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How a dentist can deal with stress

Post date: 07/09/2014 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018


Sami Stagnell, a graduate from KCL in London, reflects on how he deals with stress.

The irony of writing this article was that a certain amount of stress was involved. Not intentionally and well beyond my understanding, it just kind of happened.

It may have had something to do with a combination of a sudden deadline and an over-zealous view of my time-management abilities, but nevertheless the deadline email still struck a chord.

The spectrum of stress is a funny one, from that little niggle in your stomach to full-blown melt down. As it stands, you never really know when it will strike, but knowing how to catch it before it plays full contact rugby with your emotions is a vital part of life and skill that unfortunately nobody ever completely masters. Life is an unpredictable playing ground, much more so if you are a dentist. Fortunately for the likes of ourselves, we as dentists learn much sooner than many do, having been thrust into clinics early in our careers and threatened with the gauntlet of responsibility that comes with our professional titles.

One of the keys to dealing with stress is perspective of the situation. Many occasions when we encounter stressful scenarios in life we shut down. Mainly because of the overwhelming sensation that we cannot cope or do not understand what to do, when in fact we have more tools at our disposal than we realise. It's understandable that impending feeling of doom and the stomach-churning wrench as we feel helpless beyond imaginary means. Whether it is waiting to be interviewed, counting UDAs, watching our patients face as they scrutinise our best efforts at an anterior composite, paying taxes... No wonder we feel stressed!

We often forget that we have met these feelings before, and you would be surprised at how much experience counts for ability to cope as we get older.

sami-stagnell1f5c15e4ca1c4875a29b41ca15463d8aAs with everything else in life, it's learning from the past which moves us along and I know that I along with many others, often catch myself thinking how simple life seemed in hindsight. These days it is how much simpler university was than work, before then it was sixth form vs. GCSE... obviously things get easier as we get older. The more we learn about ourselves the better equipped we are to tackle new environments. Keep in mind that life is full of trends and history tends to repeat itself. My point about perspective is that all too often we let ourselves get caught in the cross fire when what we need is to step away from all the noise. Think about the episode as a whole and by doing this the pieces of the puzzle often fit better than we think. Along with perspective, one thing I find myself and others often do is forget about being good to ourselves. We work hard in our profession and forget it is not human to work at 100mph all the time. Taking time out go to the gym is my own head-clearing vice, but whatever it is, we need to do something completely unrelated to stop over thinking. A clouded head does us no favours and all the stress will do, is snowball. Before we know it, our day-to-day life and work becomes affected: the cliche of a 'sleeping on it' is very under-rated but give it a go.

Lastly, don't forget that just talking to others can often be of great benefit and someone else's views can really help. Don't forget that life as a young dentist is about learning from mistakes and stress is part and parcel of growing up. So accepting it is part of the game instead of fearing it, will put us in charge of our lives.


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