I was a member of the &Me panel session at this year’s WellVet Virtual event which was well received and is still available to view by attendees of the event and tickets are available for those of you who would like to view the event from www.wellvet.co.uk
Time was limited meaning some of the proposed questions could not be answered, so I thought I would answer them here.
Question: You say that you have learned how to monitor your thoughts and recognise that are just thoughts as well as how to recognise the voice of your inner critic so you can ignore it. What are your top tips for doing this in your daily life now?
The simple answer to this is mindfulness.
When I started to explore mindfulness, I found that the simple idea of “living in the moment” helped me enormously. It helped in the following ways:
By being aware of how I was feeling at any given moment I could recognise when I was feeling anxious, when I was feeling uncertain about how to proceed and indeed when I felt happy. In this context, the relationship between thoughts, emotions and body must be recognised and with practice this becomes automatic. This gave me the opportunity to identify unhelpful thoughts and to question their legitimacy and look for the evidence to debunk them and quieten my inner critic who was , and still is, quick to make knee-jerk reactions and to tell me that I am not good enough, that I am not up to a task etc.
This takes effort and is slow at first, but the results speak for themselves, I wish I had understood this earlier!
Question: You say that after therapy you allowed yourself to explore other creative interests of fine art photography and poetry, and that this outlet balances your work life. What held you back in the past, and what has changed to make those outlets more accessible to you now?
I always felt that I had a creative side, but I thought that this was incompatible with being a vet, a scientist effectively. This attitude stems back from secondary school where the sciences and that arts were considered polar opposites and so I thought, wrongly, that I was not allowed to be creative.
During therapy I found my creative side manifesting itself. I had the courage to share my work with other artists and gallery owners which in turn lead me to start exhibiting my work. This helped enormously in boosting my self-esteem and also helped me understand that it did not matter if someone did not like my work and this in turn helped me when I returned to work.
Since returning to part time work, I have continued to pursue my artistic adventure and the relaxation that it brings to me helps m cope better with the stresses of work life.
I would encourage everyone to find an interest which is not related to their work and to explore it to bring a balance to their lives.
Another question that came up in the panel session was; “what is your mantra to help you through the day?” My mantra which I think would serve everyone well is “Don’t Judge”, which is fundamental to mindfulness practice and helps to bring a balance perspective to every situation.