The BDC and DS organisers say: “Stressed out? Take time out”
Stress. A familiar state for many dental professionals at the best of times. Right now, stress levels are likely to be even higher. Managing stress to reduce the impact on our physical and mental health is crucial and will remain so for months to come.
High levels or prolonged periods of stress are closely associated with mental health problems, causing some issues and aggravating others. Potential consequences include the development of conditions such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name just a few.
Stress can also cause insomnia, which brings a whole host of its own problems including psychological and physiological challenges. In terms of the physical impact of stress, studies have found that it causes structural changes and atrophy in the brain, meaning reduced memory, greater difficulty learning, and inhibited function of the immune and cardiovascular systems.
There is also evidence to suggest that repeatedly experiencing minor stress can lead to overeating, which in turn can contribute to obesity and the increased risk of associated health conditions. With these and many other health consequences linked to stress, it is important to do what we can to protect ourselves.
If possible, we should start by limiting the source of stress. For minor, everyday factors, this might be as simple as replacing the coffee maker that currently takes hours to warm up, or fixing the blinds so that they don’t fall down every time you close them.
Unfortunately, many of the major stress factors in our lives right now are very much out of our control. Instead of tackling the source, we may need to improve our management of the effects and reduce the impact on our physical and mental states.
Stress buster #1
Take some time out. This might just be an evening off with children and/or household duties delegated, or it might mean taking a few days off work. The length of break needed will be different for everyone, but it is important that you take time for yourself to provide an opportunity to take stock, reflect, make a plan – or just sleep!
Stress buster #2
Get active. Regular exercise, even when you don’t feel like it, can do wonders. Work through your worries, reduce some of the emotional intensity you might be experiencing. Even if gyms are closed, try to establish the habit of doing some simple activities to get the heart rate up and the body moving. Think basic home gym, online workouts or even just a walk around the neighbourhood a few times a week, in the morning or at lunch-time.
Stress buster #3
Talk. Speaking up, sharing your experiences and asking for help when you need it are all really important for your mental and physical health. You may be surprised and comforted to find that many colleagues and friends are going through something similar and they might be able to suggest ideas that help you through it together.
One of the few silver linings of the past year is the growing sense of community among the dental profession, with people more than willing to help and support each other.
Stress buster #4
Reignite your love for something or find a new passion to focus on, whether in the practice or in your personal life. This will help provide fresh motivation and go you something to look forward to – a little positivity can go a long way in tough times. At home, consider running, knitting, reading, furniture upcycling, painting or cooking.
For work, don’t miss the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show later in the year to bring you all the inspiration you need to develop your skills and take your career to the next level. The next British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show will be held on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2022, Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.
Photos by Luis Villasmil and Engin Akyurt on Unsplash