Loneliness & isolation

There are a number of reasons why a person in the veterinary community might feel isolated at work:

Causes of isolation

  • Relocation away from social support network
  • Unsupportive colleagues or employers
  • Shyness
  • Bereavement or relationship breakdown
  • Constraints of a demanding on-call rota
  • Age, gender, marital status or sexual orientation

Effects of loneliness and isolation

Impact on wellbeing

Enjoying your own company and taking time to recharge your batteries contributes to good mental health.  However, if it’s not your choice to be alone, not having anyone to talk to or do things with can engender profound feelings of loneliness which can effect health and wellbeing – particularly at times of crisis.  Some people may turn to alcohol, overspending or other behaviours in order to deal with those feelings.

Impact on work

Evaluation by peers is vital if someone is not good at seeing themselves through the eyes of others  and the opportunity to evaluate work in comparison to peers gives work meaning.

New graduates

After the initial excitement of starting their working life, new graduates can become disillusioned and lonely when the reality of their first job does not meet expectations.

Coping with isolation and loneliness

  • Examine the reasons behind your isolation and consider honestly the impact it is having on you
  • Try to think of it as a temporary transition
  • You may not be able to change your situation straight away, but you can change the way you think about it.  Remind yourself of the potential benefits, such as career progression and define the maximum time you plan to be in this situation in order to get those benefits
  • Aim to create a circle of friends, rather than just one intimate relationship
  • If you do forge a close relationship with somebody, don’t neglect your relationship with others
  • Show interest in your colleagues’ lives
  • Negotiate to have the same evening off each week so you can commit to an evening class or a sporting activity
  • Maintain professional links by attending CPD events,  conferences and meetings
  • Stay in touch with old friends and colleagues
  • Book holidays and time off well in advance to see family and friends.  It will give you something to look forward to and ensure they are around when you want to see them
  • Do what you can to help new colleagues to settle in

Consider changing jobs

  • Changing jobs may be the only solution where there is conflict in the workplace or a lack of support.  If you decide to try to stay and resolve the problem – put a time limit on how long you are willing to put up with your current situation
  • You could ask to meet with colleague or employers to tell them what the issues are, how they are affecting you and what you feel needs to happen. See Managing Conflict
  • If you get a negative response it may be time to look for another job but seek extra support to maintain your sense of self and keep in touch with other veterinary colleagues to protect against a feeling of alienation until you are able to move on
  • Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day if you need someone to talk to
  • Vetlife Health Support can provide free professional support for depression and other mental health issues

See full article by psychotherapist Christine Stobbs here: Isolation in Practice PDF 1MB (In-Practice Article)