top of page
  • Dr. Eric Rooker

October 2021 Countdown to Success: On stress and perceived workload

“Helping you achieve high performance medicine.”

Read this on

Happy October,

Your journey of professional development is important to me. Please hit that reply button or join our Facebook Group to share your journey and inspiration with our community.

You never know when your ideas, thoughts, actions, or reflection will inspire another vet out there!

Alright, let’s get to it!

Here are 5 Inputs to Inspire, 4 Quotes to Contemplate, 3 Thoughts to Ponder, 2 Challenges to Conquer and 1 Reflection Question to help you grow this month.

5 Inputs to Inspire

I. World famous researcher Robert Sapolsky discusses the causes and effects of stress. A great storyteller and researcher, Sapolsky discusses how he used a social stress model in baboons to mimic the stressors we as humans experience. This research led him to new insights about the importance of social connections in preventing stress related disease. Learn more in this highly accessible article from the Sanford Report.

II. The difficulty of the work we undertake, or it’s perceived difficultly, can be altered by our social connectedness. Researchers in the study, Social support and the perception of geographical slant, showed that when you’re accompanied by a helpful friend or individual and take on a problem you will find the problem to be 10-20% easier than when alone. Interestingly, in a situation when someone can not be present, a similar effect can be derived by actively visualizing that person with you. The simple act of feeling connected with someone is enough to make a task seem more manageable.

III.How We Work is a book that was recommended to me by AABP Executive Director, Dr. Fred Gingrich. This book focuses on how identifying a purpose is key to conducting more meaningful work. This meaningful work will come more naturally to the practitioner because of it’s autonomic nature and therefor will make the day to day grind that much easier.

IV. Once again, we return to a hill and the perception of difficulty when climbing it! Cornell psychologist Dr. Anthony Barrow takes us to “Libe Slope” on the Cornell campus. Barrow shows us that if we visualize a purpose, and have it clear in our mind, we perceive a workload as less difficult and estimate the difficulty of the task as much easier! Be sure to checkout a summary of his research in the Cornell Chronical.

V. Not all stress is bad; practicing at a high level means that you must assume a baseline level of stress. The best visual description I’ve found to explain this is the “Stress Curve.” This curve describes how a baseline amount of stress is required for us to progress, without which we risk becoming complacent and static in our growth. Understanding the curve can also help us avoid taking on too much stress and risking the ever present condition of burnout.

4 Quotes to Contemplate I. Hockey agent and Gold Star Financial Group founder Daniel Milstein on stress and the need to take action on it:

You MUST objectively analyze what’s really causing you to be stressed or otherwise unable to succeed and then DO something about it!

II. Organizational psychologist and author Benjamin Hardy discusses purpose vs success and how confusing the two will lead you down a vicious cycle:

If you ever get to the point where the achievement becomes the end, you’ve officially lost touch with yourself and your WHY. In such a case, you are no longer interested in authentic growth and living in alignment with your values and purpose. Instead, you begin seeking whatever will make you successful. Whatever will maintain the faulty self-image you feel the need to portray to others.

III. James Clear, Atomic Habits author and a personal inspiration to me, discussing how hard work is often an indicator of a poorly designed system:

Time spent working hard is often better spent identifying where the bottleneck is located. Working hard on the wrong thing leads to frustration, not progress.

IV. Author and researcher Robert Sapolsky on the cause of the stress response and how it can go astray:

If you’re stressed like a normal mammal in an acute physical crisis, the stress response is lifesaving. But if instead you chronically activate the stress response for reasons of psychological stress, your health suffers.

3 Thoughts to Ponder

I. Your connectedness with people is what feed is to a farm. We credit feed costs in agriculture with over 50% of the operating budget of any good farm. Our relationships are just as important to our personal growth. Invest in these relationships accordingly.

II. Burnout and stress are credited with being the #1 and #2 reasons for vets leaving practices. BUT they are sequela of a much bigger problem; our failure to control our veterinary workloads as well as our perception of these workloads.

III. Saying NO to someone, something, or an opportunity might be the single greatest way to control stress. As a profession of givers, we are too liberal with our time and talents. If we focused just a little more on our own purpose and meaningful work, effectively utilizing the time we carve out by saying NO, we would be better able to reduce our innate stress levels and better protect our own mental well-being.

2 Challenges to Conquer

I. Begin modifying your perceived workload. This starts by taking 30 to 60 minutes to reflect upon your purpose. Use resources like John Maxwell’s Intentional Living (Ask yourself; what makes you cry, what makes you sing, what makes you dream?), Simon Sinek’s Finding Your Why, or Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Why’s to discover your “Why,” your purpose. Once you discover this write it on three post it notes. I want you to place one of these on your bathroom mirror, one on your vehicles dashboard and one on your desk at work. Be sure to stop and read them frequently!

II. Improve your connections today! Compose a short email to your dream peer or mentor asking them to join you on your development journey. Seek to facilitate your mutual progression in your similar meaningful works! This letter can be as simple as:

Dear X,

My name is X Y Z.Over the last X years your name has repeatedly come up in conversation over and over when I read about my current area of interest. Many people around me have encouraged me to reach out to you for guidance and recommendations.

The reason your name has come up time and time again is because I am (making, studying, interested in doing X Y Z).I’ve been searching for just the right peer who could join me in my journey related to this area. I’m willing to work diligently with you so that we may learn and participate in this journey together. It is my hope you will consider accepting this request and we can continue this conversation and journey into the future via Zoom, email or in-person meetings.

Thank you,


1 Reflection Question

What is more difficult; the work you do or the perception of the work that needs to be done?

Until next month,

Dr. Eric Rooker

Founder of Operators to Owners

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page