Updated: Oct 4, 2019
As a psychologist for the past fifteen years I have worked with, and helped, many people struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, deteriorating relationships, toxic workplaces, friendships, communication issues, work-life balance, and general wellbeing. But do you know what’s really sad? The fact that despite the hundreds, if not thousands, of people that came to me seeking help, there are countless others who have chosen to suffer in silence. Why is that?
Is it because they are afraid they will be judged? Or is it because they have tried other, unsuccessful methods from unqualified and inexperienced people and felt “nothing works”? Or perhaps they are getting some benefit (or ‘secondary gain’) from wallowing in their misery? Maybe – just maybe - it’s because they have told themselves that they ‘should’ be able to cope on their own, and seeking help is a sign of weakness. Well guess what? In my opinion, seeking help is a sign of strength – it’s about taking control of your life and saying “Hey! My life might suck at the moment, but I can choose to do something about it”. In the words of Anthony Robbins “If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got”. How true is this! In other words, “if nothing changes, then nothing changes” – so you need to do something different in order to get different results.
No matter how good or bad you might feel your life is, or has been, the reality is that each and every one of us has had some trauma or other setbacks in their life. We all have to deal with unpleasant things from time-to-time, yet why is it that some of us bounce back from life’s adversities more, or quicker, than others? I can tell you that I have had my fair-share of trauma and challenges - being a bullied high-school dropout with no school qualifications, moving around the world away from family, being affected by suicide and murder-suicide within my family, experiencing grief and loss, toxic workplaces, stress, and near-bankruptcy. But do you know what? There are two major factors that have helped me to keep dusting myself off and getting right back in there – my optimism, and my resiliency. I have chosen to always look for, and expect, the best – even when the odds seemed stacked against me. I have learnt how to build my optimism and resiliency, and found effective and evidence-based strategies to help me cope with everyday life. Sure, I still get stressed if things seemingly feel like they are building up (hey – I’m still human after all!), but I know how to deal with them in a more helpful, and healthy way. Even though I am a control freak, and I too, feel like I ‘should’ be able to deal with everything on my own, I can accept the reality that I really am not Wonder Woman (although sometimes I think I am expected to be!), and even I have my limits. In rare times like these, I talk to my amazing husband and seek the support of my family.
I acknowledge that it’s okay to share these things with them, and being proactive about it is definitely a game-changer. After all, my thoughts and/or feelings are not going to change the reality of the situation, but I can choose to change how I respond to those challenges and in turn, get a better outcome in the long-run. Sure, things aren’t always going to be pleasant and I can’t change that reality, but I can change how I react to it.
So let’s drop the act okay? Let’s stop pretending that things are okay when they aren’t always okay. You are an extremely worthwhile person, and your skills and experience are greatly needed. It’s time for us all to start losing the stigma around seeking help, and instead, start approaching this as part of your everyday wellbeing – just as you would if you were exercising every day, or eating healthy meals every day, or simply brushing your teeth! Let’s make wellbeing our number one priority! Let’s say “hey – it’s okay to take positive steps to look after myself, even if that includes enlisting someone else’s help” – because the reality is, the buck stops with you and you are the only one who can do something about it. Take back control of your life, and take that first step to wellbeing!
About Dr Nadine Hamilton
As a leading authority on veterinary wellbeing, Dr Hamilton helps veterinary professionals get on top of stress and conflict to avoid burnout and suicide, and also works with practice managers and owners to increase wellbeing, productivity, and retention in the workplace. Additionally, she provide workshops to small and large groups within the private and corporate sectors, and speaks at conferences and symposiums both nationally and internationally.
Her book "Coping with Stress and Burnout as a Veterinarian - An Evidence-Based Solution to Increase Wellbeing" was released in March 2019 through Australian Academic Press, and is already making a positive impact within the profession - both here in Australia and internationally.
As an advocate for the veterinary profession, Dr Hamilton founded the charity "Love Your Pet Love Your Vet" and partnered with Royal Canin to reduce stigma in veterinary professionals seeking help, raising awareness within the community about the realities of working in the profession, and providing psychological and educational support to veterinary professionals.