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by Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
Originally published on DrAndyRoark.com

Negativity is like ringworm. Sometimes it’s so subtle you can’t see it. Just knowing you’ve been exposed to it can make you itchy. And sometimes you don’t know you have it till it breaks out all over you.

It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity, especially when we spend so much time hearing from the public that we’re “in it for the money” or from experts that the veterinary profession is grossly and hopelessly underpaid. If you hear that you’re worthless often enough, not only do you start to believe it, you start to repeat it. Worse, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before long, we’re complaining and comparing sob stories. No one wants to appear too happy.

Let’s quit cold turkey –  stop complaining and start making changes. So, what do we change? Who do we change?  Look in the mirror. THAT’s who you change!

Somewhere along the line, it became “cool” for veterinary professionals to suffer. If you weren’t working 60 hours a week, taking calls on weekends and nursing an ulcer, you might as well hang up your stethoscope. I remember doing an externship and seeing a bottle of antacids on every doctor’s desk. I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to be that kind of veterinarian.  16 years and many bottles of antacids later, I can happily say I used to be that veterinarian. Well, most days anyway.

How did I do it? Well, I removed myself from the “who’s the most miserable?” competition.

Instead, I threw my hat into the “who can be the most peaceful and happy?” ring. Here are some situations in which you can spare yourself some negativity:

  • I used to cringe when I’d go on vacation, because inevitably someone would snort and say “Must be nice. I can’t ever take time off”. I used to feel guilty hearing that. Now, I’m just grateful that I’m not that important! No one calls you from work with good news while you’re on vacation. Even if you can’t completely detach, make an effort to turn off the phone, even if it’s just a few hours at a time.  I still have to wean myself off of phone duty when I go on vacation, but I don’t keep it strapped to my body in case someone wants to overstep the vacation boundary.
  • When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was watching the news almost constantly. I’m from Louisiana and have friends and family all over the areas that were destroyed. During that time, my TV was my alarm clock. I woke up to a popular morning news show. I often woke up angry. One morning, the anchor asked a New Orleans politician when the electricity was going to be turned back on. He replied incredulously that the city was under water and that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. That’s when it hit me: I was waking up angry because all this negativity (and stupidity) was getting in my head before I was even fully awake! I started waking up to music and avoiding the news. This removed an incredible amount of negativity from my day. Whenever my husband and I cave and watch the news, we are distinctly less happy and positive than on the nights we skip tuning in.
  • We all know people who thrive on complaining. Whether in person or on social media, these energy vampires can suck the life out of you – if you let them. We can’t change these people, we can only change our own behavior. “Unfriend” and “hide” are good strategies online and in person. Everyone with whom you choose to spend your time should make your life better. If you can’t avoid them completely, limit the time you spend with them.
  • I can’t think of a single person I admire and want to get to know better who is negative. As I work to back away from negative people in my circle, I also try to reach out to those who make my life better. Call a few people who energize you and schedule a lunch, drinks or some other activity. It will give you something to look forward to when the going gets rough!
  • Negativity is inside all of us. It’s like the closet in the house that is full of junk. We keep saying we’re going to have that garage sale, but the pile keeps getting bigger. Meditation, exercise, laughter and rest all help empty the closet. Confiding in someone can be useful as well – just bear in mind that wallowing in a problem or rehashing it over and over makes things worse. Don’t stand in front of the closet complaining about it. Say a few choice words and then get to work!

Face negativity just like you do ringworm in the clinic.

Put on your protective gear, avoid exposure to anyone spreading spores and if you see a suspicious spot, don’t ignore it. If you think you’ve caught a case of negativity, dip yourself in happy things. Don’t indulge in your favorite sad songs. I can ugly cry at Steel Magnolias with the best of them, but when I’m feeling down, I’m going to watch something funny. Count your achievements, make a gratitude list or do something nice for someone else. Get a hug from someone. Go look at something pretty.  Above all, try not to bring the infection home to your loved ones. Strip off all your doom and gloom and pour bleach on it before you go inside. It won’t be long before you no longer have to think about gravitating toward the positive.  All that reward you get from pursuing the happiness in your life will make you seek it automatically.