The festive season tends to divide people: love it or hate it. Regardless of which camp you’re in, focusing on wellbeing at this time of year is as important as ever.

I hated Christmas for a very long time, especially as a vet. I focused on how busy the shops were, the darker nights and Christmas songs would evoke some sort of inner rage (especially in November). In practice I knew it was time for an onslaught of pancreatitis, chocolate toxicity and the logistics of the on-call diary; I was definitely in team “Ba Humbug”. December always left me feeling miserable, unmotivated and snappy. Through the years of my journey I started to realise that looking only at the annoyances was not serving me well, and with a few tweaks to my focus, I started to enjoy the season much more. Alongside this, I learned that I was not the only one affected by the darker nights and taking positive action towards my wellbeing and self-care really helped. But that’s enough of that… that’s just my story.

Everyone’s feelings around this season are valid, as we all have our own stories and experiences. Why not take some time to consciously look at your wellbeing and self-care at this time of year?

I’ve put together some top tips to think about as we head into December:

  1. Be aware of the comparison trap.

Comparison really is the thief of joy. Remember that social media is not real life, and we never know what the real story behind a photo is. Nobody’s festive season will look the same, embrace your uniqueness and focus on yourself and those close to you.

  1. Remember: saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you selfish.

This time of year we can feel like we are being pulled in many different directions, and often feel obliged to agree to everything we are asked to help with. Have a conscious time audit and plan ahead of busy periods to ensure your workload stays manageable.

  1. Nourish yourself properly

This goes for those on-call or off duty. There’s nothing wrong with a few mince pies and the classic Christmas treats, but be mindful to nourish yourself adequately in between. I’ve done many festive shifts where I forgot lunch and ended up living on Quality Street and Matchmakers, which worked as a one-off but wasn’t that sustainable in the long term. Alongside this, consider how you can stay hydrated too.

  1. Make time for things you love

What makes a day good for you? What ingredients are in there? Maybe it’s getting outside, perhaps it’s speaking to friends or going to see your horse. How can you make sure that still gets added in during this busy period? It might not be for hours, but how could you ensure that a snippet of that activity gets included in your diary?

  1. Be kind to yourself on-call

Christmas and New Year can be unpredictable, and can often cause worry for those in sole charge or on-call; there’s no two week break in our profession. I used to be plagued with the “what ifs”, and trying to predict cases that might come in. Creating crib sheets, protocols and revising topics can be helpful, but we must remember that we simply don’t have a crystal ball. Spend a little time looking at your help sources available, and reminding yourself that your skill set means that we can change those “what ifs” to “even ifs”. You don’t need to know the answer the minute a case comes through the door, we just need to know the next step and where to look (or who to ask) to make this easier. Be kind to yourself, after all, nothing will ever exceed the relationship we have with ourselves.

  1. Get active

Shorter days can mean we potentially don’t exercise as much as in Summer months, but with a whole host of benefits, being active is still important. Consider how you can add a little exercise into your daily routine, whether that’s wintery walks or home workouts, do what works for you.

  1. Talk

However you’re feeling, talk to others around you. If you’re worried about something, speak up, it’s all valid. Maybe this is to friends or family, colleagues or neighbours. Human connection is important at the time of year, so reach out. Remember that Vetlife is a fantastic resource available to our community 24/7, especially if you’re not sure who to speak to.

  1. Spend time being rather than doing.

December can seem 100mph, especially as we are continuously surrounded by countdowns. How can you give yourself some head space and some down time to recharge? Can you be present in that moment, and allow yourself to ‘be’ in the midst of all of the ‘do’.

  1. Be present

As the rush of the festive season is upon us, and we work to the next deadline or date, we can forget what this time of year is really about. Can you put your phone down and close the laptop? Try and gently guide your mind to the present moment and embrace a little mindful practice.

  1. Practice gratitude

Gratitude has a whole myriad of proven benefits. When the external world tries to sweep us away, spend a few minutes listing those things that you are thankful for. Even just listing 3 things each day can have a whole host of positive side effects.

I really hope that some of these help.

I’m going to leave you with one of my all time favourite Christmas quotes which always grounds me when the commercialised hustle and bustle starts: “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” – The Grinch

I hope you all stay safe and well through this festive season!