Rising above stress in the surgery

Following on from yesterday’s article about knowing whether you’re burnt out, Emma Courtney explains how to avoid stress in your daily practice.

A stress-free dental career doesn’t exist and nor should it.

Stress is necessary for our professional growth, but too much and it can cause problems.

Perception and coping abilities are key here and can explain why some dentists seem impervious to stressors that would bring you and I out in a cold sweat.

Why one dentist thrives and enjoys the challenge of difficult wisdom teeth or endodontics, yet for others anxiety levels spike instantly; why your colleague lights up with joy at the challenge of managing high maintenance patients through challenging, aesthetically-motivated treatment plans, but you spend your day hoping they’ll cancel or change their minds; why some love administration and management responsibilities, whilst others detest it.

Changing your mindset

We’re all different and your perception of workplace stress will depend on your experience, personality type and stressors in your personal life.

The key to rising above stress is mindset; changing the stories we tell ourselves about stress, challenging and changing our thoughts about it.

Stress in the surgery may include running late, dealing with unsuccessful treatment, staff conflicts, complaints or investigations.

For each one ask yourself: can you fix it?

Yes? Perfect, fix it don’t procrastinate, don’t leave it in the ‘too hard bucket’, get it done, get it off the list and out of your mind.

No? Then the way forward is changing your thoughts around it, how to react to it and how to let it affect you, can you minimise your exposure to it?

Not Sure? Find out, ask others they can often add the perspective that can be so illusive when you’re right amongst it.

For the stress we can’t resolve, looking after ourselves is vital:

  • Eat well, exercise appropriately, sleep well and for long enough
  • Be kind to yourself, allow yourself failure and slip ups, trust yourself to make good decisions
  • Connect with friends, in and out of dentistry, share your worries, other people can help put them in perspective
  • Relax and find a useful daily mindfulness practice
  • Look for the joy and gratitude in all you do, laugh and enjoy living, be mindful of the balance between home and work, make distinctions between the two
  • Seek professional help, you might not realise how far down the rabbit hole you’ve fallen until you ask for help getting out.

You can cope with far more than you think.

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