Boundaries in vet med
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Maria
Words by:
Maria Botinas, DVM — Director of Clinical Excellence, Florida & the Midwest

Under your surface, do you feel worth it?

The world is in a craze right now with the newest Disney film, Encanto. The music will draw you in as a child or if you are like me an adult, but the story between the lines is fascinating.

Luisa is a brawny character that never says no. At any moment anyone can ask for her assistance and without any hesitation, she is there.

After completing the task at hand she is off to the next villager to help them. Always making sure her family and the village does not crumble, doesn’t fall, and everyone around her is satisfied with her work.

Her exterior is happy, content, and this is what her calling is, but under her surface, she craves for something more.

Sound familiar?

Setting boundaries as veterinarians

You have a great exterior, you make sure everyone is taken care of at home, then go to work and make sure the clients and the patients have what they need. I could go on and list all the things that you do for others.

You are everything and never say no. If you do, you let someone down. This is your calling and without this, you feel you are nothing.

Ok, so that may be a complete exaggeration, but it also may resonate with you.

Continuing in this direction will have you lose your power just like what was happening with Luisa. Underneath she was suffering, breaking. This is what you are doing to yourself.

As you continue to say yes if it isn’t completed then you are not worthy and this is hugely inaccurate.

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Finding “room for joy” like Luisa

During the movie or in her catchy tune she talks about room for joy, shaking the crushing weight of expectations. The issue with Luisa was twofold. First, she set no boundaries, and second, she had no self-care.

The dreaded term of self-care. I say it like this because so many different companies and people write about it. They talk about how you need self-care to reset but it is a refresh for you to continue the process of burnout if you will.

Self-care is usually spoken when people refer to yoga practices and meditation. While I enjoy the calming zen with yoga, this isn’t my self-care and may not be yours.

Instead of completing self-care as a task, it needs to be completed to satisfy your soul. If you don’t satisfy the soul the burnout will continue. Choosing the correct activity for your self-care is the most important.

More from IndeVets: 6 tips to set and maintain boundaries in work and in life

If you continue to watch the movie, Luisa is kicked to a hammock and a donkey hands her a drink. They forced her to take the time for herself.

It wasn’t an instructor telling her downward dog is ideal for her but a donkey with a drink. They not only made her take care of herself but right before this someone was asking her to complete yet another task and she was stopped. This started to create boundaries for her.

Finding your self-care solution

So how can you complete your self-care? Finding something that feeds your soul, asking yourself, “What does my soul crave?” Now, this doesn’t mean go grab the $3 bottle of wine off the shelf at your nearest store, but what does your body crave that is healthy for it.

What do you need at the moment of your highest stress, at the time where you get nothing for yourself? Is it the smell of the ocean, watching the waves? Is it the cold fresh flakes of the snow? Journaling your troubles away?

There are so many options for what self-care means to you and no two people will have the same. To be honest, your self-care will evolve just as you do in life.

Boundaries and self-care usually intertwine. When looking at your schedule trying to find the time for your care, you may turn and say, “I don’t have time.”

This isn’t you being lazy, this is fact. It is fact that you don’t have the boundaries in place to create the time for you to satisfy yourself.

As you see in Encanto when Luisa is pushed on the hammock she is ultimately telling someone no, starting the process for boundaries. This is how she can create time for herself.

Taking time out for self-care: One doctor’s journey to tai chi

Remember you are worthy!

In a world where we are always going taking the moment to say to ourselves, “I am worthy, I need space for me.” Is more important than ever.

While many people say you must start boundaries early, know that it is never too late to create them and enforce them. When people don’t respect them, it isn’t a reflection of failure on your part, it is a reflection of them not respecting you.

So the big question is how do you enforce your boundaries so you get the time for your self-care?

Setting and enforcing boundaries

Step 1. Create boundaries

The first step is creating them. You are the only one who knows exactly what you need in life and creating your boundaries is the first step to being fulfilled.

Once you create them it is important to let people know what they are if they are going to be affected by them. When you create boundaries, if people don’t know about them, you cannot expect people to respect them. So if you are no longer answering social media messages about pets, let it be known.

If someone messages you, it is important to respond and tell them unfortunately you will no longer be accepting messages via social media. If you want to pass on receiving individual messages, let all of your social media platforms know with one message.

Step 2: Be consistent!

After creating boundaries and informing people it is important to be consistent. Don’t bend. I have seen many times, myself included, where people have bent with boundaries. It led to a stressful day and wasn’t worth it. On top of this, you will have to reset them, which can sometimes be difficult.

Staying consistent will help it become a routine, but give yourself grace as there will be times you break your boundaries.

It is ok to break them occasionally which is not a failure on your part but a representation of you being human. Understand that this can take time and consistency to reset them.

In closing

Taking care of yourself is important especially in our emotional, demanding field. We have to take time to reflect on how we can improve our own lives so we can continue to help and serve our patients, clients, and even family. You can’t serve from an empty platter.

Dr. Maria Botinas is IndeVets Area Medical Director for Florida. She’s pictured above (beside Luisa!) with her family.

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