It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and out on the social media-sphere there is much amazing and inspiring talk from those who have experienced or are experiencing mental health challenges.
I want to focus this week on one preventative strategy that can help keep us from sliding in that direction and that is the subject of play.
We all know that rest is imperative, vital to survival, optimal brain functioning and something we all need to attempt to get enough of. Many of us don’t consistently achieve this, however we at least know that we should be doing if we want to stay mentally healthy so it’s on our radar.
What’s probably less on our radar is the absolute necessity of play. Play being defined as any activity we do that is essentially purposeless in terms of income generation, but that we do simply for fun and enjoyment.
We do know about play of course, but it’s usually a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘when/if I ever have time’ item on the list. Or we see it as less worthy and important than income-generating or to-do list activities.
What an ever-growing body of research is now showing us however is that play is actually vital for our survival, and something that is every bit as necessary for us as rest.
Ok, so this is powerful stuff. Dr Stuart Brown is a pioneering researcher from the National Institute of Play and his work, which stems initially from the study of the function of play in animals, shows that play is not just joyful and energising, it’s deeply involved in human development and intelligence.
It’s not something I think that comes easily in the veterinary profession. We have a serious job involving saving lives and advocating the highly emotional pet-owner bond, we work very long and unpredictable hours that make finding the time or energy to ‘play’ sometimes virtually impossible.
I’ve had veterinary colleagues who have not engaged in ‘play’ for so long, that they actually don’t WANT to have a half-day or a day off, because they simply would not know what to do with it, they would feel guilty for not working and it would be more stressful than regenerative to have that time off. Hmmm.
I experienced this myself when I first diversified out of clinical work. In theory I could stop work at 5pm now but this felt like the middle of the bloody afternoon after being used to working until 8pm. For months after diversifying I literally couldn’t leave my laptop until at least 7pm or I felt completely lazy and worried that I’d get into trouble somehow.
It was only after encouragement from my husband, who really gets the importance of play, that I started finishing on time, heading down to the beach for a kayak and doing non-work stuff with my extra bit of day (while feeling anxious and guilty about it).
Then something really interesting happened. I noticed that on days where I DID get away on time, the following day I was so much more productive, engaged, creative and happy at work. The quality of my concentrating ability and the amount I got done was exponentially increased. I was a better, more efficient and effective version of me when I wasn’t completely exhausted and depleted and ‘always on’.
I know that finishing at 5pm isn’t possible for many people in clinical practice, so I want to encourage you to proactively make or find the time for play in your week in other ways – whatever play is for you.
That might be exercise that you love, painting, doing a jigsaw, gardening, curling up with a book, sudoku while listening to classical music, knitting, meeting a friend – whatever puts you in flow, makes you happy and is something that you could do for hours without noticing the time passing.
Interestingly, even though I hired her to help me with some big scary topics like making my business work, generating income to keep my family going, overcoming limiting beliefs etc. one of my current mentor’s first questions to me was, “How much fun are you having at the moment?”……..
So go on, I give you permission….. if fact I order you…. to have more fun this week! 🙂
Watch this short 2-min video for some inspiration, then hit reply and tell me what you are going to do yourself – I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. If you are finding these VLOGS and blogs useful, why not join the Vet Harmony Community so you never miss out. It’s like free CPD for your mental health! CLICK HERE to join – we’d love to have you on board!