Hina Patel shares her top five tips on how dentists can de-stress, which one will you try first?
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I worked as a dentist for many years before I began advising people on nutrition and stress management. I remember the day-to-day challenges I faced, but I also how rewarding it can be. Here are five practical steps you can take if you would like to minimise stress and support your mental wellbeing.
1. Identify and manage your stress
This step is crucial. Dentistry can be a very stressful profession, so if you are feeling stressed, I encourage you to look at the sources of your stress. Write them down. Then think about:
What can you do to reduce the stress?
What changes could you make (either temporary or permanent) that might help?
Which people or resources could be helpful to you? Family, friends, counselling?
If, for example, you often find mornings stressful, because you rarely have time to review your patient list in detail before the first appointment begins, ask yourself, what can I do to ensure that I give myself that time? Can you take an earlier train? Can someone else drop off the kids? Small and practical changes can often make a big difference.
A free BDA online tackling stress course can help you identify the triggers of work-related stress, how you spot the signs and how you can overcome it.
It's an odd thought, but our physiology is virtually the same as when we were hunter-gatherers. At that time, we were highly active beings and our metabolic processes are still linked to being active.
- Exercise boosts 'feel good' hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine
- It helps control insulin levels and lowers the risk of T2 diabetes, improves blood flow to the brain and helps with memory
- Exercise has also been shown to increase production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BNDF) in the brain, which has been associated with an improvement in cognitive function and the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Can you walk to work? Could you do 20 minutes of yoga in the evenings?
For your body and mind to work correctly, you need to be active, so you should try to build regular exercise into your routine.
Getting a good night's sleep is more important than we realise. When we sleep, our body and brain cells detoxify.
In order to get good sleep, I recommend you:
Establish a regular bedtime routine: this could be a warm bath or shower, reading a book, meditation or light stretches.
Make sure the room is dark (blackout curtains) and the temperature is pleasant and not too warm
Avoid bright lights and gadgets at least an hour before bed. Many studies have shown that blue light in the evening can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
Are you getting enough sleep?
4. Try meditation and mindfulness
There is extensive research which shows the benefits of meditation on many medical conditions, as well as general mental and physical well-being.
Research supports that mindfulness meditation, which is practiced widely for reducing stress and improving wellbeing, has beneficial effects on physical and mental health and cognition. It can:
Decrease anxiety and depression
Increase creativity and emotional stability
Increase feelings of happiness, vitality and rejuvenation.
It's not for everyone, but I encourage you to take a look at an introduction to mindfulness or try a bedtime meditation to see if they are for you.
Identify your thinking errors
Our thoughts can be a cause of our stress and anxiety. Often these thoughts are inaccurate and focus on the negative aspect of situations. For example, if we fail at something, we might think of ourselves as an all-round failure even though we may be successful in most things. These cognitive distortions are thinking patterns we have built up from childhood.
Cognitive distortions can lead to anger, frustration, sadness, fear, low self-esteem, low self-control and anxiety. Challenging our thinking errors can give us a more accurate interpretation of the situation at hand.
Be a friend to yourself, don't be too critical
Be sceptical of thoughts that are all or nothing, think more flexibly
Ask yourself, will the current stressful event be as important 6, 12 or 24 months from now?
Try these five steps out for yourself. They could make a big difference in your day-to-day happiness and mental wellbeing.
Nutritional Therapist and Stress Management Coach
There are times when we all struggle and sometimes self-help strategies are not enough. If you are in that situation you are not alone. There is help available:
Health Assured offer free counselling for emotional problems and a pathway to structured telephone counselling, legal information, bereavement support, medical information and CBT online for BDA members.
Sign up for the free NHS Practitioner Health service: 0300 0303 300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their phone line is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm.
If you need support urgently then go to your local A&E department, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or contact the 24/7 crisis support line by texting NHSPH to 85258.