Energy! In times that are tough or crazy—like during the COVID-19 epidemic—it takes energy to handle the problems of the world, the nation, the practice, and even your own life!
During this pandemic, everyone faces multiple stressors—such things as (1) surviving financially, (2) staying healthy, (3) stabilizing and reopening a practice, and (4) maintaining happy, healthy relationships at home during isolation. Yikes, facing this daunting list, we are bound to find it stressful!
WHAT IS “STRESS?”
Peter Hanson, MD, best-selling author and co-founder of the popular website at www.stressipedia.com, comments on stress this way. “Stress is neutral until it lands on a person. What that person has chosen to do about past stress and what the person chooses to do in response to present stress will determine the outcome.”
Stress can be invigorating and lead to the release of effective endorphins. However, when stress causes physiological or psychological problems, it’s termed “distress.” Distress is associated with 80 percent of all illnesses being treated today.
Positive stress can be an effective motivator, a driving force. It can help you focus, perform, and get things done. You may perform well under pressure.
Then, it’s important to relax, “come down,” and celebrate the achievement. The relaxation following a stressful situation lets your mind and body recuperate, regenerate, and re-motivate.
NEGATIVE STRESS: Stress becomes negative when you stay at the “peak level” and don’t “come down.” If you don’t relax, breathe, and recuperate, then stress can turn into “distress.”
Stress cannot—nor do you want it to—be eliminated. Controlled? Yes. You have the ability and the power to manage the stresses in your life so that you thrive from their natural energy.
Twelve Ways to Control Stress & Energize Your Life
1. Write out your mission, vision, and goals.
Focus on where you are now, where you are going—both personally and professionally—and how you intend to get there. Focus offsets chaos. Chaos without focus breeds stress.
A mission or purpose statement reflects who you are, what you do, and the importance of your work. It’s your “why.” A mission statement is built upon your unique and imperative values.
A vision is future-focused—where you are going. This clearly written map of your “ideal” practice becomes the impetus for making things happen. Set realistic goals. Positive thinking that is not supported by planned action is simply wishful thinking.
Prioritization will help you focus on the most important areas of the practice (or home life). Prioritization helps team members and the practice stay “on course” and not get lost in the busywork while falling short in the productive work.
3. Time management.
Writing and prioritizing goals is one of the best time management principles … ever! Study time management and put proven methods into action. (Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you my e-book on time management.)
4. Exercise on a regular basis.
During exercise, tranquilizing chemicals called endorphins are released into the brain. These naturally occurring chemicals bring about a pleasurable sensation.
Physicians who study the positive effects of exercise on the mind/body encourage a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three to four times per week, with five times per week being even more effective.
Include cardiovascular exercise in your program, along with strength training and stretching. This helps maintain strength and tone and will help a person to handle some of the challenging body positions maintained for long periods of time at the dental chair or at the computer.
Consult your physician before embarking on an exercise program. Consider hiring a professional to develop a program of exercise and fitness that is best suited for you.
5. Practice proven relaxation techniques.
Relaxation techniques can reduce tardiness, absenteeism, illness, and can support greater individual productivity. People often blame their jobs for uncontrolled stress. But remember, each person chooses how he or she will respond to or adapt to the stresses that are a part of modern-day dentistry. Be a good manager of your greatest gift and asset— you!
Here are some relaxation techniques you may find helpful:
a. The Relaxation Response: Search for it on the internet at the Mind/Body Institute of Harvard Health—it works!
b. Hobbies: Do something you really enjoy. Nurture a creative outlet that is totally different from the activities of your working day—whatever you like to do: sports, art, music, cooking, reading, or playing with your kids.
c. Meditation: Forms of meditation are effective in reducing stress through the power of the mind and are not tied to any specific religious belief. Mindfulness.
d. Visualization: Taking an imaginary trip from your past or a hoped-for trip of the future. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, for a few minutes, imagine the details of your dream location. Relax into a vacation-like state.
e. Music: Listen to music that is calming and peaceful to you. Sit quietly (if you can) for a few minutes and let the music soothe you.
f. Massage: Schedule regular massages. These healthy sessions will relax the tension in your muscles and release toxins that accumulate in your body.
g. Yoga: Yoga has the benefits of enhancing physical development, increasing flexibility, and fostering gentle relaxation.
h. Sleep: At least seven hours per night are recommended for an adult.
Many other methods of relaxation are available. These are just a few examples.
6. Feed your body properly.
“You are what you eat!” Eat a balanced diet: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Drink lots of pure water. Read and study the principles of good eating. (The internet makes this possible.) In addition, work with an expert in nutrition to evaluate a program of supplementation that would be healthy for you.
Don’t think that you can eliminate or control stress through the use of substances that may lead to dependence or abuse. Moderate or eliminate your intake of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and barbiturates/tranquilizers.
7. Feed your mind positively.
Feed your mind as carefully as you feed your body. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and non-reality. So, when you pour “negative stuff” into your brain, it believes it. Be careful. “You become what you think about.” (Earl Nightingale)
Listen to healthy, stimulating music. Watch healthy movies and TV. Read constructive, motivational books. Surround yourself with positive people. Read something positive before you go to sleep. One sentence is fine. Put your mind to sleep on something positive.
Make a conscientious effort to overpower the influence of negativity. Make a decision to be positive. Look at the good things in your work, in your co-workers, and in yourself rather than looking for the bad. Expect the best. “Whatever the mind of man/woman can conceive and believe, so shall he/she achieve.” (Napoleon Hill)
8. Stimulate your creative center.
Create mental fitness in the workplace. Continue to study the newest developments in your field. Adopt a positive approach by training the right side (the creative side) of your brain to actively seek and receive creative solutions.
Outside of the office, ask yourself, “What do I really love to do? What gives me ultimate joy?” Make a list of things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Then, as you organize your time, schedule these things into your life. Maximize your talent.
9. Communicate effectively and face stressful situations head on.
Study and learn excellent communication skills—ones that will help you listen and speak more effectively to others. Access the skill and knowledge of confrontation so that conflicts can be resolved constructively.
10. Organize every system within your practice.
Commit to getting and maintaining organization in your practice. Develop excellent management systems and have talented, well-trained people engineering those systems.
Monitor goals to make sure you are reaching those goals. Adjust when necessary. Get a management coach in your life to analyze your practice and help you make sure it is “robust and fit.”
11. Eliminate the things in your life that are not working and focus on the things that are working.
The person who works at having a positive attitude and surrounds him/herself with positive people will always outshine the person who wallows in negativity, despair, and gloom. Be courageous enough to identify things that may have worked historically but are not working any more. Change them.
Refuse to let negativity drain the very life from you. If you are the negative one, find out why—and change. Put a mirror up in front of your face. What you are receiving from others will be a direct reflection of what you are giving to them.
The key to stress management is control. Learn to ignore what you can’t control and learn to control what you can. All of life is a matter of choice. Remember: you are the manager of your own self. Choose healthfully and wisely.
12. Strive for a balance in your life—a balance of work, love, worship, and play.
Aristotle called this the “cross of life” and believed that all people are striving for a balance between these four elements. He said that if a person is feeling “out of balance,” one of these critical areas of life fulfillment is probably not getting the time, attention, or nurturing that it needs.
You may not be in perfect balance now—probably never will be. However, working toward that balance is worthwhile if stress control, health, well-being, and joy are important to you. Aristotle said that at the center of this “cross of life” is what all human beings are seeking—happiness.