Sheri's Solutions: How do you destress?

2015 03 31 16 23 41 686 Doniger Sheri 2015 200

"When I get stressed, I go into my private office and do a handstand."

Yes, I do believe Desirée Walker, DDS, a past competitor on "American Ninja Warrior" and a practicing dentist from North Carolina, does a handstand. I asked her what she did when she was stressed at's recent 2016 Women in Dentistry conference.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

Her private office is equipped with rings and bars, similar to what you would find in a high-quality gymnastics studio. Being a mere mortal, and one with not a lot of upper body strength, I would not be able to do a handstand, or a cartwheel, or hang on rings, even if they were available in my office.

This brings up the question: How do the rest of us destress when we have a situation in our office, either patient- or team-related, that causes us angst.

With internet access, the fastest way to destress, or get your mind on something else, would be to surf. Though, depending on what you are surfing, you may become more stressed or upset than you started. "Friend" Facebook posts may be boastful. E-mails may be delivering unwanted news. Shopping online may be impulsive and expensive.

Sitting is never productive. Studies have shown that sitting for prolonged time periods may cause heart and circulation issues, not to mention obesity and high cholesterol. When we place increased stress on top of these potential issues, it may cause more problems. Many offices are moving to standing desks to avoid sitting for a protracted amount of time.

Dr. DesirĂ©e Walker demonstrating her handstand technique outdoors at the 2016 Women in Dentistry conference.Dr. DesirĂ©e Walker demonstrating her handstand technique outdoors at the 2016 Women in Dentistry conference.

Dr. Walker is correct: One of the best forms of destressing is exercise. Getting up and stretching is the easiest, especially in the confined spaces of our offices. I have a half-round foam stability roller in my office that I will use between patients. It gives me a "mini" core workout, as well as allowing me to focus on my posture. In a dental office, where exercise space is limited, it is an easy solution.

Now, if you are in the mood, I am sure you can do some yoga poses or a little downward dog moment to stretch out your back, which also will relieve stress. Considering the positions we hold our bodies in during the day, stretching out the back is a wise habit to get into.

Another great way to destress is to take a walk. If possible, get out of the office for lunch or if there is a lull between patients. Some states require the dentist to be on the facility when a hygienist is practicing, but others allow for supervision that is more general. Get out of the office and move away from whatever is stressing you in your space. If the weather is inclement, walk around the building or take the stairs. Any movement is good and it refocuses our attention. When you return to the office, you have a different perspective.

“Considering the positions we hold our bodies in during the day, stretching out the back is a wise habit to get into.”

Decluttering our space is a great way to destress. It probably will help with the stress levels of our team, as well. It is very cathartic to do some "spring cleaning" and toss those old journals that have been hanging around for months. Alternatively, better yet, consolidate some of the lab cases or storage items. There is always something to clean in our offices.

Finally, just as we tell our patients, breathing is an easy way to destress and get our minds focused on the positives and away from distractions. Managing a few moments in a quiet space, such as an empty treatment room, lab, or private office may be just what it takes to get back to concentrating on something other than a stressful incident.

Personally, if I have a stressful event in the office, I try to do some stretching. Getting the blood flowing is always a good idea. Doing a handstand may be a goal, but for now I will stick to my stretching and a little yoga. I will leave the handstands to the professionals like Dr. Walker.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is the immediate past president of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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