Mindfulness, the practice of paying attention and focusing awareness, increases clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality.

Some people find that it is a useful way to help to change the way they think and feel about their experiences – especially stressful ones. It is sometimes recommended as a treatment for people with anxiety, stress or depression but can also be a powerful tool for improving general wellbeing. There is evidence that when combined with CBT, it can be a useful approach to manage recurrent depression.

Many people who are exploring mindfulness as a way of helping to deal with stress, anxiety or depression find it useful to join a group and do an 8 week evening course in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). You can search for classes in your area or access an online course you can do at a time convenient to you on the bemindful.co.uk website.

Three Simple Mindfulness Exercises

Here are 3 simple ways you can become more mindful in less than 5 minutes a day. However, if you don’t find that mindfulness works for you, do not give yourself a hard time:

The Traffic Light

Stop: Stop what you are doing. Pause for a moment.

Take a breath: Breathe, it’s easy, we do it all of the time, we just don’t think about it.  Really notice how the breath feels entering your body and how it feels as you exhale.  Concentrate only on your breath.

Observe: Now you’ve had that pause and breathed a little, how do you feel?  What’s going on for you?  Just notice, observe it without judging.

Proceed: Time to continue on your journey.

One Minute Breath

Set your stopwatch or sit in front of a clock and just breathe for one minute.  Your aim is to focus on your breath for one whole minute.  Notice how the breath feels as it enters the nostrils, how it feels cool as you inhale, how it’s a little warmer as you exhale.

Mindful Eating

Get rid of distractions like the TV, newspaper, mobile phone, radio or talking and sit down to eat.   Give your full attention to your food; how does it smell, what colour is it?  What are the textures like?  How do you cut it?  Chew slowly and really savour your meal.

The Mindful Consult

The beginning of the day can be a time of great anxiety. The consultation slots are full and as you look through the diary you see clients and patients which gives you a feeling of dread. Your mind starts racing, writing and rewriting imaginary scenarios of how the consultation will go and you cannot concentrate on what you are doing at the time. I am guessing that this is a familiar image to many readers, and it is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and get more out of your day.

Take a minute to look at what is happening here. You are looking at a daunting list of consultations and your mind is running away from you, creating thoughts of not being able to cope with the workload and creating anxiety about consultations that have not happened yet. If you find yourself in this situation, take a couple of minutes to watch your breathing, concentrate on the movement of breath in and out and take the time to observe how this calms both the body and mind.

After two to three minutes, take in your first client, ignoring the rest of the list. You can only deal with one thing at a time so let yourself concentrate on the patient in front of you. Focus on listening to the client’s concerns, ask appropriate questions, listen carefully to the answers, focus on examining your patient from head to toe, don’t take any shortcuts, mentally note your observations, and if it helps, verbalise your findings – which will have the added benefit of letting your client know how thorough you are being. Stay focussed as you formulate your treatment plan.

Once the client has left the consulting room, take a moment to mentally review how the consultation went and how it has made you feel. Hopefully you will have a feeling of a job well done and if so allow yourself to acknowledge the positive feeling this brings. If you feel that the consultation could have gone better recognise this too and make a note, preferably written, on how you think that you could have improved the consultation.

Repeat this process for each consultation and I am confident that you will get through your consultation list more efficiently, will have satisfied clients and a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done. If during the day you find your anxiety levels rising, take a short time out and go back to watching your breath for two to three minutes again and do not let yourself be distracted by the length of the list or any difficult consultations.

The benefits of a mindful approach to consultations will help to improve your clinical awareness and consultation skills, your clients will be grateful for how well you have listened to them and how caring you have been and you will find that the imagined “difficult” consultations went far better than any scenario your mind created.

Source: Vetmindfully blog

The Mindful Bitch Spey

For many years I would get extremely anxious when I knew that I had a bitch spey to perform, resulting in an enormous amount of stress which led to difficulty in carrying out the procedure. After being introduced to the technique of mindfulness I started to ask myself why I felt so anxious? So, each time I performed a bitch spey, I focussed my awareness on what I was doing, concentrating on each moment of the operation.

The anxiety came from past experience as a recent graduate, when my more experienced colleagues made a big fuss of bitch speys and all the possible complications. But, as I thought about it more, I realised that I had seldom had any serious problems whilst performing bitch speys, and any time that I or a colleague had, it was always corrected successfully.

The Thought Process

So I started to focus on what the complications were. As you will be aware the most common problem is bleeding. But why does bleeding occur? It occurs because of inadequate ligation of the ovarian and uterine arteries. Why does inadequate ligation occur? It occurs because of poor exposure of the ovarian pedicles making visualisation of the ligature difficult and not ensuring that the cervix is exteriorised and a transfixion ligature is not used.
How are these problems avoided? They are avoided by being mindful and aware of the potential problems and by focussing on each step of the surgery.
Firstly, by making the initial incision in the correct place and of the correct size. Secondly, ensuring that the ovaries are exteriorised sufficiently to triple clamp the pedicle. This means spending time on breaking the ovarian ligament, in some cases, and not being tempted to attempt ligation with insufficient exposure.

Thirdly, transfixing the cervical end of the uterine body.

The Practical Process

I started to ensure that I focussed entirely on each step of the surgery, not being tempted to take short cuts. After each surgery I reviewed how the procedure had gone and how I felt before, during and after the operation.
Initially I still felt the anxiety that I had always felt before the surgery, however following my mindful approach, I did not have any issues, and procedure after procedure went well. I felt relief following each procedure, but more importantly I realised that this approach was allowing me to improve on my technique each time, and that the mindfulness aspect of the process was becoming second nature. I did not have to concentrate on being mindful, it just happened. After each successful operation I took a minute to experience the feeling of a job well done and held on to this feeling.

Gradually the anxiety has faded to a point where I do not experience it at all now. I know that I can perform bitch speys well, I know that by being focussed on each step I am minimising the chance of complications occurring and at the same time knowing that I can react to any unexpected occurrence and deal with it if one occurs.

The Long Term Benefits

By using mindfulness techniques, I experience significantly less anxiety. I have ensured that I follow a sound surgical technique and have good outcomes on the procedures that I carry out with patients recovering quickly.

Source: Vetmindfully blog

Further reading

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World – Mark Williams & Danny Penman

Mental Health Foundation



Vetmindfully blog

Everyone in the veterinary community is welcome to contact Vetlife Health Support for free, professional and confidential advice on stress and other mental health issues.