Dentistry is a profession that seems to be uniquely afflicted with a great
deal of stress and anxiety. This is true not only for the dental patient,
but even more so for the dental clinician. As a clinician you are
performing your duties in an extremely intimate area on clients who, in
most cases, are not totally excited about the whole situation.
This clinical situation would be enough to elevate the stress chemicals of
any normal person. Compounding it is the fact that the practitioner is
faced with additional pressures. He or she is also a small business owner.
In this capacity you must wear many hats. You are leaders, managers,
schedule coordinators, counselors and money managers. Is it any wonder
that dentists seem to rank extremely high in incidence of stress-related
maladies? These include burnout, loss of passion for their profession and
actual physical symptoms. Dentists must learn to manage their stress
before their stress manages them.
First you must recognize that not all stress is bad for you. Without any
stress you would be like a spineless jellyfish, unable to function in the
real world. The stress of owning your own business, of providing for your
family, of serving your clients to the best of your abilities can actually
be good for you. Believe it or not, I have found this to be true. This
stress can make you stronger, more resilient and more able to relate to
others. We can call this type of stress, good stress or eustress. The
stress you want to eliminate is the stress that always seems to create
anxiety and worry. Let’s call this distress or bad stress. These stressors
produce headaches, backaches, insomnia, indigestion and depression. Most
of these stressors are self-inflicted.
It is true, you cause a great deal of your own distress. I know this for a fact because I went through a period of time in my early years of practice where I suffered from constant and excruciating stomach pain . I used to lie on the floor in my back office between patients and writhe on the floor in agony. When I visited the medical doctor to determine the cause of my distress he said, “Tom, your problem is not what you are eating, but rather, what is eating you.” At that moment I broke down and realized that I had to change andlearn to manage stress before stress managed me into an early grave.
Here are 3 techniques I used that helped me manage stress and may also assist fellow dentists in that same endeavor. 1) Live life in day-tight compartments, 2) Manage your priorities and determine what are your most important and essential daily actions (your crystal balls), 3) Rule your impulses. In this article I will deal with the first technique, “live life in day-tight compartments.” In future articles I will cover the other 2 techniques.
The first technique,”live life in day-tight compartments,” I learned from Dale Carnegie and his book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It isexemplified by the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.” Unfortunately most of us do not follow this advice and stew and agonize over things that we cannot control or feel guilty over events that have already taken place.
Guilt emanates from the past. These are actions or events that are over and done with, yet you continually relive them and demonstrate regret. Worry emanates from the future. These are things or events that have not yet occurred, yet you agonize over them. Realize, you cannot live in the past. The past is dead and gone. “Let the dead bury the dead.” You cannot live in the future. The future is merely a promissory note. You have no guarantee that you will even be around tomorrow. “The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today makes the strongest falter.” Live for today only.” Every day is a new life to a wise man or woman. Live only
in the present, that is all you have. Close off the past and the future and live in day-tight compartments. If you can accomplish this and live only for today by living in these day-tight compartments you can eliminate most guilt and worry.
Remember that the present is just that a, “present or a gift,” that is given to us. Enjoy it. Horace, the Roman poet, wrote “happy the individual and happy they alone who can call today his or her own. They who secure within can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have
lived today.” Strive to shut the iron doors on the past and the future and live in day-tight compartments. This will eliminate a great deal of worry, anxiety and guilt. Start today and seize this day to obtain the most out of it. Live only in day-tight compartments.
More on this topic very soon!
Dr. Tom Tursich
The Doc of Communication