Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 09 Stand Up Paddle 1

How do you navigate 'deep water' in your dental practice?

Sept. 18, 2018
The dental professional enjoys comparing her life experiences to her work experiences in dental practice. A trip to the lake and her fear of deep water helped her realize what she might be missing out on at work.
The mirrored lake was calling to me. I had just purchased a SUP. That’s a stand-up paddleboard for those of you who aren’t water people. I had tried a SUP at a friend’s house and loved it. It’s a neat new way to be on the water, take in some vitamin D, and move the body (you know, exercise).

This particular morning, the lake presented a perfect opportunity—the promise of a smooth ride. Stirling, my Corgipoo puppy, was sporting his new bright orange life jacket. With no hesitation, he settled at the bow of the board. He was loving it!

The cottage that we embarked from had a gradual beach, so I could see the bottom as I went through the water, and I liked that. I have a tendency to stick close to shore. Why I like to stay close to shore is the real premise of this story, and this came to me as the bottom of the lake slowly disappeared from my sight.

You see, I have trouble with deep water. There was a time in my life that I never really thought about why or had any curiosity about the fear, but now I’m curious. What is it about being in deep water that is so scary and unnerving for me? I tell myself, “But you can swim. All the certificates and badges from years of lessons say that you’re more than qualified.” Do I dislike deep water because of what’s in the water? I figure the fish and other critters swimming around are more afraid of me than I am of them. So, what is it about not being able to see the bottom that makes me so uncomfortable?

Comparing lake and life

In moments like this I look for ways to compare situations, such as my dislike of deep water and other areas in my life that can be described as “being in deep water.” How do I navigate through tough, complicated circumstances when they occur, and we all know that they often occur.

I often deal with challenges in pretty much the same way, not only on a personal level but also as a dental professional. Sometimes my first reaction is to avoid the deep water altogether and stay close to shore. When there is an absolute need to leave the shore, I often just stay where there are no weeds or rocks. As soon as the water grows dark, I turn back toward the shore because that’s where my boundaries are. No risk in getting in over my headif I stay close to shore, right? I think you all probably get the picture and have a good feel for where I’m going with this analogy.

Let’s say I look up in the distance while I’m floating over the sand and I see an opening from the lake. It feels like an invitation to discover something, maybe a little hideaway creek that might lead somewhere new. Hmmmm … but I know I’ll have to navigate some deep water to get there. It’s in that moment that I ask myself some questions. What opportunity might be offered when I get there? What will I experience? What might I be missing out on if I don’t take the risk? How much deep water will I have to have to navigate to get there? What can I count on to get me there with minimal risk? What do I have that can support me in getting there safely?

Let’s revisit what I know I have. I know how to swim. The water is calm and smooth and there’s no wind to carry me away from the direction I want to go. Stirling is calm and happy at the bow of the SUP.

A simple practice can help you out

But here’s one of the practices I learned while training to become a coach. If I pause for a moment and make a conscious effort to get out of my head and really, truly feel into my body, then I will give myself the opportunity to become grounded.

Here’s how the practice goes. First, breathe deeply into your belly. That’s the calm button. (You can put your hand on your belly to feel the rise and fall. I sometimes put my right hand on my heart and my left hand on my belly.) Then, make a conscious effort to feel the bottoms of your feet on the “board.” They should be solid and grounded. It is here that I connect my body with the board as a whole, and I can now feel more stability to navigate the deep dark water with more ease. Just beyond the opening in the trees, I spot a blue heron fishing for his breakfast. Was that worth the effort of my navigating? You bet it was!

I share this with you because it’s a simple grounding exercise that can be used to calm and ground yourself anywhere that you are—in traffic, in the operatory during a difficult procedure (feel your “sit bones” in the chair rather than your feet on the floor), in the sterilization room, or in the team room where a meeting might feel like it’s heading toward deep water.

This gives your mind 30 to 60 seconds to calm your thinking, and it allows you to navigate the sometimes choppy and deep waters of life. Having a small exercise (let’s call it a life jacket) that you can doanytime gives you that little extra courage to leave the shore and go after something that may serve you in new ways that you didn’t know were possible. You might even be glad you lost sight of the shore.

I have my life jacketwhen I need it, and now I’ve given you one too. I hope you use it well!

“A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it’s built for.” ~ Albert Einstein

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Tracy Poirier is a Registered Dental Hygienist in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, with 30 years of clinical experience in both general and periodontal practices. She became certified as an integral master coach (IMC) in 2016. Her love of dentistry and human development and change led her to the creation of Premier Hygiene Solutions. She works with dentists to accelerate their practice success by implementing a sustainable periodontal program that elevates care.