Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 04 Stop Stress 1

Down with stress! How to be happier in your dental practice

April 24, 2015
Stress can lead to a lot of problems in someone's professional life. Getting a handle on that stress is achievable. Paul Edwards has some suggestions for tackling stress in "bite-sized" steps that will leave you feeling like you've really accomplished something, and your stress will be history before you know it!   

Spring is here! Is there a spring in your step? Unless you already dance into the office each day, taking deliberate steps to prioritize your own happiness at work is the best way to liven your mood and reinvigorate your workflow.

But you’re busy and drained, so how can you conquer work stress and increase your workplace happiness without becoming stressed and miserable about it? As with any worthwhile endeavor, the answer is “practice!” You may need to rebuild a habit or two in order to create a more positive, energized workday, but rest assured, it is doable.

Here are a few of the best tips for dentists, office managers, and other dental professionals to relieve stress:

Reset your brain—Before you get to work, instead of focusing on everything you have to do that day, think about what you like best about your job. Maybe there are particular tasks you enjoy, maybe your team is great to work with, or maybe you’re just thankful your vacation is coming up soon. Finding positive aspects of work life to focus on helps you charge up to face the day.

Look at your own big picture—The daily grind aside, how is your current position contributing to your overall career development? Are you still learning interesting new things and applying them? Are you getting everything you need? Or do you need better resources and more training, whether to stay abreast of new technology, build your practice, become a stronger manager, or reach toward your goals?

Clean your desk or workspace—I know, I know, there’s no time, but sneak in cleaning anyway. If you’ve got a ton of papers scattered around, make a list of what’s “on” your desk so you can tackle things one by one, then put everything away. Most people instantly feel better and less stressed when their work environment is clean, whether we admit that to ourselves or not. While “creative clutter” may have its place in life, teetering piles of paperwork rarely count.

Prioritize—Next, clean out your brain. Jot down everything swimming around in there—what you’re way behind on, what calls need to be made, which employees need to be coached, what you’re worried about. Once you’ve made a mess, use it as the basis for a new list. This time, prioritize. Sure, everything on there is important, but which items can wait until another day, and which cannot?

Give yourself the gift of focus—When mountaineers could scale your project pile, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially in a world that views multitasking as a virtue. But switching off the noise and picking one bite-sized, achievable goal to focus on can make work feel manageable again. If your most pressing task is huge, cut off a manageable chunk and start there. If you need to, write it down on a to-do list all by itself, and cross it out with great enthusiasm when you finish. Then rinse and repeat!

Don’t let problems fester—Is there an issue that’s making you miserable, even when you’re not thinking about it? Maybe there’s an annoying phone call you need to make, or a worrisome employee issue you’ve been putting off. (Give CEDR a call. We can help you figure things out.) As Mark Twain said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” Get your worst nightmare over with early and then you’ll feel better afterward.

Make tiny good habits—Sometimes huge projects feel downright unapproachable, like an an endless set of patient files that need straightening out, or a backlog of past-due accounts that need to be re-billed. Instead of thinking of your large project as a Herculean task that you need to (but can’t) spend a full week on, resolve to work on it for 10 minutes (and only 10 minutes) when you arrive at work every morning or right before you leave every day. With constant effort but without the pressure, you’ll feel more virtuous, get more done, and may even keep working a bit longer when you find you’re on a roll.

Take a breather—Getting a handle on your workload may make you feel better in the now, but we know that proper rest and exercise is just as important if not more important for increasing health and happiness and reducing stress. During deskwork, make a point to simply stand up more often or look beyond your computer screen. All day long, from taking a moment to breathe more deeply to getting a brief walk in during breaks, remember that every physical effort you can make is good for your body andyour mental health. It’s a chemical fact!

Practice positivity—More evidence has indicated that how we perceive the world impacts how we feel about it. People who describe themselves as optimists or think of themselves as lucky see opportunities others may miss. Also, happy people are more productive. Challenge yourself to recast obstacles as opportunities, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Pay attention to what motivates you at work and outside the office, so you can work more of that into your daily routine.

And yes, it’s OK to focus on your own happiness first! You may be in charge of a team, but it’s no good preaching positivity and rainbows unless you banish the little gray raincloud hovering over your own head. Ready to get started? Great! Go forth and conquer the world. And while you’re at it, have a great day.

ALSO BY PAUL EDWARDS:Preparing for the unthinkable: Violence in the workplace

Paul Edwards is the CEO and cofounder of CEDR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of individually customized dental office manuals and HR solutions, helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape. For more information or a free employee handbook evaluation, visit