Improving your mental wellbeing – tips from a dental professional
Tiffani Hutchinson discusses how dental professionals can unwind and look after their wellbeing at a time where self care is more important than ever.
The last few months have been unprecedented, unpredictable, and down-right scary for a lot of us in the dental profession. For some, it has meant lost jobs, reduced income, and a drastically changing work environment. After speaking to other colleagues and associates working in dentistry, I found that there are many out there who are feeling the strain.
You may have seen a lot going around lately regarding mental health and mental wellbeing. What was once a bit of a taboo subject is now becoming a hot topic, and rightly so! We all want to feel good, especially mentally. Even more so now in this crazy world and situation we find ourselves in.
Although difficult, the past few months have allowed me to reflect and I’ve learnt something valuable – look after yourself. As clinicians, we focus so much on making a patient feel better that we start to forget about ourselves.
It can lead to stress and burnout and, I have to say, I’m certainly guilty of this. I always want to give my absolute all to my patients, with the sacrifice of my own needs. How can we expect to do our best for our patients, when we aren’t looking after ourselves?
Here are some tips that have helped me on my own personal journey to improving my mental wellbeing. I refer to these tips regularly to give me a boost in the right direction whenever I’m feeling a little low. I hope they will help you a little too.
Enjoy some ‘me time’
We live in a world where we are constantly thinking of others. This could be patients, children, colleagues or anyone else you can think of. It’s great to try and make others happy, but what about you? What makes you smile the most? Read your favourite book. Start a new series or watch an uplifting film. Take a bubble bath. Exercise. Start a yoga or meditation practice. Have a cup of your favourite tea or coffee. Find the things you love and make time for them.
I know a lot of you will be thinking ‘but where’s the time for that?!’ It doesn’t take long – even just five minutes out of your day solely for yourself is a brilliant stress reliever. Mark it out in your diary and make it a ritual. The happier you are, the happier the people around you will be. Happiness is contagious!
Limit social media usage
Social media is an amazing tool. It allows you to interact with others in the profession, build a portfolio and even helps to interact with new or potential patients. At the start of lockdown, I re-started my Instagram page after having taken a break from it to focus on starting work. I know many others who did this as well. It was the perfect time as a lot of us had some spare time on our hands.
However, it can get overwhelming at times. Although a good tool, social media can also be a place of negativity and comparison, especially in the midst of a pandemic. My advice would be to make sure you don’t spend too much time using social media.
I’ve found that blocking out certain times in the day to update my page and interact with others avoids me mindlessly scrolling for hours on end. Also, try to ensure you interact with others face to face, over zoom calls and via phone call. It helps to get you away from that social media bubble.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
It’s been a crazy few months of so many changes that it’s been really hard to keep up. One day you might feel on top of the world and be super productive. Other days you might want to curl up in bed and watch the TV all day. Both of these are absolutely okay. You don’t have to be doing something 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s okay to take some time out.
Don’t worry if the job you wanted to do gets done a day later. I’ve done it plenty of times over the last couple of months – probably too many times to even count. We all have days where we don’t feel like doing anything, but it’s about listening to your needs and doing what’s right for you at the time. If you feel deflated or like you need a break, use the time to relax and refocus.
Each day is a new day, so come back to the things you need to do another time. It will help you to start again with a fresh mindset, and a new surge of energy.
And last, but certainly not least…
Talk to someone
I can’t put enough emphasis on this point. Although it may feel as though your feelings or problems are only little, talk to someone about them. Trust me when I say there are plenty of people out there who are willing to listen. Friends, family, colleagues, social media acquaintances… the list can go on. Talking to someone will allow you to unload some of the things that may be swirling around in your head.
It’s like lifting a weight off your shoulders. You will feel so much better when you stop thinking you have to figure it all out on your own! If you feel there is no one around you who will listen, there are plenty of helplines and websites you can find with a quick Google search (such as the Samaritans).
I’ve used such services before, and they have been great at being a listening ear when I’ve felt there was no one else around.
Improving mental wellbeing isn’t an overnight fix, but small steps in the right direction can lead to better changes. There also may be some other factors you find helpful, so feel free to use more than just the tips listed I’ve on here.
If you feel that you have tried everything and nothing helps, please seek professional advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
If you need someone to talk to, call Samaritans for free on on 116 123.