Coping and thriving in life despite stresses

Vet NI Conference in Seagoe Hotel.  Pic: Patrick MacFarlane, Dr Des Rice (guest speaker) and Aurelie Moralis.
Vet NI Conference in Seagoe Hotel. Pic: Patrick MacFarlane, Dr Des Rice (guest speaker) and Aurelie Moralis.

Our sense of wellbeing and productivity is enhanced when our needs are met- when they are not met we become stressed, anxious, angry and depressed, Dr. Des Rice, Psychotherapist and partner in coaching business CCO told the spring meeting of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA).

He pointed out that we have five principal emotional needs – control over our lives; friendship and team work; status/self-esteem; confidence and achievement; meaning and purpose.

When companies have goals that meet these needs there is a sense of achievement, fulfilment and joy. When these needs are not met we become anxious and stressed with pressures that exceed our coping skills- we are at the mercy of our nervous system. Therefore we need to tackle the weak areas.

Years ago ‘fight and flight’ were essential for survival but people ‘rested and digested’ when the danger was over. Modern society is in permanent ‘fight and flight’ mode, triggered by too many demands, unclear goals, aggressive body language, gossip and complaining, and excess time spent on social media, TV, computers etc. As a result our spare brain mental-capacity is being used up on trivia.

Symptoms of ‘fight and flight’ are headaches, tensions, panic, nausea, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, premature ageing, and an inefficient immune system. We need to master new and useful skills to stimulate our ‘rest and digest’ nervous system. Des Rice’s advice for mastering new skills is a combination of exercise and breathing techniques, goal planning and evaluation, and effective communication skills.

Be clear on, and commit to meaningful work and life goals. Mentally rehearse the outcome you want and the hurdles you will overcome.

Regarding communication skills he pointed out that level 1 listening is selfish where you are concerned about yourself and are planning your reply and waiting to speak rather than listening. Level 2 is reflective listening where the focus is on trying to understand what the person is saying. This can be followed by open questions – What is the issue? What will we do? When will we do it? Etc. Also reflect back on what has been said to ensure that everyone understands it. This is an amazing way to create meaningful relationships, team-work and deal with difficult clients/ people.

He emphasised: “Focus on the things that are meaningful and take control of your emotional state, in order to solve problems and provide successful options for change.”

Zoetis Veterinary Consultant and Junior Vice President of NIVA, Aurelie Moralis commented: “At Zoetis we were delighted to be one of the sponsors of this very worthwhile event which put the profession’s well-being at the forefront. Financial and time pressures can impact on our health and effectiveness at work. Des Rice has given us a very timely reminder to learn the life skills that will not only contribute to our health but also increase our effectiveness in the workplace.”

For coaching executives and the teams in their organisation or in their private lives Des can be contacted at

For more information or to learn the tools that are available for staying calm and focussed see Des and his colleague Paul Grant trained the volunteers at Vet Support NI and their service is available for anyone in the veterinary world who needs support.