The Three Easiest Ways to Break Through Dentistry’s Stress

Fern White, BDSc
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Are you finding yourself a little anxious about everything dental lately?

Staff stressing you out? 

Wondering where all your time has gone?

Experiencing relentless physical pain? 

Feeling so exhausted by the end of the day after running around, micromanaging like crazy? 

Tired of the daily grind of dentistry and wondering when the books will finally be filled? 

It’s neverending.

That was me.

Nine years ago, I bought my first dental clinic and suffered my first panic attack shortly thereafter.

This was a blessing in disguise.

I had been so stressed with doing, doing, doing that my body broke down. I was in pain all the time, having Botox in my face for headaches and cortisone injections in my shoulder to continue working.

I realised that it all came down to me. I decided that I wanted to be at the cause, not at the effect, of my life.

So I set out on a mission to transform myself—my mind and body. Amazingly, when I changed, everything changed around me.

Suddenly I was able to cut my dental days from six down to two and still double my profits.  But what that really bought me was my freedom. 

The first step to freedom is conquering your stress. 

How would it feel to be calm and centred in yourself even when there is a tornado in your world? To trust yourself so that no matter what happened, you will always find a way through?

Stress plays havoc on your body and mind by producing cortisol and adrenaline. Your body focuses on cortisol instead of its other systems because it is in survival mode. So, everything else like rest, digestion, and immunity and optimal brain function are put on hold.

You cannot think and operate clearly on chronic stress. But when you can break through the stress, anything is possible. Here are my top three ways to do so.

Remember to Breathe

Imagine you’re working with your assistant. She’s taking out 10 times more composite than needed and keeps overfilling the bond. Now she’s dropping your curing light, and, oops, there goes the suction on the floor again. 

You’re running late too. 

And the worst thing is that you’ve told her all this before—five times.

Before you continue to stare daggers at her and open your mouth to reprimand her through clenched teeth, stop.

Breathe.

Take long, deep, full breaths. Down to your stomach.

At least 10 of them.

When you’re holding your breath, contracting your body, and your thoughts are jumbled, you most likely will say something you regret.  

Welcome to the nervous system’s flight or fight mode! 

In this state, you have a propensity to snowball and make a mountain out of a molehill.  You’re in survival mode and can’t think clearly. We’ve all been there.

By breathing deeply and fully, you actually shift the way your nervous system is working and you can then act from a place of calmness, patience, and clarity. 

So, keep breathing. You will think more rationally and wisely. You will make better decisions. Your work will become more purposeful and precise rather than frantic.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved! 

Patients will feel this and be reassured they are in the right place. 

Reframe 

So in your mind, your assistant isn’t really listening to you. In the dialogue in your head, you’re getting more and more frustrated with her.

The reality is that even though you have explained things to her in a way you thought was clear and concise, she has filtered your instructions through her mind according to her map of the world.

That’s when you need to step up and take 100% responsibility for your communication. 

I know, that’s a tough one to swallow. 

You might find you “seek first to understand” and put yourself in her shoes. You may even realize why she doesn’t understand you and find some empathy for her.

By reframing the situation, you will always see another potential reality, rather than the negative one you’re used to focusing on.

For instance, instead of thinking she is not listening to you, reframe and think “she must be trying so hard to please me and is becoming so nervous around me, that must be why she is dropping everything,” rather than “she is so clumsy.”

Once you assume good intent, then you can actually start to empathize and see any “bad” situation in a new light. 

This will save you a lot of gut lining. When you start to feel that the universe is working for you, not against you, you will feel so much less stress. 

Change Your State 

Back to your assistant situation. 

You’re sitting there, peeved with your assistant. The breathing and the reframing still aren’t working for you. 

Where is your focus? Is it on all the “wrong” things that she is doing?

What is your physiology like? Is your whole body clenched? Holding your breath? Frowning?

What is your language like? Are you asking yourself things like, “What the hell is she doing? Why doesn’t she listen? Why is she so lazy?”

These three areas—focus, physiology, and language—make up your overall state. The good news is that you can always change your state by changing these three elements. 

So in the middle of wanting to strangle your assistant, or any other tense situation, how can you change your state?

  • Focus: Consider how much she must be trying and how nervous she must be.
  • Physiology: Wiggle out your body, breathe, sit up straight, let your neck be free, smile, and shake your booty behind your patient.
  • Language: Give her a couple of compliments about what she is doing right. 

So, there you have it.

One minute of stress can use so much of your precious energy that it reduces your immune system for four or five hours! You are only poisoning yourself. Stress less, and watch your life change. 

Dr. White is a mother, dentist (graduate of Melbourne University), practice owner, yoga and embodiment teacher, entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and growth aficionado. She founded the first online empire for dental women to help them remove the stress of dentistry and take back control of their lives. Dental women find their freedom through her online programs, master classes, and daily doses of V-log inspiration with a global audience. More than 150 women have already transformed their lives and careers by going through her Practice Your Passion program. She also will be one of the speakers at Ultradent Products’ Icons of Dentistry: A Workshop for Women, June 22-23 in South Jordan, Utah. She can be reached at drfern.com.au and hello@drfern.com.au.

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