation.
- Resilience to negative feedback — Meditation can help you bounce back after an angry client interaction.
- Better sleep — With consistent practice, meditation helps you correct sleep loss caused by long shifts and late nights.
- Improved digestion — Even a short meditation can alleviate digestive issues caused by missed lunches, grazing, and unhealthy grab-and-go foods.
Quick meditation techniques to try between appointments
To ensure your mini meditations are effective in helping you get through your day, you need a plan. Planning meditations before your day begins helps maximize your time and receive the most from each short session. To find the most effective strategy for your needs, try these five simple meditation techniques that fit perfectly in that sacred time between appointments:
#1: Guided meditation — Free and membership-based meditation apps are great resources for guided (i.e., narrated) meditations. Guided meditations can help beginners build confidence by eliminating guesswork establishing a strong meditation habit.
#2: Mantra meditation — The Sanskrit definition for mantra literally means mind release. Mantra meditation involves repeating a selected word, phrase, syllable, or vowel sound to focus your attention, helping you disconnect from distracting or nagging thoughts. Avoid mantra block and get the most out of your five-minute meditation by keeping an index card with your favorite mantras in your pocket or notebook. Mantras can be personal or general and may include affirmations. Popular workplace mantras include:
- Om or Aum
- I am or I can statements
- My work is a part of me but it does not define me.
#3: Breath-based meditation — Breathing exercises can ease anxiety and tension in minutes by encouraging you to focus on your breath and let go of external stressors. Popular meditative breathing techniques include:
- Box breathing (i.e., 4x4x4 breathing) — Perform box breathing by inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding your breath for four seconds. Repeat the pattern 1–5 times or until you feel calm and centered
- Belly breathing (i.e., diaphragmatic breathing) — Replace shallow breaths with deep lung-filling inhalations and long complete exhalations. Breathe through your mouth and place a hand on your belly to gauge your belly’s extension and contraction during each breath. Repeat the rhythm for several breaths or up to 5–10 minutes.
#4: Body scan meditation — Performing your body scan involves taking a mental inventory of your entire body from your toes to the top of your head. Imagine a slow scanner checking each body area and system for fatigue, stiffness, tension, alertness, or pain. When possible, release detectable tension or stress and imagine it being replaced by calmness and relaxation. Body scanning can be particularly helpful when you’re feeling anxious or tense but you’re unsure why.
#5: Resting awareness — Rather than trying to focus on one particular phrase or thought, resting awareness encourages complete surrender to allow the mind to rest, remain blank, and recharge.
Practice makes peace: Tips for ensuring meditation success
Some days, chaos is the only constant in a veterinary clinic. Such an environment challenges you when trying to build new and healthy habits. Work demands can pull you in many different directions, but a soothing meditation can provide calm in the chaos and help you focus on the present moment. To help ensure your quick meditation is restorative, not restrictive, follow these tips:
- Tell your team — Veterinary mental health is an important issue for everyone in the industry. Tell your team about your meditation goals so they’re less likely to interrupt your five-minute sessions. Your efforts may inspire them to explore meditation and other stress relief practices too!
- Send a clear signal — Decide how you’ll communicate your boundaries with others. This could be as simple as wearing earbuds or headphones during your session, taking off your glasses or white coat, or stepping into an empty room.
- Practice self-compassion — Be patient with yourself as you incorporate meditation into your daily routine. Distracting thoughts and unexpected interruptions will happen. When they do, acknowledge them and return to your meditation or try again after the next appointment.
As a busy veterinary professional, you’ve got enough on your mind. Shouldn’t your practice management software take care of the rest? Shepherd Veterinary Software combines a simple interface and an intuitive workflow to create a streamlined and clutter-free user experience. Request a personalized demo to see Shepherd’s benefits for yourself.