Animals for academic anxiety

ANIMALS FOR ACADEMIC ANXIETY

MY STORY

From the beginning of primary school, or I have been told as far back as nursery, I had difficulties settling in. Every task I completed had to be a replica of the image I created in my head. So, imagine the dread and anxiety little Heidi experienced when she was faced with tests at the young age of 7.

Over the years, I have developed a phobia of exams. Stemmed from low self-esteem and a fear of failure, failure being anything below 100%. Studying became obsessive and compulsive, if I did not complete 12 hours a day then I was a nervous wreck. Ironically, for the past three years, even attempting exams sent my brain into complete meltdown and crisis mode. Believing that a life of 99% results is a life not worth living.

The reality of rigorously controlling something is that it takes a three hundred and sixty degrees turn before beginning to control you. Society deems a 24 hour scheduled life as perfection, I know first-hand how rigid thinking and the need for productivity is in fact a hindrance. Let us praise the “go with the flow” attitude in academia, and those learning through exam mock failures. This is how we must face difficulties in life, rather than working so intensely to avoid the what-ifs.

Only after hypnotherapy and animal therapy can I even say the word EXAM, so now I can shout EXAMS at the top of my voice without fear of irrational curses that will doom me to failure.

I am not lagging behind my high school class, I am on Heidi’s academic journey. The Heidi journey has been full of adventures and life lessons along the way, it is only beginning.

Facing academic anxiety head-on is a huge leap forward on my journey. This journey will change my life, not because of grades that I will achieve or how many hours of work experience I will clock up.
I am escaping from that rat race.

“Once we face our fear, once we treat our anxiety itself as a thing, we can then choose otherwise. Instead of filling the unknown in our minds with expectations of the tragic, we can choose to fill the void with a different expectation – the expectation of adventure.”

ANIMALS ALLEVIATE ANXIETY 

Hypnotherapy is not an option for everyone, I am fortunate to be receptive to this form of therapy. However, animals have the ability to put us in a state of relaxation, they are hypnotherapists in their own right. Animals also help us to eradicate unnecessary anxiety and negative emotions, because remaining calm improve our focus and concentration on the task at hand.

So here are 3 ways that animals alleviate exam anxiety. 

1. SELF CARE

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Other how-to-overcome-exam-anxiety posts will tell you to have a quality sleep, to eat wholesome and nutritious brain food, to take regular breaks outside.

I understand just how difficult this can be, especially when your self-worth has hit rock bottom. This is where animals can help:
Care for your pet whilst caring for yourself.

You are your dog’s world. You feed them, you take them to the toilet, you make their tail wags. With any animal we have responsibilities away from the tasks that are gluing us to our books.

They encourage us to get outside and take a wander in the great outdoors. I shared the benefits of the outdoors here

2. THE BEST STUDY BUDDIES

Get yourself a furry study-buddy. (Hopefully your dog won’t eat your homework).

During a particularly difficult depressive episode, a litter of puppies literally saved my life. I was reassured that everything had happened for a reason, that Esme the pup was sent to be my companion.

After sneaking Esme upstairs in my dressing gown, she would sit in my knee whilst I studied in bed. Easing the overwhelming fears of studying and exams, when life was already pretty much unbearable, my little pup was the best buddy. 

They divert our attention from the never-ending spiral of worry. From feeling uneasy and anxious, our study buddies help us feel calm and concentrated. 

3. ALTERNATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS

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“Caring for animals gives you a sense of achievement that is not a graded % or measured in kilograms, but wagging tails and kisses.” – my ANIMALS ARE MY THERAPY post.

Check out my “Animals are my therapy” post to read how animals helped my self-esteem, in more detail. 

Animals continue to motivate me on my journey, to overcome the obstacles with pride, and to shout it from the rooftop so that other people can benefit too.

Heidi x

A how to guide. Veterinary placements abroad.

“IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH.”

After asking for blog post inspiration on my instagram account , here is a
HOW TO GUIDE: Getting work experience placements abroad.

(With the help of some incredible instagrammers in the online veterinary community.)

Securing placements at our local small animal practices can feel hard enough. Conducting a google survey of the local area to ensure that your email proposals have the highest chance of success, the worry of lacking previous experience to outcompete other aspiring vets, refreshing your email inbox in the hope that a response will magically appear.

So how on earth do you begin searching for placements abroad?

STEPHANIE’S STORY:

THE BEGINNING:

When I initially looked into overseas placements, I did not look for the location. Instead, I looked for placements with the animals I wanted to work with

I remember googling ‘elephant volunteering’, or ‘working with seals’.

It is good to note that there is a whole bunch of programs and websites that run specific programs for vets and vet students. This is so that you get all the information you want about your placement and the animals in regards to the veterinary industry surrounding them. Rather than solely gaining the understanding given to the general public volunteering.

GOOD CONTACTS:

To name a few locations that I know running these would be:
Elephant Nature Park
Wild Inside Vet Volunteers
Worldwide Veterinary Service
Globe Trotting Veterinary
and many more!

Doing this meant that I could do what I wanted to do with animals and worry about the location and getting there later

THE OBSTACLE:

The main issue with overseas placements is money.

So unless you are flushed with cash, I am not, it takes a lot of planning and saving.

I booked my placement in Thailand a year and a half in advance, and I was looking into it two years before the placement. All so that I had enough money for a deposit.

Having a budget and saving for your overseas placement will be worth it!

FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS:

If you are lucky enough to live in Australia (or other locations), the government will actually loan you money to go on 2 overseas placement trips through university. This loan is then added to your HCES university debt and is paid back through tax when you reach the income threshold to pay back your normal university debt.
Here in Australia this is called OS-help –  I wish I knew about it before my trip to Thailand!

DO YOU RESEARCH:

The most important thing is to look into all options when wanting to do an overseas placement.

You could believe that you have an amazing placement lined up in Africa to take care of the animals, only to find out that it is only so other customers can poach them.

Do your research!

Talk to fellow students and see where they have gone. Seek out recommendations. Remember to check to see if the university can help with funding or scholarships for this.

HAVE FUN!:

But most of all have fun and enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t let anyone put you off by saying “are you really going to go by yourself” because f*** yeah it is amazing!

 

HEIDI’S STORY:

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Another question was about money. 
With travel expenses, increased living costs, loss of working days (not an exhaustive list!). How can you afford to go on a placement abroad? 

FINLAND

I couldn’t in 2017, when I worked on a husky farm in Finland.

Although my journey to that placement is unique, it is proof that life can may just throw one at you. My first “proper” work experience placement opened the door to work in Finland. After a summer of volunteering in 2016, I was gifted a token to flights for 2017 in order to take on the challenge of husky farm life.

SWITZERLAND

Getting to Switzerland was a different story – Cheap flights.

I am currently packing for my next journey to Switzerland this February, £50 return with easyJet. Animals need care 365 days a year, but every place has its “off peak” month/s. A bonus is taking holiday pay off work for said placement. 

The answer to your flight problems:
sky scanner

“ALL THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE.”

Living away for veterinary work experience

LIVING AWAY FOR VETERINARY WORK EXPERIENCE 

From medical procedures and kidding events during my stays in Wales, to slaughter house legislation- I have shared plenty of educational content on my work experience blogs.

What about the times watching horror documentaries with hot chocolates during kidding? Headstand competitions in the lambing field? Getting tipsy in Finland after work around the campfire?

The idea of staying away from home for a period of time for work experience can seem daunting. 

But DO NOT FEAR.

Your “hosts” may become second families, you can integrate into the household life and share wonderful memories whilst your sides hurt from laughing so much at inside jokes. 

By running through the placements I stayed away from home, I am going to share some non-vet highlights and funny stories.

1. LARGE ANIMAL VET

Panic! I was locked in the hotel at 4 a.m. by bolted doors when I needed to be out of the door for a routine TB test.
The vet was waiting outside, we could not be late to an appointment. Being 5ft 3 (1.6 m) I had to put my backpack on the floor to use it to jump from, to tap the bolt across with my fingertips. I persisted.
Heidi 1 Bolt door 0.

As the vet was located in a remote area of the Lake District, I had to walk for hours to buy Pepsi Max. Making friends with the sheep along the way, a morning without call outs was spent well.

2. LAMBING

Hopping off the quad for headstand competitions in one of the lambing fields. My childhood gymnastics years are long gone, but my competitive streak is not. I was determined to win.
Headstands soon became bursts of laughter lying on the grass. Just avoid the sheep poop.

I can’t forget about the unique lambing experience. Placenta thrown in the face whilst assisting births, the extra challenge.  I wonder what they must have taught the culprit vet students at vet school? Were they preparing me for weird situations? I will have to wait and see!

3. KIDDING

Who would have thought that the phrase “Clinging like a limpet” would result in a goat-fam walk to the beach to find my first limpets? Now a running joke, kidding placements are not 24/7 goats when you stay with such an awesome family. 

Cuddling up in a blanket watching murder mysteries with hot chocolates is how we liked to spend a night after a busy day on the farm. 

I am grateful for my goat family in Wales! Always looking forward to my next stay there. 

4. FINLAND

Where do I start? 

My first days were spent being trained by a fellow French guide who described the training documents as “sh*ts of paper”. Those sheets made me cry laughing. 

After eating plain pasta when I arrived, I was made aware that I will learn to love pesto and become pesto pasta obsessed. That is true. We must have eaten our body weight x10 in pesto pasta. In a physically demanding job, coming home to bowls full of carbs was awesome. Apart from the time I fell over with 4 plates of pesto pasta, and cried because it was the icing on the cake of stress. 

Supporting immigrants’ integration into the local community in Finland consisted of farm activities such as berry picking, but my favourite has to be quad driving. Driving the quad around the track with a few children clinging on to me for their lives, fun until the quad starts to smoke!

I will never forget my leaving meal in the traditional kota on farm. I brought two of my favourite dogs, Tähti and Tog, to celebrate with! We ate food cooked on the fireplace and I drank until I was tipsy… so no one believed when I shouted, “THE NORTHERN LIGHTS”. As I exited the kota to begin walking to the guide house, I saw the blue bands of colour. 
The response was something along the lines of me drinking too much. 
Imagine the others’ faces when they saw the Northern Lights on our arrival at the guide house! I was no imagining it. 

5. SWITZERLAND

Getting lost on a hike up to Harder Kulm was great. Why? Because I met 2 cool travellers, we finished the hike together and I celebrated with coke zero as they enjoyed a beer as we sat with a bird’s-eye view of Interlaken.  

So, when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen for the Mürren hike, and saw a fellow solo hiker, I asked for a photo taken in order to begin a conversation. I was eager to make friends with more travellers. We decided to hike together, by the end we had already organised a meet up in Interlaken which led to eating out together! 

My host, Vera, and I walked the goats around the town, creating small crowds of people playing with Florian the goat and taking photos. Celebrities of Interlaken. There are too many hilarious moments to share with Vera, but she has become my “Swiss mum”. I already have my third trip to Switzerland coming up in 2 weeks, in the span of 7 months. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Veterinary work experience: Past, Present, Future

Past -> Present -> Future

Shock horror- attempting to take a more “go with the flow” approach to life in 2019 means I have no work experience booked.

Fortunately, the past few years of hard work have set a solid foundation for another exciting year of placements, to continue to immerse myself into the vet life.

Before committing to posting a monthly overview of my work experience placements in 2019, I thought that it would be helpful to share my past experience.

PAST

DOG DOYCARE CENTRE

(No photos, so here’s a cute photo with Stanley!)

BLACKPOOL ZOO KEEPER: ACADEMY STUDENT 

(Every Sunday for 3 months)

Just giving a tortoise a bath… as you do

KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK: ACADEMY STUDENT

(1 week)

Feeling tall

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1)

(1 week)

Small animal surgery confidentiality = cute Maisie to fill the gap

DAIRY FARM / PETTING FARM

(1 week)

Moooove along

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(1 week)

Here’s another space-filler! I have cared for 3 litters of pups at home.

EQUINE STUD FARM

(Every Sunday for 2 months)

Poop husbandry… how to handle + accurately do F.E.Cs

GENETICS DAIRY FARM

(Accumulated 5 random days)

Being 5ft 3 puts you right in the firing line.

HILL FARM

(1 day)

EQUINE VETERINARY PRACTICE

(10 days)

(Photo is actually from stud farm placement, vet confidentiality!)

BEEF FARM

(1 day)

A work of art – my first calf eartag

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1) – GOAT SPECIALIST 

(1 week, staying away from home)





A random goat photo – I have lots of those! Vet confidentiality.

WILD BIRD HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

A very countryside photo

HEDGEHOG HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

Always making friends on placement

ABATTOIR (SLAUGHTER HOUSE)

(1 day) 

Exposure and education

LAMBING (2500 EWES)

(10 days, living on farm)

Yes, I pulled these guys out

LARGE SCALE GOAT MEAT FARM (Wales)

Living on farm. Total: 5 weeks in vet work exp. 5 day week maths!

(10 days during kidding
1 week in summer
1 week in winter)

Dream kidding team

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(2 x 1 week placements = 2 week total)

An important aspiring goat vet milestone.
TAKING BLOOD.

HUSKY FARM IN FINLAND

(7 weeks)

Monitoring anaesthesia and stitching. When there is no vet nurses in the remote practice.

SWITZERLAND WORK AWAY WITH GOATS

(6 weeks)

Goats love me too

GOAT DAIRY FARM

A goat rotary parlour… AMAZING.

ULTRASOUND SCANNING LIVESTOCK

Early days for understanding the images, it is a learning process. Practice makes perfect.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION COURSE 

Waiting for the POP, if you know you know.

EDUCATIONAL FARM

(2 years)

Every child should learn about goats

PRESENT

Placement hosts have become second families, work experience has truly changed my life and shaped who I am today.

As 2018 drew to a close, I was over the moon to secure a full time position working in a kennels/cattery/stables. Full time work experience!

Outside of kennel assistant work:

GCSE tutoring
Learning to drive
Goat keeping

Work experience
Studying
ENJOYING LIFE
Travelling

I have a week in Switzerland booked, and hopefully a 2 day course at a local commercial goat farm soon. 

FUTURE

I would like to post a monthly work experience summary on my blog

Gain experience in a laboratory

Attend more courses

Spread the “Animals are my therapy” word

Here is to a wonderful 2019, with its ups and downs.

Heidi.

Dairy placement: I goat this, 13.11.18

“If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Not a pot of gold, but even better.

Goats were at the end of my rainbow.

Another day off work is another day heading to the goat dairy farm for work experience as I am eager to continue developing my understanding, skills, knowledge, and abilities, for a future in veterinary medicine.

Immersing myself into goat farming, I can see that the dream of becoming a caprine specialist is not a far-off fantasy. From the large scale milking of Saanens, and rearing Boers for meat, to the pet Pygmies, there is an increasing demand for speciality medicine.

Goats are not sheep, and they are certainly not small cows.
Goats are goats.

“I want to go about like the light-footed goats.” : Johanna Spyri, Heidi.

A Heidi photo update is a great opportunity to talk polled goat genetics, an interesting topic.

Polled is dominant allele, so is expressed in the homozygous or heterozygous state. However, homozygous dominant is linked with intersex does (genetically female) as the intersex linked gene is recessive therefore expressed in the homozygous individuals.

Heidi the goat is heterozygous!

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Ensuring that the kids are feeding regularly is a very important job on a dairy unit, because after 12 hours, the kids (with a belly full of colostrum) are grouped into pens. They now have human mothers!

There is a critical time period after kidding, during which the kids can absorb immunoglobulins. After 12 hours, the kids are extremely capable to begin learning how to feed from the teats and enjoy life with their small friends.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

Identified on the farm as a problem most prevalent in the multiples, due to limited space in utero, I was taught how to aid the correction of contracted fetlock tendons. (Tendons connect muscle to bone.)

For some kids, I flexed the hoof upwards repeatedly to carefully stretch the tendon to correct hoof placement on the ground. 
However, more severe cases require splinting for support above and below the joint. A splint was secured with vet wrap, over the soft cotton layers to ensure comfort. 

“Here we goat again”

Another opportunity to milk the 1,500+ goats on the rotary parlour.

With smaller fat globules, and less lactose, goats milk is a great alternative to cows milk. Found in the small intestine epithelium.  lactase is the enzyme that hydrolyses the glycosidic bond in lactose to produce glucose and galactose. If an individual does not produce sufficient amounts of lactase, the lactose is not digested and causes discomfort as it passes to the colon. Diarrhoea results from the lowered water potential causing water to move into the colon, and the bacteria breaking down the lactose release gases. 

Goats milk is also delicious. Have I sold it to you? 🙂

Dairy placement: Just kidding, 7.11.18

All experience is good experience 

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Off work = on placement.
Whilst I am continuously developing my general interpersonal skills in my workplace, I have 1 day a week on placement to gain career-focussed skills and knowledge.
Swapping the uniform for overalls, the customers for goats. 

Life is a Merry-Go-Round

A time lapse of milking 1,500 goats puts the daily care of 3 pet goats into perspective. Check out this awesome rotary parlour.

Although I have been part of the team for afternoon milking on a cattle dairy farm,  goats make the ultimate milking experience for any aspiring-goat-specialising-vet.

No poo in the face either, bonus.

Goat vet goals

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In order to be a certified CAE negative herd, all animals must have a blood sample taken for laboratory testing. Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is a disease caused by a lentivirus. Following accreditation, a closed herd would be the highest biosecurity measure but this would prevent the introduction of genetic variation to avoid inbreeding. Therefore, testing any bought-in billy is most beneficial to the future of the herd. In addition, the virus can be spread from infected does to any kids receiving colostrum or milk so these fluids should not be taken from does (or other farms) with unknown CAE status. 

My goats are with the same veterinary practice, so it was great to work alongside one of the brilliant vets again during 3 hours of taking blood from 300+ goats. Writing down the correct breed/sample tube number/ear tag number/age/gender of each goat through the run was my job. Despite writing hundreds of numbers, it was very important for the data to have no errors whilst also guarding the paperwork and veterinary equipment from the inquisitive goats. Smudge, however, became my assistant.

I noticed that the paperwork was also used for MV testing, a new abbreviation to me . On research, I have found that Maedi Visna is a similar viral disease affecting sheep. You learn something new every day. 

A milestone in the aspiring goat specialist veterinarian path – taking a blood sample from a goat. See the action shots:

The circle of life 

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Kidding time on a farm means that you have to be prepared to assist births at any moment.

Presentation of head only means time to correct the dystocia.
Gloves and lube on, I gently inserted my hand into the doe’s vagina to bring the forelimbs forward to successfully deliver the kid. Taking care not to damage the delicate goat uterus and ensuring minimal distress for the does (often dramatically screaming).

One of the greatest feelings is helping to bring an animal into the world. 

Meet Heidi

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The kids have around 12 hours to drink colostrum in the vital first 6 hours of their life whilst they are able to absorb the antibodies. Following this, they are transferred to pens to begin training to drink from the milk feeder. This is a new aspect of kidding time to me, as my previous placements have been with goats reared for meat so the kids have remained with their mothers until weaning.

These dairy kids have so much love from their human parents. They play around with their goaty friends, and adore the attention from workers.

One of my goals of the day was to name a goat Heidi.

HEIDI + HEIDI:

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The highlight of my week. A crazy goat lady’s heaven.