Consistent self-care is the solution for preventing burnout.
Burnout is a problem that’s all too familiar for many dental professionals, especially dentists who are also running their own practice. When stress constantly builds without any sort of release, certain symptoms can begin to appear.
You might find yourself feeling exhausted, even after a relatively easy day in the office. Maybe you feel a constant veil of mental fog or trouble with creative thinking. Your performance may dip or you might even catch yourself feeling cynical, pessimistic, or easily aggravated. Sometimes headaches and migraines can become an everyday occurrence.
Chronic stress is a killer of motivation, performance, and overall happiness. It often creeps up on you over time until the proverbial straw breaks the camel’s back. The only way to prevent chronic stress and burnout from occurring is by actively practicing self-care.
You know how important self-care is, and you may even know what things to do, but unless you’re actively practicing it, you won’t experience the benefits. You might even liken it to flossing. Many patients are fully aware of why flossing is important, but until they start doing it every day, they won’t see the results.
With that in mind, here are 10 highly effective ways to stop burnout and embrace the benefits of regular self-care.
1. Keep a daily gratitude calendar, and add a sentence or word at the end of every day.
Using your regular calendar or one specifically for gratitude, end each day by writing down what you’re grateful for. It might be a quick sentence, a single word, or an entire paragraph. At the end of each week or month, read them over and feel the joy of seeing the good that occurs every day. This type of mental self-care will in turn affect your physical well-being
2. Spend two minutes at the end of your lunch to reflect or recite positive affirmations.
Your midday lunch is a great time for quick self-care. You can either reflect on your day so far and remind yourself of the great things that have happened. Another wonderful idea is to recite some positive affirmations, such as “You are equipped to do this,” “You are offering valuable care,” and “You are a learner, and it’s OK to not have all the answers all the time.”
3. Make time in your schedule — before or after work — to hit the gym or go for a jog.
Self-care isn’t all about relaxing and doing easy things. Physical exercise is a mortal enemy of stress. Allot time in your daily schedule to hit the gym, go for a jog, or roll out a yoga mat in your living room. You can do this before or after work, depending on how you’re feeling. Exercise can both motivate you for a productive day and burn off bad energy, helping you to sleep better at night.
4. Be strict with your sleeping schedule to ensure you get at least eight hours of quality sleep.
Sleep is beyond important for your overall health. Safeguard your sleep schedule and keep late nights at the office or on the computer to an absolute minimum. Create a night routine that is relaxing, screen-free, and able to provide you with enough time for eight hours of quality sleep. Self-care during the day will only help so much if you aren’t getting quality sleep at night.
5. Give your team more responsibilities or consider delegating tasks to a personal assistant.
You hired your team because they are valuable members who are fully capable of doing an incredible job. Use them to their full ability. Trust them to take on a healthy level of responsibility, and you’ll be rewarded with more time as well as happier, loyal employees. You might also consider hiring a personal assistant to handle easy business or personal tasks.
6. Take full advantage of your vacation days, and use your sick days as mental health days.
Skipping vacation days is a habit you shouldn’t enforce on yourself. You may be a boss and a business owner, but that doesn’t mean you should never get a break. Do your best to use your vacation days. Also, as part of your self-care routine think about using sick days as mental health days when your body and mind are crying out for a break.
7. Book regular visits to a massage therapist and/or chiropractor as often as needed.
Don’t forget to take care of your body. Think of how often you’re on your feet, bending over patients, and manipulating delicate instruments and tools. Find a massage therapist you like and book regular visits in advance. A chiropractor can also be beneficial.
8. Practice mini-meditations during the day and guided meditations during tough times.
When you have a few minutes to spare, sit down, close your eyes, and clear your mind. Mini-meditations throughout the day can melt stress before it begins to accumulate. If you’re new to meditation or if you’re really struggling to relax, listening to a guided meditation can be especially helpful.
9. Reach out for professional help when you feel overwhelmed with work, life, or both.
You would never recommend a patient to try and treat a bad toothache at home. The same principle applies to your mental health. If you’re really struggling with burnout or chronic stress, it may take the expertise of a professional to help you overcome it. Professional therapy and counseling are even more accessible today with the addition of virtual and phone visits.
10. Continue your education, and find new ways to ignite your passion for dental care.
Sometimes self-care isn’t about doing less, but rather about finding new goals to work toward. If you feel like your passion for dental care has been a bit stagnant, you can trigger motivation and excitement by pursuing education in a new area of care. Taking on something like a course in basic orthodontics can be incredibly rewarding to your mind as well as your business.
Ready for a challenge? Consider a course in basic straight wire orthodontics.
The American Orthodontic Society offers an excellent comprehensive course in basic straight wire orthodontics. General and pediatric dentists alike will be able to complete this course and become confident and eager to begin treating their own patients.