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Back to where it all began: VetFit at the RVC for AVS Congress

So here we are, back to where it all began! Driving up feeling like I had never left (and I'm sure there are some members of the RVC who are feeling the same!), on a sunny but snowy Saturday, I was ready for our 9am talk about wellbeing.

The delegates however on the other hand may have been a little less bright eyed after a pub crawl through Camden on the Friday night. Some looked particularly horrified as I mentioned the idea of running trainers at 9am but quickly let them know they could sit down, listen in and switch off (but hopefully not too much).

VetFit started here because Charlie and I had a real passion of sport and exercise at the RVC, playing several sports and helping with the set up of the Sports and WELLBEING Centre. We talked about several areas close to our heart but will just touch on a few things here, with particular reference to students.

It was good to see students that we had spoken to before from Nottingham, RVC and Cambridge as well as one participant from the actual study! We must be doing something right!

Our talk was recorded, so hopefully you should be able to get a hold of it on here at a later date. Here is a summary of our key points.

TEAM SPORTS As long term fans of team sports, VetFit always try and push team sport wherever we can, not only because of the obvious exercise benefits but more importantly for the social contact and support network that it provides! One of our favourite studies from the USA which has shown that more exercise means you have less bad days per month and this effect is boosted even more if you have previously been diagnosed with depression (Chekroud et al, 2018). More important is the fact that TEAM sports have an even BIGGER effect than simple exercise. However, during the 7-8 years we were at the RVC we were at the RVC, one thing Charlie and I had noticed was that despite year group sizes getting larger, team sport participation was going down. Some clubs were even struggling to field a team. This is purely anecdotal however, having asked students from other universities, this doesn't seem to be a problem limited to the RVC, which obviously triggers the question of why? It is our belief that it is partly societal, as less young people are playing team sports, but also that actually vet students have a very bad habit of making veterinary their entire lives; remember a vet is WHAT you are, not WHO you are.

OUR OWN WELLBEING We wanted to highlight that if you are in ANY way concerned, or need someone to talk to, please be aware of VetLife. VetLife are an independent, free and confidential 24/7 helpline for vets, nurses and students. website: vetlife.org.uk Phone: 0303 040 2551

ARE YOU OK? and INCLUSION Leading on from this we discussed how we look after people that aren't ok, that are overstressed, that are struggling and what to do about it. It is easy for people to be left by the wayside, or feel alone, or think they are the only one struggling. But I promise you, if you feel alone or anxious or depressed you are not the only one. I know it can seem scary, but one of the best things you can do is talk to others about it. If you see someone struggling, or are concerned about someone, please ask them how they are, or offer them a coffee, or go for a walk, or even a simple hug! It's amazing the difference one random act of kindness can make. This can even save lives. WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE! I will be the first to put my hand up and say I have had days where I have cried and wondered what on earth I am doing, but it is amazing how much a friend offering to go for a beer helped put my mind straight. This is of course much easier to do if you have people that you have close contact with regularly and are relaxed around. I,e. TEAMMATES! This leads onto inclusiveness and if you do one thing today, please watch this video to make you stop and think about how others may be feeling: #inclusionstartswithi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g88Ju6nkcg

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS!!!! A big one! We are so lucky in the UK to have protected time on Wednesday afternoons! Having spoken in the USA, I realised how lucky we are and how much we can take it for granted. When I started at the RVC, it was a real struggle to be allowed out of the clinics to play sport. Previously you were only allowed off if you were doing representative sport, and even then it was with some reluctance. Thankfully now, that has all changed and staff at the RVC will be kicking you out the door to go and do something extra curricular! Take advantage of this! This does not mean go and put your head in your books, or go to the library. Go and do something you enjoy that is NOT veterinary! It is so important to have outside interests. I promise you now that spending 2 hours standing in an orthopaedic surgery, hoping that the senior clinician is going to ask you to pass you an instrument is not going to make you a better vet. HOWEVER going out and finding or doing something you enjoy, that will help you relieve the stressors and strains. We are not saying join the rugby team or go climb Kilimanjaro, but just find something that isn’t work, that you enjoy and embrace it! Trust us, you will NEED it in later life. It was amazing the number of people in the lecture this morning that when asked, had played a sport before university but had felt that they had had to give it up!

Learning How To Cope A brilliant quote that has come out of the weekend that I would love to take credit for but unfortunately can’t (well done whoever was in charge of the AVS Instagram page). That quote was, ‘Learning how to manage your mental before you need it, is like learning to swim before boarding the Titanic’. We strongly believe that Vet Schools have the ethical and moral obligation to be teaching you guys as students to learn how to recognise stress and how to manage it in yourselves. Not only stress but the symptoms of depression and other work-related mental health issues. After all, how you can you act professionally looking after animals and clients, if you are unable to look after yourself?

Time to finally end! We hope you have enjoyed our first blog and thanks to all those at the Association of Veterinary Students. Keep an eye out for Charlie’s blog next weekend!

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