Guest article by Harris Fitzgerel on “Community encourages the practice that builds a habit”.
If you read the last blog I wrote, it seems pretty clear that I’m a strong proponent for creating a work-life balance for yourself when you’re in vet school in order to build a habit of doing so not only throughout school but also in the future during your career. However, positive habits can only be reinforced and encouraged if you are surrounded by people with a like-minded view. This can be very difficult to find in a sea of other veterinary students who have such passion and intelligence that can often drive them towards overcommitting without seeing the need for a break.
Before I started vet school, two of my friends who were already students at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University (Tufts), told me about this club they had started called Cummings Thrive. In this club, monthly discussions are held that not only involve students, but also involve faculty and staff – basically, the entire campus is welcome to join, and people definitely take advantage of that! There are workshops that at first glance seem unrelated to the veterinary profession, but upon further speculation, is actually very relevant. These workshops mostly revolve around some form of self-reflection and discussions about how other people deal with certain situations or stress. One of the biggest takeaways from this is when people discuss ways to deal with their stress that is outside of the school or veterinary office.
So what is the point in me bringing up Cummings Thrive? The idea that there’s a need to find a community of people who encourage you to do things outside of your academic or professional lifestyle to maintain a sense of mental wellbeing. Remember how I said practice makes a habit in my last blog? Well, let’s take it a step further with the community. Simply put, the community encourages the practice that builds a habit.
In vet school, it seems to be normal to respond to one’s question of what you did over the weekend with a statement like “I stayed in and studied.” Or to simply say “I feel like I’m only ever studying.” This mindset causes a toxic situation where it’s abnormal and even frowned upon to do things for your mental health like taking breaks, going out, or taking time for yourself. Whether this comes from someone else’s mouth or your own personal judgment, the toxic environment is still enforced. Finding a group of people who place mental health as a priority by taking time for themselves will change this mentality and make it abnormal to never take breaks. There may be groups like this in your school that currently exist, in which case make sure to take advantage of them! If not, then make one like this! My friends did with Cummings Thrive, and it has become super popular in a very short amount of time. What does this mean? That just like at my school, there are people in your school who feel the same, they just may need some sort of push to come out of their shells and into your life.
So how could this translate to the workplace? In the clinic I work at back at home, Clarendon Animal Care, there is a huge push for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and encourages mental wellbeing. This is done through staff happy hours and discounted rates to Orange Theory and Golds Gym. This allows the mentality of taking mental breaks from work to become the new norm, slowly combating the toxic mindset that work should persist above all else.
The takeaway is this – if you’re trying to stick to the thought that practice builds a habit and are finding it particularly difficult to follow through, make sure to find a community that encourages you to stick to it. It makes it a lot easier to do these things for yourself if you have a small group of people cheering you on. Practice may build a habit, but the community is what encourages you to keep on practicing.
If you liked this article, read Harris’s previous guest article “Not just a vet student – by Harris Fitzgerel” on our blog.