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Author: Leann Benedetti


The Power of Storytelling for Creating Awareness and Connection

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I find myself wondering …

How many people told their story? Were you aware the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) campaign for 2023 followed a theme that encouraged canadians to tell their stories and mental health journeys?  #MyStory advocated for mental health support for all Canadians.  A worthy cause, and a lofty goal without doubt.

It is not the goal of this blog to prove the importance of this conversation, emphasize the concerns around the mental health of veterinary professionals, or cite statistics to convince anyone of anything.  I do however want to highlight the power of community and common humanity that is created when we share our stories.  Storytelling can create connection, reduces stigma, and allows for the creation of powerful spaces for recovery and change.

Regardless of who we are or what we do, we all experience things in life that challenge us.  Having a safe space to discuss those challenges, process appropriately, receive support, and ultimately heal, learn, grow and recover is key.  The good news?? Available resources have grown over the last number of years, including those that are ‘veterinary specific’.

The ongoing challenge??  The ‘need’ for support in the areas of mental and emotional health for veterinary professionals has been acknowledged as growing area of concern and has been an ongoing conversation for well over a decade.  Subjectively, the ‘uptake’ of resources is percieved to be quite low, despite the high level of concern and need.  As a neutral observer, that makes me curious as to the possible reasons for this gap.  As a 27 year veteran of the profession, and more recently as a provider of support to the profession, and someone that has shared #mystory, I understand the complexity of the space that represents that ‘gap’. 

Exploration of the ’Gap’ is also not the purpose of this blog. The purpose of this blog is to remind you that you are not alone.  There are a growing list of resources that are being created with specific focus in the veterinary community when it comes to mental health, and workplace well-being.  This list includes just a few – and I encourage you to search for a format, resource, and information that works for you. When you don’t know where to start – wherever you are, is as good a place as any.


Finding YOUR NOT Work/Life Balance

Key Words: YOUR and NOT

For over a decade now there has been a lot of talk around Work/Life Balance. What does it look like and more importantly how to achieve it.  As a veterinarian in practice for 27 years, a past practice owner, a mom, a daughter, a leader, a community member, contributor, a pet parent … and mostly as a human being I was fooled into believing that Balance was the goal. 

Does that make me foolish?? (well…😉) No – it makes me human, and … what I believe to be a fairly typical veterinary professional that is used to following rules and protocols, a diligent student, and high achieving professional that tends to be a perfectionist.  While I won’t go into details here, for the first 17ish years (to my credit) that was doable – and then, as challenges mounted, it wasn’t doable anymore.  Upon reflection, I’m not sure why I thought it would ever be in the first place.  Wait, that’s the point.  I did not stop to think about it. I was not consciously choosing anything. I had a goal disguised as a belief that this was the way we do things at all costs. AND – I am 100% aware that seems like what we are told to do, and how we are trained to do it. Push Through. Keep Your Balance.  That mindset is part of the problem in our profession, and it’s only now that I’ve been able to put some pieces together that I think might be helpful.  This is what I know so far (cue: Pink-What I know so far!)

In 2017, I started the business The Veterinary Coach – and this topic of Balance was actually ‘my Why’ and was the reason for my logo (left below), and original tagline – Coaching Veterinary Professionals for Balance.  Shortly after that, I found this image (right below), which spoke loudly to me about what Balance felt like in Veterinary Medicine-which is incredibly hard, if not impossible.  One might say Magic actually … (oh wait that’s another blog). 

Regardless – you will notice that the goal was still perfect balance.

I have been talking about this, and coaching people around this for 5 years now, and it is a very recent awareness to me that neither my words, my intentions nor my expectations do not actually match what we see in these images.  I have come to understand that my balance is often ‘off kilter’, and if it is, chances are that is intentional.  I have come to understand that Balance to me is not a goal to be achieved, it is a process that allows me to actually be flexible and ultimately agile. 

Language Matters: What is Balance Anyway?

Balance in the context of finding Work/Life Balance has been positioned in my head (and I don’t think only my head) as a goal. A destination. Namely – a noun.

What might happen if we think of Balance as a verb …?  As an active process that involved adjusting, and adapting, and ‘tinkering’ with intention.  That sounds like a conscious process, that opens up space for directing weight purposely in one direction or another, that does not imply equality.

If this were allowed, even temporarily, then we might be better able to be intentional with our choices. We might be able to move from a place of rigid control and inflexibility to ‘keep the balance’ no matter what, into a place of perfect imperfection, depending on the challenge of the day, hour, or season of life. You might be able to find YOUR NOT work/life balance that serves you, and is effective in your life. What does that require? 

It requires us to be curious about our actions, our behaviours and our intentions and understand what serves us in any given moment in that day, hour or season of life.  When we can understand that, we might know better what we need to do to achieve it effectively.

One thing I can assure you, this process is far from perfect or linear, and requires us to embrace ‘messy’.  I can also assure you, in my experience…messy is worth it. Especially true if you are looking for and ready to invite change into your life.  I am not inviting you to do anything that I have not done myself, as a fellow veterinarian. And if I can do it – so can you!

These are excerpts from the virtual presentation given on April 14, for the full presentation please click here!

Veterinary Life Mindset Challenges, Obstacles or Circumstances?

This blog was originally written in December 2020, AND, the importance of the question remains the same! How we see the world is informed by so many things – including but not limited to: what we are taught as young people, what we learn over time, our nervous system state, our mood, our state of being, and our strengths. 

It is easy to fall into a pattern of behaviour that sets us up for repeated challenges and opportunities. Our Mindset is something that we need to be continuously aware of and check in on. Here is the story as if it were yesterday…

My family and I were playing a game of cards at the dinner table last night, having a lovely, fun-filled discussion. My ‘children’ are now 19 and 20 years old, so I tend to cherish every moment we get to spend together, as they usually have something better to do than to ‘hang out’ with their parents! We were laughing and talking, and one of my sons was animatedly describing a situation he had encountered. 

I made what I thought was a non-judgemental comment: ‘That’s an interesting challenge isn’t it?’.

My story teller carried on with his story…

My other son looked at me and said – ‘Why do you always think everything is a challenge?? Why can’t anything simply be a circumstance’?

What a great question! And as with most great questions-I am still formulating a great response! 

What I’ve come up with so far is that he might be right! My natural tendency (also known as mindset) IS to see things as a challenge, an opportunity to improve, learn, or change. That’s not a bad thing though right? Well…as with almost everything (as I have come to understand) it becomes about intention, balance and agility. Not every ‘circumstance’ requires improvement or change. Similarly, we are not stuck in every situation blocked by obstacles and with no options for change. All or nothing thinking, regardless of the topic is never a good thing and sets us up for … well … a myriad of bad things.

Also important to remember is when we are stressed we tend to default to our natural tendencies, and are at higher risk for that ‘all or nothing thinking’ (also known as closed mindset). Said another way-if your natural tendency is to see things as a challenge, you are at risk for taking on WAY too many challenges the more stressed you get. IF your natural tendency is to see the obstacles, then you will become more and more stuck by obstacle after obstacle, after obstacle. Being content with the ‘circumstances’ all the time holds it’s own issues as well.

In the end-being Agile, and looking without judgement at a ‘circumstance or situation’, can then let you decide with intention whether it is a ‘circumstance’ that requires no action, or whether you are going to start removing obstacles, or rise to the challenge. It is ALWAYS your choice. Remembering that is the tricky part – for me anyway!

Welcome 2023 – Where to Start?

Have you ever felt like you just don’t know where to start? Maybe you feel like there are no options, maybe you have a few and you are just not sure which way to go? At this stage in the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, a lot of people feel like it is time for a ‘reset’. They are just not sure what exactly that means.  I was pondering the same thing earlier this year, which is why I wrote the following blog where I work through my own experience.

Welcome 2023 – Where to Start?

Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can – Arthur Ashe

The question for me this year, at this particular point in time, and in my career has been … Where to start? ‘Cause I’m just not sure…

This quote reminds us to “Start Where We Are” – and when I think about that, I am aware of a dissonance that is created in me. Logically, it makes sense!! But my immediate emotional reaction ?? Wait What? Start where I am ??? No, No, No I can’t do that … 

Does the past not matter? How can I start if I can’t see the future?

Oh I see … so this is about time?

The mere fact that the past and the future comes up quickly reminds me of something I am familiar with, and have learned to remember to embrace often. The concept of our time here on this earth being a journey. A journey that I think of as a spiral, a spiral of learning, a spiral of healing. A spiral that can be applied in a lot of different ways, to a lot of different things.

Moving Upward on the Spiral …

The ultimate goal is to continue on an upward journey on this spiral of Life, which is not always easy. Sometimes we take a few steps backwards, and sometimes we get stuck … and sometimes we revisit the same situations over and over again, until we learn all we need to from multiple perspectives. Sometimes, different parts of us learn at different speeds, and learn different things. 

Wisdom of Our Three Brains

In the coaching world we are aware of the fact that we actually have three ‘brains’. Three sources of information that we rely on to make sense of the world, and our place in it. What the culmination of my lived experience allows me to see in this moment, as I contemplate Where to Start – is that my Brain, Gut, and Heart are all involved in this internal conversation. AND my Brain, Gut and Heart all have different signals informing their opinion. AND if I try to listen to all of those messages at once, I quickly get confused and overwhelmed. What I can do is recognize all three brains have important messages for me, and if I want to be effective, dare I say ‘productive’ then all three brains need to be seen, heard, and understood. 

When I am aware of this conversation, I realize something else – I have the choice to keep the banter going … or … I can choose to Stop and Listen.

Be Curious and Ask Each beautiful brain – Brain, Heart, AND Gut

What is important about the past and it maybe not mattering?

What is important about not knowing your exact next step?

When I stop, and I listen … very carefully

I learn how I can lower the dissonance, increase the alignment and what I need to do to take the next step. Once I know what is important, I have insight into what I have to offer:

  • To my brain – I believe you, it makes 100% sense to start here AND there is a timeline … the past matters, and the future is unknown.
  • To my Gut – the blood, sweat and tears you have put in matter, they have made a difference. I see you, I honour you and I offer you Gratitude, Forgiveness and Compassion
  • To my Heart – I know not being sure what the future looks like is scary. I honour you and I offer you Courage to believe that you can Trust yourself, Trust your all of your strengths, lean into your curiosity, passion, openness, and hope for the future.