No one ever says a dental professional’s job is not stressful. Studies suggest that it is more stressful than other professions. Stress in Dentistry — it Could Kill You, an article published on oralheathgroup.org lists several statistics you might not know about but definitely should:
- “Coronary disease and high blood pressure are over 25% more prevalent among dentists than in the general population.”
- “The number 1 killer of dentists is stress-related cardiovascular disease.”
- “The suicide rate of dentists is more than twice the rate of the general population and almost three times higher than that of other white-collar workers.”
Every day you juggle a wide-array of killer stress causes from confinement and the expectation of perfection to lack of exercise and social isolation. Randy Lang D.D.S., author of the aptly named article, closed with a powerful plea. “If 99% of dental courses are now devoted to the patient’s health, couldn’t just 1% be devoted to the future health of the dentist?” With this in mind, I’m here to make a similar plea to all the dental professionals, new and experienced: Will you please take your health as seriously as you take the health and well-being of your patients?
Stress has been discussed in this blog before, but with the final quarter now bearing down on you and time ticking by too fast as you rush to prepare for 2018, this is the perfect time to bring it up again. Better yet, this is the perfect time to take a break from all the hustle and bustle to . . . I don’t know . . . maybe sit down and read a blog post with 5 ways to prevent killer stress from burning you out.
With that said and my plea made, let us begin, shall we?
Engage in a community
The first question you should ask yourself when it comes to feeling overwhelming stress is ‘Do I feel alone?’ If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Really! Social isolation is one of the top causes of killer stress. There is nothing worse than feeling utterly alone with nobody to talk to or confide in because you’re worried about sharing your vulnerabilities with the competition.
Join a community online, or an association. In a video by Dr Preety Desai, she insists that “communication is the key” and she also suggests talking to your colleagues as “many hands make the work lighter.” Join an association! The point of Dentist’s, Hygienist’s, Denturist’s and even Dental Office Managers associations are to ensure that you are not alone, that you have a community of people just like you to come together not only to discuss your challenges but also your successes.
Don’t be so critical
Perfection is an impossible standard to work toward. Nobody’s perfect because we are all human. Set a realistic standard for yourself as well as your patient. Communication is important here as well as good patient education. Getting to know your patient’s habits and flaws will help you both create realistic goals. As Lang suggests “be kinder to yourself and less critical and demanding of your efforts.”
Take a break
Confinement is another big inducer of stress. It must not be easy to do most of your work in a small “7ft. By 9ft. Operatory.” Being in a small space like that, without sunlight, and as Lang further describes “smaller than the cells in our penal institutions,” can be physically and mentally draining.
Give yourself a break to go outside and take a walk. You need to see the sun since, without it, we can become depressed and exhausted right down to the bone. As Lang writes, “it is relatively easy, over a period of time, for a dentist to become both physically and emotionally ‘burned-out.’”
Burning out is exactly what it sounds like. If you take on too much and push yourself and push yourself and push yourself, eventually, you crash. As a reminder, you are only human and as a human, you cannot handle constant pressure and stress. The solution is simple: take a break. When things get hectic, take a fifteen-minute walk. Don’t ignore that hungry tummy growl and have a decent long lunch. No wolfing it down. That’s not helpful, either. And to recharge your brain and come back to the office with a fresh perspective, go on your holidays! If two weeks is too much, take one. Don’t ignore your brain’s cry for a well-deserved and much-needed break.
How important is exercise, you ask? Well, exercise keeps the blood flowing, the heart pumping strong, and the brain functioning properly. Women’s Health magazine even writes that it reduces the risk of cancer. Win-win, right?
If you’re worried that you don’t have any time to exercise because you keep hearing that you need to perform hours of strength training or go to the gym every day, rain or shine, don’t be. The truth is it’s actually much simpler than that. You can exercise in any form — be it vigorous or not, running or walking, etc. etc. If there is an activity you enjoy, do that for thirty minutes. Make the experience a good one because then you will want to come back to it and eventually it will become a habit, a part of your routine. Walk, run, dance, box, or do aerobics via 80’s VHS; it doesn’t matter what activity you get involved in as long as you can fit it into your everyday lifestyle. You, in turn, will feel much better as a result.
Understand the profound impact of teamwork
The reason you might be so overwhelmed is the lack of teamwork in your office. Does everyone have a specific role with specific duties attached to that role? Or do you find yourself shouldering most, if not, all the work? You already have a lot on your plate and combined with financial stress, your body and brain are not able to handle it all.
However, teamwork can turn your entire practice around and reduce a lot of stress in the office, not just for you but for the rest of your team. An article published in Oralhealth Office magazine entitled Planning for Peak Performance states that “Some dentists say that their success wouldn’t be possible without their trusted assistants, office managers, and awesome teams.”
For more information and more strategies to prevent killer stress, check out the resources below.
- Stress In Dentistry — It Could Kill You!
- 5 Ways to Bring Yourself Back from Burnout
- This Is How Much Exercise You Really Need to Do to See Health Benefits
- Planning for Peak Performance