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Maria Marganingsih Dreamstime Self Care Wellness

Make self-care a priority and become a 'well being'

April 29, 2021
Dr. Christina DiBona Pastan explains how critical it is to treat yourself well so that you can care well for others. Here are some steps you can take.

Dentistry is demanding; the stressors of the profession can drain dentists physically and mentally every day. When stress isn't managed, its effects can be detrimental to the dental provider personally and professionally. Becoming proactive in managing these stressors is important skill that dentists need to develop. Every time we travel on an airplane the flight attendants go through their preflight routine tell us to put our oxygen masks first before assisting others. Dentists need to take that advice because how can we care for others if we don’t care for ourselves?

Prioritizing self-care

Prioritizing self-care is key to establishing wellness and work-life balance habits. Self-care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others. It is more than eating well and getting enough sleep;it's about nurturing yourself on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so you can live optimally. Self-care is provided for you by you, and is unique to everyone.

The first steps to self-care are to identify your own needs and take steps to meet them. Whatever your interests, hobbies, or personal practices are, find the time to incorporate them into your life every day. Prioritize yourself and what you need to be healthy and happy nourish your body, mind and soul as you put your oxygen mask on first.

We are human beings—not human doings

Learning how to "be now" has become a choice in the world in which we live. Our world is going 100 miles an hour and is filled with countless distractions. So many expectations are placed on us not just as dentists but in our personal lives, as we attempt to juggle work and life and find a balance between the two. There's lots to do, and not much time to be. We all have to-do lists, and just when we think we have everything crossed off, more tasks arise. A great way to add self-care to our list is to add the task “just be.” Then, we must make it a priority to cross that task off and add it again to tomorrow’s list.

Time for yourself

Taking time each day to “just be" is in some way a gift to yourself that will keep on giving. To “just be" means to make a choice to connect with your being. Our souls are the essence of who we are, and they need to be fed every day just as we feed our bodies.

Dr. Christina  Maslach describes burnout as “an erosion of the soul caused by a deterioration of one’s values, dignity, spirit, and will.” Burnout is not something that you wake up with one day; instead, it’s an insidious process that can sneak up on you if you don’t quiet your mind and body and;feed your soul what it needs to live well.

Breathing, sensing, feeling

A simple way to “just be” is to begin your day at home or in the office with five minutes for yourself. Sit quietly with one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, close your eyes, and direct your awareness to your breathing. As you breathe, feel the expansion of your body as you inhale and sense a letting go as you exhale. As you continue to breathe, notice how your body begins to relax. Physically scan your body for areas of tightness or tension and consciously invite in softness. You may experience that the more your body relaxes, the more you begin to feel.

Body sensing is the foundation of being alive. When we feel sensations and connect to them, they make us become more present. Notice what you are feeling emotionally and scan through the emotional energy centers of your body. Are you clear-headed or foggy? Are you feeling supported or off-balance? Are you holding emotion in your belly? Is your heart open, closed, or neutral? How is your center of communication feeling? Are you able to express yourself freely, or do you need to open yourself more?

As you continue to breathe, relax, and feel, can you observe what is happening in this process and allow things to be just as they are? I would suggest finding a consistent time during the day to “just be” and see what kind of positive shifts you may experience.

Becoming a 'well being'

Well-being starts with a "well being”—and that being is you. Take time to make yourself a priority each day. Put self-care on your to-do list, cross it off as you do it, and don’t feel guilty about it. For us to live, we need to eat food—we would never think about not eating or feel guilty about it. Self-care should be the same—a nourishment we can’t live without.

Christina DiBona Pastan, DMD, is director of Mind-Body Wellness and assistant clinical professor of endodontics at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Contact her at [email protected].