Running a practice takes a lot of work. So, it makes sense that being a dental professional has a lot of us overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed out. We live a fast-paced lifestyle where we have to perform difficult tasks on a constant basis. And, as if keeping a dental practice running wasn't hard enough, things have become even tougher lately. The emergence of coronavirus has taken the world by storm, and dentists are in the thick of it.
With the pandemic having businesses shut down, dentists can only treat those who require care that the ADA has deemed urgent. Yet many of us forget that we shouldn’t just be taking care of patients—we also need to take care of ourselves. Not just by staying healthy and taking precautions to avoid coming down with COVID-19, but also by making sure we don't get too stressed out.
Mental health in dentistry is no joke. Dentistry is, statistically, one of the most high-stress professions in the world. There are many ways to reduce stress, and that’s a form of taking care of yourself. But as you do that, you need to keep yourself in check physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. So, to keep those parts of yourself in check and take better care of yourself, try one or all of these four things out.
Keep Yourself in Good Physical Condition
A lot of dental professionals feel neck pain, shoulder problems, back pain, hand pain, wrist pain, and more. Those things are almost inevitable. But you can prevent other health problems like cardiovascular disease by keeping yourself in good physical condition. Here are a few things you can do to take better care of yourself by taking care of your body:
- Get enough sleep. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night to keep themselves in good mental and physical health.
- Stretch. If you keep a routine of stretching you can lower your risk of injury, lessen stress, and more.
- Go for a walk. It’s a form of exercise that can also clear your mind and give you a much needed break from a stressful lifestyle. If you go with another person, be sure to practice social distancing by walking six feet apart!
- Do something that provides a physical release. Whether this means lifting weights, punching a bag, or going for a run, any physical release is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. Gyms are shut down right now, but you can order things like a punching bag and dumbbells online.
- Eat healthy. This is good for your health and it can increase your energy. Toilet paper might be in scarce supply, but grocery stores are still open!
- Do yoga. It’s a great form of exercise and it’s a proven way to get a mind-body workout. Just order a yoga mat online, watch some YouTube videos, and get going!
- Rest! Give yourself a break every now and then. It’s not healthy to constantly be on the move.
Don't Bottle Your Emotions Up
It’s only human to feel negative emotions. It’s totally healthy to feel frustrated, sad, or whatever else you might feel. It isn’t healthy to bottle those negative emotions up, however, because they’ll eat you from the inside out. Here are a few ways to take better care of yourself by dealing with your emotions instead of letting them fester:
- Stress management. Whether this means talking to a therapist (virtually), or doing a physical release as mentioned above, make sure your stress isn’t getting the better of you.
- Practice emotional maturity. When things happen to us, we feel emotions right away. Be emotionally mature by recognizing those emotions and dealing with them right away before they take control and stick with you.
- Forgiveness. If we don’t forgive someone for what they’ve done to us, we’ll never stop feeling negative emotions about it. Call someone up and let them know you forgive them.
- Compassion. By being compassionate, you will feel your emotions turn from negative to positive.
- Kindness. Being a good person will be a lot easier to deal with in the future than being a bad person. Without regret, you won’t be riddled with negative emotions.
Confide in People Around You
Boundaries are important, especially now with social distancing, and you might be an introvert, but you aren’t alone. And you shouldn’t make yourself feel alone by not letting those around you into your life. Some people might not be worth letting in to your life. But those whom you love deserve to get the opportunity to help you take better care of yourself. Here are a few ways to confide in the people around you so they can help you do that:
- Develop a support system. Distinguish what family and friends you want to let into your life. Make a concentrated effort to let them into how you’re feeling so they can offer their advice and help you cope with whatever you’re struggling with. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just make sure to do it on the phone or six feet apart!
- Positive social media. When you go online and go on social media, a lot of it is negative. A lot of it, nowadays, is panic about COVID-19. But there’s a lot of positive stuff too. Make sure you filter out the negative stuff so you don’t start feeling down whenever you surf your newsfeed.
- Spend time with loved ones. Oftentimes, being around those you love will lift you up and help you develop that support system. Have a family Zoom call—you shouldn't meet up in person right now.
Embrace Your Spiritual Side
This doesn’t mean you have to whisk away to the mountains of Nepal to practice Buddhism. Just being connected with your spiritual side can provide many benefits that will enable you to take better care of yourself. Here are a few:
- Spend time alone. Get to know yourself and you’ll be able to deal with your thoughts and feelings much more intimately.
- Meditation. Taking a moment to just breathe, not think about anything, and let your emotions wash over you will greatly reduce stress.
- Connect with nature. Sitting in the woods or by a lake can slow things down and give you the perspective you need to realize life’s not all that bad.
- Keep a journal. By writing a journal you can document your inward progression.
Are You Taking Care of Yourself?
When you’re older, you don’t want to look back in hindsight and wish you gave yourself this advice because, by then, it’ll be too late. With COVID-19, taking care of ourselves physically—by practicing social distancing—is important. But it's important to handle all the mental stress surrounding it too by doing these four things.
And, if you want to connect with people who will look out for you too, then join the Trapped in an OP Facebook community to connect with other dental professionals working together to support each other in business and in life.