© Nicoleta Ionescu | Dreamstime.com
656e37a4ba4767001e2f7b2f Holiday Stress

Surviving holiday stress and the end-of-the-year rush in dentistry

Nov. 4, 2022
It's no secret that the holiday season can become overwhelming, and that includes at the dental office. Maintaining your cool is important, and to help, Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, shares ideas for how to make the holidays less stressful.

Just when you thought slowing down at the end of the year was in sight, think again. While you’re still busy from the back-to-school rush last August, now you’re even busier. Couple the holiday season with the end-of-the-year rush for many of your dental patients who want to maximize their insurance benefits, and your stress level is escalating. Just remember, you're not alone!

We almost expect this overwhelming feeling during the holidays, with the season starting earlier and earlier every year. The holidays bring more of everything, both good and bad, and in a service industry we live the craziness day in and day out. While there are many opportunities for fun with family and friends, there's also the flipside—more money spent, more pressure to do everything in less time, and more chances for conflict both in and out of the office. In dentistry, we face harrowing schedules, umpteen emergency walk-ins, and patient procrastination—those who schedule their restorative work and ask the dental team to complete the treatment during an unrealistic timespan. Many of us feel like a pressure cooker with the top ready to blow off. 

With a little planning and helpful tips to let you soar through the season, things don’t have to be this way! To help you navigate your holiday and New Year stress both in and out of the office, consider some of the following tips: 

Define your mission, and express gratitude, both personally and professionally

In times of chaos and stress, having a clear purpose can help you meet expectations head on. Actively count your blessings by making a list of the people and things you appreciate in your life. 

At the office: When you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember what's important to you, your team members, and your patients. Practice extra kindness and gratitude during this time and you may just make your patients’ day with your thoughtfulness. We don’t know what struggles others may be going through and for many, the holidays are a difficult time. 

Outside of the office: If your mission is to connect with family and friends, being together is all that really matters. If it's rest and relaxation you're after, it’s essential to take time for yourself. Send a card or email that expresses your thankfulness to the people on your gratitude list. Don't neglect to do things that put you and your family in touch with the significance of the holidays, such as going to services, volunteering, or contacting extended family. The holidays offer a terrific opportunity for reconnecting with old friends or long-lost family members. Forget about whose fault it was or what you wish you had done. Now is the time to let people know that you are thinking about them. More than likely, they have also been thinking about you and will be delighted to hear from you. Spread the cheer! 

Respect your physical and emotional limits, both at home and at the office

If you’re exhausted, take time to rest or nap. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re overburdened with extra holiday tasks, try to let some of your other responsibilities slide for a few weeks. 

At the office: Given the past few years, you may find your team short a member or two, and teamwork becomes more important than ever. Offer to assist a team member if you have a few extra minutes. Not only will it relieve stress for that person, but the day will go by more smoothly with a group effort.           

Outside of the office: A well-maintained machine works wonderfully. The same goes for your mind, body, and spirit. Remember to take time for yourself. As few as a couple of minutes here and there throughout the day can do wonders to restore your mind and body. Practice moderation and your body will thank you. When it comes to holiday meals, avoid skipping meals to compensate for what you plan to eat because this may lead you to overeat. But don’t scold yourself if you do overeat—you deserve it for the craziness you’re handling! 

Maintain realistic expectations, don’t expect people to change, and expect a letdown or two

Life would be wonderful if it was predictable. We could plan and then be less stressed. But would we be any happier? Probably not. 

At the office: Keeping a level head at the office during the holidays can be a challenge. You’re allowed an occasional meltdown, but not every day. Whether you are part of the clinical team working as efficiently as possible to stay on schedule, or part of the administrative team doing whatever you can to make all of your patients happy, it’s not easy. Be proactive and look ahead in the schedule for areas that may not run smoothly. Two sets of eyes are better than one, and attention to detail is key to a harmonious team environment. The patient who is always scheduling last minute may need to be prompted to schedule ahead of time. People can be trained with repetition. Remember to pat yourself on the back at the end of each day for stellar teamwork and excellent customer service! 

Outside of the office: It might be easier to control things at the office than at home. Stuff happens when we least expect it. Kids whine or misbehave, no matter what gifts they receive. Expect them to act as they usually do when Santa or the Elf on the Shelf aren’t watching. As much as we would like people to change, especially during the holidays, they won’t; that’s human nature. And if you feel a bit deflated after all of the holiday excitement, have no fear. Spring is right around the corner (hopefully)! 

Don't let the end-of-the-year rush at the office and during the holidays cause you anxiety. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend. Learn to recognize your own holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so that you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. Practice extra kindness at the office and lend a helping hand whenever possible. This will make everyone’s day much more pleasant. With a little planning and positive thinking, you can find the extra energy, peace, and joy to survive the end of the year and the holidays. Best wishes and happy holidays to you and yours!

Editor's note: Originally posted in 2019 and updated regularly

About the Author

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.