Dentist coach and counsellor Ange Day shares her insights as World Wellness Day approaches.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ange Day is a dentist who found herself deeply distressed, desperate to exit dentistry and do something completely different.
She retrained and is now a fully accredited NCS counsellor and psychotherapist. During her training, she realised that she could do something about the way she was feeling and start enjoying dentistry again.
She continues to practise as a dentist while supporting other dentists as a coach and counsellor to find a way to live a more contented life, whether that be remaining within the profession or discovering what else they want to do to feel more fulfilled and happier.
Chances are you went into dentistry because you wanted to help others and be in a caring profession. However, this aspiration can lead to ‘burnout’, where you are trying to do so much for your patients within the confines of a limiting system.
Burnout is a result of chronic stress of living with the mismatch between how we want to live and how we are living. The symptoms of burnout are exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced ability professionally and/or personally.
As a principal, it is very easy to allow your business to take over your life and be a significant source of stress. It can be very easy to feel alone, with a heavy weight of responsibility on your shoulders. As a result, you may find yourself continuing to live with burnout and struggling to see a way out.
It is really important for you, your practice, your patients and your family that you look after yourself. Managing the stress in a healthy way, allows you to enjoy your practice, reduces your risk of burnout and enables you to have a life outside of dentistry.
The following are ten tips for principals to improve their general wellness within dentistry:
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
Everyone is at different stages of their career and has different preferences. Staying within what works and feels right for you will take you down a path that is easier for you. Pushing to do what works for others but is not right for you will cause you more stress and exhaustion.
2. Understand your reason
Understand your reason for getting up every morning and keeping your practice running.
This may be to serve your patients or to fund your lifestyle. Whatever it is, be aware of it to help you to continue to keep going and guide the direction of your practice.
3. Build a support network
Having the right people around you to go to when you need support helps to reduce isolation and eases any issues you may have. For dental principals, these people can include other dentists and principals, your practice manager and head nurse, your accountant and financial advisor, specialists in your area and members of the LDC.
Knowing who you can rely on for support in times of concern is really important. It enables you to reach out early and reduce the impact of mistakes. Having others within your community, feeling like you belong, is also important to your wellbeing.
You employ others to take on certain roles in your practice. Use them to relieve some of the load you carry as principal. It can take time to train them, but this will pay dividends when they start to save you time and stress, as they take on responsibility.
As well as delegating tasks and responsibilities, giving others a level of autonomy and ownership means that they will invest more in your business and work harder for you.
Bouncing ideas off others can also enable other options to be explored, which could be more effective than those you consider in isolation.
5. Take time away from the practice and dentistry
Ensure you spend time every day doing something not related to dentistry. This not only allows your subconscious to work on the issues you are facing, but you enjoy the life that the practice is paying for you to live.
Make sure you reap the benefits of all your hard work. This space allows you to be refreshed for when you enter your practice and dentistry again, meaning you will be in a better mood and more effective when you do.
6. Move in whatever way is right for you
Dentistry is a sedentary profession and is harmful to your physical health.
Ensure you do some kind of exercise every day, this may be a walk, a gym session, a run, yoga, whatever is right for you. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, the boost of endorphins is good for your mental health. Endorphins carry on providing positive effects for hours after you exercise.
7. Feel your emotions
Throughout our lives, we are often told that emotions are bad, to keep a stiff upper lip and just get on with it. When we don’t experience our feelings, we push them down and start to feel angry or numb.
In the short term, this can be an effective coping mechanism. However, in the long term, this is unhealthy and can lead to episodes of intense emotion, which can explode at the ‘wrong’ time or cause us immense discomfort or illness.
Emotions have a reason for being present and are there to be experienced and learnt from. Working with your emotions, experiencing them and understanding where they are coming from, allows you to dissipate them. It also helps you make changes in your life and thinking, to reduce the stress producing the emotions.
8. Discover who you are outside of dentistry
Dentists often identify themselves simply as: “I am a dentist”. If you are one of them, you will find that this is very limiting. When things are not going well, it can make you feel as if you are a bad person.
You are much more than this one role in life. Having hobbies and interests outside of the practice, enables you to live a fuller life and disengage from dentistry. It helps you to feel better about yourself.
9. Take breaks
No matter how busy you are or how many people want some of your time, it is important that you take time away from your practice.
This is especially important at lunch time. Even though this is probably the easiest time for your team to talk to you, it is important that you get some time to switch off, especially if you are in surgery all day.
To be able to perform your best as owner and dentist, having at least a ten minute break will allow you to reset and return to what you need to do in a more effective way. This is especially important when you are at your busiest or feeling overwhelmed.
When you take your break, try to go outside. There are scientifically proven benefits of spending time in nature, so ideally this would be in a green space.
Even if you are in an urban area, getting out of the practice is really important. If you can, go for a walk to get your heart rate up to counteract the sedentary aspect of your job. The health benefits are amazing, both physically and mentally.
10. Try not to multitask
Contrary to popular belief, our brains are not able to multitask. It takes time for us to refocus on the task at hand, so constant swapping between tasks is ineffective.
In dentistry, multitasking can include eating whilst typing up notes, discussing issues with your PM, etc. When you are doing something, try to have your full attention on that task and you will complete it faster and feel less tired.
To discuss any of the points in this article or to chat to Ange about the support she provides to dentists, contact:
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