A guaranteed way to lower your stress level

May 23, 2012
There's no doubt about it — dental assisting can be stressful. Lisa Newburger, LISW-S tells you how to keep your balance in work and life.

By Lisa Newburger, LISW-S

Two weeks ago, my dream came true. I had the privilege of teaching dental association members how to play. Seriously. The program was called Balance This: Family and Work … The Ultimate Juggle. Instead of the usual eat right, exercise, lower your stress type of program, we played. Excuse the psychobabble, but we found our inner child — you know the one I’m talking about. The one you left behind when you started paying bills.

Now you’re wondering, what does playing have to do with balancing my life? Think about it. You have a stressful job. The dental industry is very taxing. You provide care to people who, quite frankly, don’t want to be there. Do people really get excited when they have to visit the dentist? Not usually. There are also the other pressures in your life — the time constraints, challenging colleagues, child-care issues, relationship problems, and bad hair days. (Oops! Did I say that out loud? That actually is one of my stressors.) If you could play and forget about your problems, what would happen?

Do you like to laugh and be entertained? Does that happen at your office? If not, make it happen. I challenge you to think for a minute about what excites you. What makes you get up in the morning to start your day? What do you dream about? (Hey, remember to keep it G-rated. This is a professional journal after all.) If you don’t have any dreams or goals, and some of us are in that unfortunate category, think about it. Better yet, start working toward it. Why? Because this is how you put balance in your life. When you’re excited about something, such as a trip to Orlando or seeing a friend you haven’t seen in years, something happens. The more excited you become planning that trip or reunion, the more you put your life in perspective. You prioritize what you stress about. You anticipate the fun and — to be honest — it distracts you from some of your day-to-day stressors. Instead, the adrenalin is pumping, and it is exciting.

So, what happened at the dental conference? We had a snowball fight. That’s right. More than 100 women and three men wrote down their biggest stressors and threw them away in a massive snowball fight. I collected these snowballs after the program. Do you know what people wrote about? The biggest stressor was lack of time. Our time is extremely valuable. We can pick and choose how to spend it or even waste it. We are in control.

Participants brainstormed about their dreams and goals. Many of the responses were tied to getting a higher education degree, but one participant wants to be the president of the United States. (To think someone out there would even want that job! Oops, did I say that out loud?) But seriously, I’d love to meet the person with that dream. I say to dream big — the bigger, the better. Do you dream big? Do you go after your dream or just give up and say, “I’ll never get there, so why bother”? With an attitude like that, you’re absolutely right!

As a “recovering” social worker, this is my recommendation. (Hey, I knew that degree would come in handy one of these days.) Sit down and think about what you want from life. Keep asking yourself why. Better yet, do this with a friend over lunch. Have your friend ask “why” to everything you say. This is like peeling off the layers of an onion. Why do you want to be president? Keep digging and figure out what you want out of life. Are you pursuing your dreams or just letting life happen? Which is more rewarding?

Let me close by saying this. I was a social worker for more than 20 years. Was it rewarding? It was at times. But then I went through a horrible midlife crisis four years ago. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my career, but I knew I wanted out. An incredible journey began that caused me to start dreaming. I found people who supported those dreams and gave me the chance to get there. One of those dreams was to speak at a conference in your industry. It took me two years to finally achieve this. Do you know how exciting it was to reach that goal? It honestly was more exciting than when I gave a briefing at the Pentagon. My point? Find out what your dreams are and set some goals. Whether they are big or small, it doesn’t matter. Reach, stretch, and take some chances. Dream. This is how you keep balance in your work and life. This I guarantee!

Author bio
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, a.k.a. Diana Directive, is a TMJ queen who provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. To check out pictures of snowball fights, go to www.discussdirectives.com.