In this video, Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about the importance of taking time for yourself to maintain and improve your performance. From focus to stress-reduction, she discusses six ways that time off the job makes you better on the job.
When I am speaking at industry events, I like to ask, “How many of you took a vacation last year?” It’s shocking how often large portions of my audiences do not raise their hands.
We groomers are hard workers, and it’s easy to find reasons or excuses not to take time off. But down time is good for you. It’s good for your staff. Research proves its good for everyone’s mental and physical health. Plus, it boosts productivity in the long run.
My companies have always had generous vacation policies. I firmly believe personal time to rest and relax or to pursue other activities improves morale. It’s important to everyone’s well-being to spend quality time with loved ones, relax, or have new adventures.
I just returned from one of my favorite vacations. I’m fortunate. I have a father who has had a sailboat in the Caribbean Islands for over 30 years. Rarely a year passes that I don’t get to spend time with my dad, friends, and family on the boat. This year my close friend and industry leader, Judy Hudson, was able to join my husband Marc and I on the boat.
Judy is a doer. A get-it-done kind of gal. She works incredibly hard. She never stops. She is always making decisions. She’s always responsible.
With her arrival to the Sundowner in St. Lucia, all of that went away. She could just relax and stop – something very rare for Miss Judy. She was able to experience new things, some pushing her way out of her comfort zone. Snorkeling in the turquoise waters of the open sea. Sailing for up to eight hours. Together we went to amazing locations and had plenty of fabulous food. We even got to watch a whale swim beside the boat for a short time before it dove to the depths of the ocean.
It took her a few days to fall into the “island time groove,” but she did. I think it was the first time I’ve ever seen this woman just stop and fully relax.
By the time our time was up, we were all rested and refreshed – ready to tackle the world upon our return to our everyday lives.
Vacations are not a luxury. They’re a necessity for a healthy, well-balanced life. They are as important as eating well and getting exercise. You don’t necessarily have to go to an exotic location, spend a lot of money, or travel to distant lands to have a relaxing vacation. Some of the best vacations could be “stay-cations” where you’ve never left home.
The key to any successful vacation is in the planning and getting a break from your usual routine.
Here are a few benefits for creating downtime.
- Vacations Alleviate Stress – Stress is a response originally meant to help keep us safe. It releases hormones for the flight or fight response necessary for our early survival. However, today, chronic stress can be destructive to us both mentally and physically. Getting away for regular vacations, leaving our everyday stresses behind, gives us a break. Vacations allow the consistent high levels of stress-related hormones to subside. They also give your body the opportunity repair some of the damage.
- Vacations Help Maintain Focus – Studies find chronic stress can hamper goal-directed activities and causes problems with memory. Working without breaks, down time or vacations can make people feel stuck, frustrated and distracted. Studies show almost 75% of people who vacation regularly feel energized and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.
- Vacations Make You Happier – Chronic exposure to stress contributes to depression and anxiety. Studies shows that women who do not take regular vacations are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious. Reports find people who take regular vacations feel happy with an overall feeling of well-being compared to those who did not vacation. Many stated these effects lasting beyond their actual vacation.
- Vacations Reduce Illness – Stress can alter your immune system, making you vulnerable to many illnesses. With a weakened immune system, you are more susceptible to common illnesses like the cold or flu. But long-term stress can also make you much more prone to more serious illnesses, as well.
- Vacations Support Relationships – Vacationing with your family or loved ones helps create closer bonds. These shared experiences promote family ties. Family vacations create more memories than any other activity. Vacationing together creates experiences that remain in your memory. Studies find people place a greater value on their shared experiences over material items they have accumulated in their lifetime.
- Vacations Make You More Productive – Research shows the more vacation time people have, the more productive they become. Regular vacations also reduce the number of missed workdays. At work, vacations increase production and job satisfaction.
When was last time you took a vacation where you could just decompress? Taking a vacation can do amazing things for your well-being – even if it is a well-planned out stay-cation.
As an employer, encouraging your team to take vacation time will improve morale. Even short vacations help. We see this every day at one of my companies. At Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, we make people use their vacation time. With almost 60 staff members, last year only two people did not use ALL their time. I firmly believe this contributes to the amazing harmony we have with the team.
If you are feeling run down, stressed, frustrated, or overworked – take the time to unwind. Step away from the grooming table. Step away from the shop. Step away from the business.
I encourage you to make down time for yourself and your fellow team members. True vacations renew and reboot your system. Typically, people return from vacation refreshed which increases productivity and thinking clarity.
Do you take down time? Why or why not? Jump on our Facebook page and share your thoughts with your Melissa Verplank family.
Last week was a week none of us want to deal with. We had to make the difficult decision to bid farewell to one of our beloved Maremma Sheepdogs. Most of us who have had multiple dogs have a few “heart dogs.” Cache was one of mine.
Maremmas are livestock guardian dogs. Their natural instincts allow them to take responsibility, making their own decisions in the absence of their owners. This means they are very independent thinkers. They decide for themselves how best to deal with prospective invaders (people or varmints) or potentially dangerous situations. Typically, the breed is not well suited as a typical household pet. They need space and a job to do.
Cache’s personality was true to her breed. However, we heavily socialize all our Maremmas. When we are in public, ours are soft, gentle, and friendly. On our own property, their natural instincts come out loud and clear. Cache was serious about protecting her turf, the animals she was raised with, and guarding us. She always made me feel comfortable and safe. She was with me most of the time, whether it be at work or at home.
Last year a nasty growth had to be removed from her third eyelid. The vet felt he got good margins and she healed up in no time. Seven months later, the growth was back. This time, when we had it removed we sent it in to be tested along with full blood work.
Unfortunately, we learned she had a very aggressive form of cancer that takes over the entire system in a short amount of time. The best thing we could do was keep her comfortable and enjoy the limited time we had left with her.
The first few weeks she was pretty good, but then her appetite started to fade along with her weight. Within a month we had to entice her to eat. We added eggs to her kibble. When she started turning her nose up at that, we added ground meat. Before long she was eating around every kernel of kibble, eating only the meat. Even though we fed her twice a day, she was not consuming enough calories to maintain any weight. We increased the ground meat. As we increased the straight protein, her system had a hard time digesting it. We found ourselves having to do regular spot bathing to clean up her hind end.
At the end of May, Judy Hudson and Sue Zecco arrived for National Dog Groomers Association of America Certification Testing at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. They came in a few days early just to hang at our farm, ride horses, cook healthy meals, and drink a little wine.
Judy watched me as I tried unsuccessfully to entice Cache to eat. By this time, I was making small raw meatballs for Cache. I would mix it with a little bit of her kibble and feed her by hand. I could always get her to take the meatballs but I could not get her to eat any of her kibble.
Ms. Hudson is a natural problem solver. Judy has been around my dogs quite a bit. Even though Cache’s mind was still sharp, Judy knew she was going downhill quickly. She needed to eat something more than just a small about of raw meat.
That’s when she asked, “Would Cache eat meatballs if you mixed other things with it?”
She suggested utilizing a food processor and creating custom meatballs more suitable for Cache’s digestive system. Judy proposed we soak a small amount of kibble in hot water until it was soft, then add some cooked rice, a little bit of bacon grease, and some raw meat. If we needed more moisture we could add some bone broth. Sort of like a pâté. Brilliant!
We quickly pulled out the food processor and got to work. We ground everything up until it was the consistency of cookie dough. Once it was mixed well, we tested it. I rolled out five ping-pong ball-sized meatballs and offered them to Cache. After a couple sniffs, she tried the first one. She did not hesitate on the second, third, fourth, or even fifth meatball!
I was thrilled! But as happy as I was that she was eating, I had a huge fear looming in the back of my mind.
The following week I left for Australia for a 10-day speaking engagement. I was terrified Cache would not hang on until I returned home. I knew if we could get her to eat, there was a good chance she would make it until I got home.
My husband Marc had been gone during Judy and Sue’s visit. When he got home, I showed him how to mix up these enticing pâté meatballs.
Cache rode to the airport with us as I left for Australia. I told Marc he needed to send pictures of Cache every day. He did. Lots of the photos were of her enjoying her meals. Sitting on the couch. Getting belly rubs. Laying comfortably in her bed – many times totally upside down.
When I returned home, Cache was in the car when Marc picked me up. I wanted to cry. My girl had waited for me.
Her mind remained sharp. She was alert. She was responsive. She seemed comfortable if she was lying down. Unfortunately, her legs were giving out. Before I left, she was just very stiff. When I got home, she was severely lame on three legs.
I was able to spend 5 more days with her before she told me it was time. Her legs refused to work any longer. Even when she could no longer walk, she still looked forward to her meatballs.
We bid good-bye to my sweet girl on June 22, 2017. Cache had just turned 11 years old.
I wonder if it was the pâté meatballs or the fact we were feeding her by hand that had made her eat so well. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was able to eat up to the very end.
I used a full-size food processor. I would mix up a batch to last for three or four feedings. Cache normally weighed about 85 to 90 pounds. When she was sick, she dropped to about 65 pounds. We fed her twice a day, 5-7 meatballs with each feeding.
Cache’s Pate Meatballs
Equal amounts of:
- moistened dry kibble
- cooked rice
- cooked or raw ground meat
- 1 or 2 hotdogs
- small amount of avocado oil, olive oil, or bacon grease
- enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dense dough-like consistency
Place moistened kibble, cooked rice, ground meat, and hotdogs into the food processor. Grind until mixed. Add oil or bacon grease. Grind until incorporated. Add enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dough-like consistency.
Place mixture in a sealed container and store in refrigerator until ready to form pâté meatballs. If cold, heat for 30 seconds in the microwave to soften the pâté slightly. Roll out enough meatballs for a single meal in a size suitable for the dog.
Place in a bowl, on a plate, or hand feed.
Cache was a special dog to me. She was way more than just a dog or a pet. She truly was a fur child in my eyes. One of my heart dogs. I’m so grateful for my time with her. I have beautiful memories of my girl.
This recipe worked wonders for Cache. If you are struggling to get a dog to eat, maybe this meatball pâté will work wonders for your dog, too.
Try out the recipe and tell us if it helped your pet, too. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and share recipes that you love for your dogs!
In many of my business lectures, I ask my audience how many of them take regular vacations. I’m always shocked when I see how many pet professionals don’t schedule vacations or downtime for themselves.
Did you know roughly half of all Americans don’t take annual vacations? And if they do take vacations, it’s common that they stay connected to work or even bring work along with them! Are you guilty of either of these situations? I have always scheduled downtime for myself. However, I admit I am guilty of being connected to work wherever I am – even when on vacation.
Scheduling time off for yourself is important to your overall physical and mental health. There are many positive effects to your well-being.
Here’s a short list of positive attributes to scheduling down time for yourself.
- increased productivity
- open to new ideas and viewpoints
- increased creativity
- lower stress levels
- higher energy
- improved moods
- positive relationships with family and friends
I learned early in my career the importance of scheduling time off for myself. I have always been an over-achiever, taxing my system both mentally and physically on a regular basis. Yet, I always maintain an intense pace. Why? I know the importance of unplugging.
The key is getting it SCHEDULED. What gets scheduled – gets done. That’s true for everything, including down time!
Schedule time to disconnect. Schedule time to unplug. Schedule time to breathe. Schedule time to just enjoy life.
Here is a collection of ways to unplug. Use it to get your ideas flowing on how YOU can find time to decompress from an abundant (and sometimes insanely busy) life.
- Daily Down Time – Do something every day you enjoy. Maybe it’s spending quality time with your family or friends. Cooking. Exercise. Sports. Reading. Doing something creative. Just take the time to enjoy the simple things life offers.
- Full Days – Book a day just to do something fun and special. You might opt to include only yourself. Or plan an activity with friends. Or with family. Many times, special days don’t require money but they do require time and planning.
- Weekend Jaunts – When is the last time you booked a weekend excursion? Everyone has different tastes. Some enjoy the solitude of the woods, water, or slopes. Others get a charge out of dog show weekends. Others gravitate to the city. There are literally thousands of things you could do on a weekend, creating special memories for a lifetime.
- Staycations or Holistay – If your life is supercharged or you don’t have the financial resources for a full-fledged vacation, staying home could be the best answer. What is a staycation or a holistay? It’s when you stay home and participate in leisure activities within driving distance. You sleep in their own bed at night. You might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming locations, or participate in fun activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, wine tasting, hiking, or visiting museums. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual or participating in carefree dinner menus.
- Vacations – Think big. Have fun. Head to the islands. The slopes. Experience a cruise. Explore areas you have never been. Participate in activities that are new to you. Every city, state, and country has a wide range of activities. The only thing holding you back is your imagination and possibly your pocketbook.
A word of caution. When planning any type of downtime – is make sure it stays downtime. Don’t over schedule too many activities. If you do, you will just jump from one frenzied lifestyle into another. You won’t relax and rejuvenate.
Vacations and down time reduce stress and improve health. Time away makes you an effective, productive, and happier worker. You’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life tosses your way. Take the time to get down time into your calendar. You deserve it!
P.S. How do you unplug? If you don’t – or can’t – tell us why. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.