• Helena Alder

What did I do to minimise my own stress as a dentist?

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

I’ve always been a keen learner; as a dentist, as a child, at any point in my life really. If I approach something, it’s usually in the way of wanting to know “everything” about it. I just love it. I remember when I was 12 and got the idea that I wanted to make an abbreviated version of my parents’ lexicon (back in the 80s when we still had the 15 volumes of A-Z on the bookshelf, those were the days😊). To be honest I didn’t get very far, but this way of looking at every area involved in whatever topic I’m pursuing has followed me throughout all my undertakings in life.

Being a dentist and experiencing a full-blown case of stress was no exception.

And what I realised was that “stress” is such a broad term and this is often part of the challenge in addressing it. “Stress” to me is an umbrella term, and when I was feeling “stressed” in the surgery, just taking a couple of deep breaths might have helped, but it didn’t necessarily resolve and get to the root of what was underneath my own unique stress response and challenges.

I discovered these 4 core areas as one way to divide up my experience of stress as a dentist into manageable chunks:

And it worked for me.

What I discovered when assessing myself and my approach mainly to situations in daily practice that caused me the most stress, was first and foremost my low engagement with use of systems and time management. It may sound trivial, but actually taking the overview and committing to giving myself and my patients the gift of running on time; either arriving to work in a timely manner or when seeing each patient (to the best of my ability) allowed for a new level of inner calm.

In addition also implementing systems (like how to best organise extra tasks like making patients referrals or follow-up phone calls etc.) freed up my brain power and my nervous system to focus on what was actually most important; providing excellent patient care for every single one of my patients.

I also discovered as part of this process of solving my own stress the fascinating and powerful role the body plays in all of this. For instance the power of posture. I discovered if I hold myself in a posture of anxiety and stress, it directly impacted my mood, my emotions and my thoughts about what was possible and not in any given situation. Just think about it for yourself if you’d like, even try it out for a moment: What happens in your own body if you try on a posture of stress right now, however that manifests for you in your body? And then choosing to shift your posture into a more powerful and assertive stance perhaps, how does that then directly translates into new possibilities opening up in how you view and approach for instance a challenging patient? Feel free to try it out for yourself. What do you notice inside your body that feels different when you change to a posture of more calm and in control?

It can actually be this simple; making a choice like this can have profound impacts.

So, these are some of the areas that I address as a Leadership Coach and an Integral CoachTM for dentists. Each dentist’s approach and way of handling stress and stressful situations is unique, and to me it’s a fascinating journey to undertake if you’re interested. You might learn something about leading yourself and others that also ripples beyond the dental surgery.

If you’re interested, please feel free to reach out for an informal chat and let’s see how I can help you take charge of your unique stress response. I look forward to hearing from you!

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