Updated: Apr 7, 2021
When I first started out in vet medicine I had not even a semblance of an evening routine! Some days I would come home after a busy, hectic day and Netflix all evening with my fiancé, ignoring the stress and situations I had dealt with at work that day. Later, I would find myself anxious and having difficulty sleeping through the night.
Other days, I would come home feeling 'numb' by the grind of a hectic 12 hour shift of nonstop fires I was putting out. After a hot shower, I'd lose myself in something mindless and unfulfilling like aimless social media scrolling or online shopping. Again, I would find myself up way past my bed time and feeling both emotionally and physically exhausted the next few days.
If you haven't experienced these kinds of things in your veterinary career yet, you are lucky! But the truth is that most of my fellow vets know exactly what I am talking about. For us at Vets on the Rise, healthy and intentional habit development is one of the biggest tools we have learned to help counteract the chaos that comes with our job as a busy veterinarian.
Can you go without an evening routine? Sure! But we don't recommend it.
It's true. It is likely that you can tolerate the stress of the job for some period of time without a routine. But trust us when we say...it catches up to you! Eventually, I found that my inconsistent routines at night led to inconsistent mornings for me, and after time it led to missed workouts, eating poorly, weight gain, feeling stressed, unhealthy, burnout... and more.
Now that we have been doing this for 7 years, we know that our habit formation is crucial. So here is the current routine that I practice on the evening of my intense workdays at the clinic.
My Evening Routine after a Busy Clinic Day
In general, I set three goals for myself after work: self check in, enjoyment, and prep for the next day.
1. Unwind on the Drive Home
On the drive home, I am usually listening to something entertaining or something to help my head space. For entertainment, I like the Armchair Expert Podcast. For motivation, I'm really into human pediatrician and now life coach Katrina Ubell's podcast, Weight loss for Busy Physician's (which actually is good even if you are not looking to lose weight). And of course, our beloved Lo Curtis's podcast, Thrive DVM is always insightful and uplifting.
2. Hot Shower and 20 min Journal and Self Reflect
There's something so therapeutic about a hot shower in that it almost feels like it can wash off the day for you! After that, I grab a big glass of water or cup of tea and find a quiet place to journal or meditate. I do this for 15 to 20 minutes really just checking in with myself and how I felt about the day. The point is CHECKING IN WITH yourself!
When I journal, I will immediately brain dump all of the things that I loved or struggled with that day. I also assess how I felt in those situations to see if I'm having any self defeating thoughts that are leading to negative feelings. Seems like a lot... Well, it is! But, vet medicine and hospital environments can really pull your brain in a million different directions and if you're not paying attention, you'll start developing poor thought habits like defensiveness, overwhelm, anxiety and more.
3. Something Fun
After this, it is all about joy! Most often, this is time spent with my fiancé and my family (aka the dogs ;))! We often go for a walk, or grab some dinner and a drink, or stay at home and do pizza and Netflix. Whatever we want! I am also really intentional about NOT working on my side projects when I have full work days.
4. Wind Down
At about 8 or 8:30 pm, we start to wind down and get things ready for the next day. That means getting clothes laid out, meals packed for the next day (we usually meal prep earlier in the week), and clean up. I turn the temperature down, brush my teeth, throw on my pj's, and jump into bed!
5. Get in Bed
Before I get in bed, I always set my alarm and place my phone on the opposite side of the room. Then, I grab a book and start reading before bedtime. I have my journal or a notepad next to my bed as well, just in case anything pops into my head that I'm worried I may forget. I love this sleep mask and often have lavender oil next to my bed to help me relax even more. Before you know it... I'm sleepy and ready to take on the next day ahead!
By Dr. Monica Tarantino DVM