3 Jan 2023  •  Blog, Mental Health  •  7min read By  • Mark Oborn

Dealing with stress

As the rise in the cost-of-living shows no signs of abating, many in dentistry are starting to feel the strain. Dental Business Coach, Mark Oborn, offers some suggestions to help people cope better with stress.

Stress is definitely one of those things which runs quite high in dentistry. You only have to look at the forums and chat rooms to hear the team, associates and principals all saying the same thing.

Some practices are reporting that the cost-of-living crisis is causing a drop in new patient enquiries, and when that’s coupled with the problems of recruitment and retention at the moment, stress in the dental practice is looking likely to rise.

So, what can we do about this stress?

There are always two factors in this kind of situation:

  • what is actually happening
  • how we react to what is happening

It’s not what’s happening that is the problem, it’s how we react to it… That’s where the stress creeps in.

The first step to reducing stress is to disconnect the event and our thoughts about it.

Recognising that the event stands alone, as just a thing that is happening, separate from the stress, is in itself a very powerful thing to do.

Let’s look at things logically. If the events happening around us truly did cause us stress (rather than it being how we react to the event which is stressful) then that event would cause every single person in the world who experiences it to be stressed.

But look around you, people get stressed by different things.

It’s not the things or events which cause the stress, it’s how those people react to those things or events, the way they think about them, that’s where the stress lies.

So now we know nothing actually causes us stress, they are just things and events which happen around us, and it’s our reaction to those things which manifests in stress, what can we do about how we react?

This is where it becomes very empowering.

100% of what we think is under our control.

Disconnecting the event from what we think about the event, brings 100% of the control, and therefore 100% of the ability to cope with that stress to us.

We are no longer out of control; we are in control!

Let’s take stock of where we’ve come so far:

  • We have recognised that there are external events which happened around us and in themselves, they do not cause stress, they are just events.
  • We have separated the way we react to those events from the event itself.
  • We have now taken ownership of how we react, acknowledging that what goes on in our head is within our control.

If the stress is related to a single event probably the simplest thing to do is to start by addressing the event/problem itself. The simplest way to do this is to ask yourself a series of questions:

Is this problem IMPORTANT and URGENT? If it’s important only, then there’s no need to get things resolved right now, reschedule to do it later. If it is not important but urgent, then it may be possible to either not do it right now because it isn’t important, or delegate.

If the problem is both important and urgent – Do I have the resources of time, money, energy and brainpower to solve this problem right now? If not, what are the desired outcomes? Who can I get to help me with this, or who can I delegate to entirely? Alternatively, what other less critical and important issues could I move so that I can deal with the current issue?

I get it though, sometimes we just have to crack on and get stuff done!

But we don’t have to react in a stressful way, remember, you are in control of your mind.

Dealing with what goes on in our head

Stress can often be multi-factoral, from immediate stress caused by dealing with problems as I’ve mentioned before, to more insidious stress which builds over time and isn’t related to single problems.

The principle to dealing with this stress is still exactly the same. It is still a series of events which happen around us and the answer to resolving the stress still remains within our head: by separating ourselves and recognising that we control what goes on in our mind.

Here are some simple techniques I use:

Stop and connect.  This is about giving our brains something else to focus on for a few moments. When we reconnect with our own body and thoughts, we can take control of them and feel empowered.

Stop what you are doing, close your eyes and breathe. Feel the air coming in through your nose, down through your lungs, filling your blood with oxygen, then feel the air exiting again taking the stress with it.

Going outside and walking mindfully. This can be a really great way to remind ourselves that we are in control. Feel grounded, feel connected to the earth beneath your feet.

Remind yourself that you are fully empowered to not let the outside world control what goes on in your head. Gently repeat the mantra to yourself “I am in control of my mind and therefore my results”.

Do something completely different for a moment, ideally using a different part of your brain. If you are locked in calculating thoughts, do something for 5 minutes which is creative. These are some of the things I’ve done:

Free writing. This involves putting pen to paper and literally writing the words as they come into your head. It takes some practice but can be a really good way of just allowing your mind to wander creatively.

Doodling. Again, allowing your creativity to just begin drawing and see what happens.

Taking time at the end of a busy and stressful day to stop and connect with the world around you. Remind yourself that you are fully empowered, in control of your mind, and therefore your results, and giving your brain something else to focus on can be great ways to deal with stress.

The trick in all of this is to not say “XYZ causes me stress” – rather, reframe this and say “XYZ is happening around me and when I feel stressed it’s because I’ve momentarily forgotten that I am in control of my mind and therefore my results”. Then give yourself a pat on the back and say well done for noticing, you can now do something about it.

If you have found that stress has continued to build in your life, is out of control and beginning to cause other issues like anxiety and other health problems, it may be time to seek advice and guidance from a health professional.

Sometimes a more formalised and/or medicalised approach may be required just to take the edge off things, and then, as time progresses one can manage stressful situations as an individual.

Please don’t be afraid to reach out to your healthcare professional, they are there to help, as are your colleagues within the profession.

About Mark

Mark Oborn combines his MBA (Majoring in Marketing, Innovation and Creativity) and 15 years’ experience of running his own small business with the skills and art of Neuro Linguistic Programming and Hypnosis (plus a splattering of life experience) to help you grow in your business and communicate better with your clients/patients.

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