How To Have Less Stress As A Dentist

As dentists we are going to face highs and lows, tough times that challenge us and feel like they may break us. These lows are ok in the short-term as we know they won’t last and we can bounce back. The problem arises when we start to constantly feel overwhelmed, stressed and unable to cope and motivate ourselves. This is when we need to stop and get real about how we are feeling and start to address where changes can be made.

Are You A Stressed Dentist?

So I want you to take an moment and consider these questions:

  • Do you drag yourself to work and find it hard to be motivated once you arrive?
  • Do you become irritable or impatient with employees or patients?
  • Do you lack the energy to remain productive throughout the day?

These could be possible signs of work-related stress. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. I suffered from burnout during my career and despite all my best efforts and coping mechanisms there were times I came close to throwing in the towel and walking away from dentistry and life. At one point I was trying to convince my partner about the merits of moving to a farm and raising goats – yes I was serious and I knew I was looking to escape from the pressures of dentistry.

Dealing With Stress As A Dental Practice Owner

This year has been pretty intense for me, we’ve hired new staff, I’m working with more coaching clients and new initiatives and helping set up another business. I’ve also been travelling for work.

As much as I love all that I do and it fires me up; inevitably, fatigue caught up with me so I decided to take a week away on my own to wind down, recharge and reflect. I had an amazing break but come Monday morning when I walked into my dental practice stress filled my body and a mild panic set in as I arrived back in the office to endless unopened emails, patient queries that needed answering and the demands from a team with 2 new employees.

Now I’m not complaining this is life, the joys of being a responsible adult, and having a career you love. And for me the feeling of overwhelm passed by lunchtime once I’d ticked a few things of my to do list.

But what happens when you can’t shift that stressed out feeling, the thoughts of this is too hard, I don’t enjoy it and that feeling of being defeated?

Become Aware of What Stresses You

It all begins with being more self-aware and honest with ourselves, we are dentists not super heroes. Being able to recognise the warning signs of stress is essential. Things like lack of energy, poor time management skills, trouble maintaining healthy habits, interrupted sleep, physical pain, or perhaps even feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled, just to name a few.

Ironically, jobs like dentistry where we are devoted to improving the wellbeing of others can be stress-inducing themselves. As you are aware, dentistry requires problem-solving and time management and people management skills, as well as a great deal of sensitivity to people’s needs.

How can we eliminate stress in the field of dentistry without sacrificing the quality of care and work that we want to offer?

This is where self-awareness must come to the forefront, start by asking yourself, “How am I feeling in this moment?” By doing that you can then ask yourself, “Can I act differently to get a different outcome?” By shifting things within yourself, it can lead you towards a different perspective, and even help your mood.

Ok so what does that look like practically – well for me I notice that I’m getting tense or irritated so I can give the patient a break so I can regroup by relaxing my body and taking a few gentle breaths in and out through my nose. If that doesn’t settle me, I excuse myself and go get a drink of water before picking up where I left off. If I’m feeling out of sorts during my workday I’ll take a few minutes between patients to step outside to have some air and a walk. Or I’ll lie down on the couch in my office and mediate for 5 minutes.

These are all great coping mechanisms and I’m sure you have some of your own.

However, I want you not to be constantly feeling stressed and having to bring yourself back into a calmer more at ease state. Yes its important that you are aware, catch the warning signs and take action to stop that stressed out feeling escalating.

But I want you to design your life to make sure you don’t end up all work and no play.

How To Stop Stress Before It Hits

When I work with my personal coaches (and I do this with my clients too) we do a stock take of the different areas of my life and score them 1-10 on how I feel about them so a 10 would be this is great, I’m all over it, I’m super happy and a 1 would be oh I don’t get any time for that. These areas of your life include your social interactions, emotional wellbeing, spiritual fulfillment/contribution, career, physical health, your relationships with your partner and family, your me time/what makes me whole and your finances.

Any of these that score low are going to putting a strain on you, creating a level of stress that is constantly there, making it much easier to trigger or overload you when the pressures of work or life rear their head as they so often do.

For me when I’m under the pump, the first thing that gets sacrificed is my me time and the things I like to do that make me feel energised and let me have fun.

So now I ensure I have one day a week (yes I know can you imagine!!) that is my day for me to do the things and go the places that make me feel on fire. So I go the beach for the surf, or head down to the river for a walk and take myself on a lunch date. I find by doing this I am a better person, partner, parent and boss because I don’t feel that I’m missing out on me and what I enjoy. By doing this I have more clarity, energy and passion for the other aspects of my life and I generally feel more at ease and better able to handle life without having to resort to coping mechanisms all the time.

Our careers have such high demands on our personal time that they practically become our lifestyle.

We need to remember that it’s all about the work-life-balance. Not in the amount of hours we divide our work or life into but by ensuring we have balance in all aspects of life and work so that we feel whole and settled.

The pressures and unpredictability of being a dentist and a practice owner can make it difficult to find time to relax. It’s important to take control and make a habit of bringing to mind the things we appreciate in our life and are grateful for. This helps to put things in perspective when the workload feels impossible. If you think positively and take charge of situations as they come, it can definitely contribute to your overall wellbeing.

We also need to be mindful of accepting things we cannot change. We need to recognise what we don’t have control over and focus our attention on areas where we can have a strong influence and make a significant difference.

What Can You Work On To Reduce Your Stress?

I’m personally working on lately is not taking work home with me – but let me share what I mean by that – it doesn’t mean I’m not answering my emails or working on videos, blogs etc – it means if my day doesn’t go as planned, or if something happened that negatively effected my mood, I try to leave that mood at the office and let it go.

I then choose how I want to show up at home and with my family – do I want to be cranky, stressed, distracted or to I want to be present with them, caring, loving, sensitive and fun.

It’s a choice so what are you choosing, how are you showing up. Do you walk into your office or home with the intention of I’m going to be a bitch or an a-hole? Oh course you don’t but you do need to become aware of how you are showing up and to set your intention.

Though often we are married to our careers or it’s like your dental practice is another child who needs a lot of our time and attention, it’s important to remember that we have lives and that we are not our business.

Having a positive time at home and doing the things that allow you to be you will inevitably lead to a positive feeling and outcome once you’re back in the office.

Stress will always be a factor but it’s our job to be aware and to deal with it accordingly and to reach out for help and support when it’s needed.