3 massive mistakes that keep dentists stressed

2016 08 10 14 34 04 532 Butler Jen 400

Dentists from all over the world contact me sharing the struggles of their daily lives. Inevitably they use three words to describe how they feel about their life: stressed, overwhelmed, and dreading. After years of working with dental professionals and talking to thousands of doctors about what specifically stresses them out, I've identified the three massive mistakes dentists make that keep them stressed, overwhelmed, and dreading Mondays.

1. Tolerating

Jen Butler, MEd.Jen Butler, MEd.

What we tolerate, we give permission to. So when dentists bite their tongues with staff, vendors, patients, and colleagues, they are consistently giving others permission to continue behaviors, regardless of how it impacts them, the practice, or patient care. Dentists also tolerate their slow business growth for far too long, desiring efficiency and success but settling for chaos and flat revenue year after year. The first massive mistake is that dentists tolerate way too much for far too long.

2. Ignoring the warning signs

Stress isn't your staff standing in a line outside your office wanting to ask you ridiculous questions, the pile of bills you stuff in a portfolio for the bookkeeper to decide which ones to pay, or the difficult patient you would rather dismiss than treat. Stress is an internal, biological, physiological, chemical reaction that is part of your autonomic nervous system with clear and identifiable symptoms.

“Since we can't change what we don't acknowledge, ignoring the warning signs of stress is the same of sticking your head in the sand.”

Acute stress-low, which is defined as stress levels that spur you forward and enhance your awareness, has been shown to have positive effects on your lifestyle. However chronic stress-high, defined as stress levels with a continual release of cortisol over time, can be disastrous. Ignoring the warning signs of chronic stress leads to headaches, dry skin, forgetfulness, fatigue, mood swings, sleepless nights, indifference, depression, burnout, and more.

Dental professionals consistently share with me how they have been feeling for months or years. It's as if they are reciting from a medical journal on the consequences of stress. Since we can't change what we don't acknowledge, ignoring the warning signs of stress is the same of sticking your head in the sand.

3. Going about it alone

A cultural attitude in dentistry is perpetuated and nurtured on message boards, at seminars, during study club meetings, and at conferences. It's a conglomeration of other dentists' fears, weaknesses, failures, and judgments. This aggregation virally and systemically searches for the next dentist with fractures in their confidence and small doubts in their abilities. The end result, sadly, is that a giant wall is created around the dentist. This wall does nothing but hold dentists back from reaching out to others for support and stagnating their path to success.

The practice of building a dental business to success is a bell curve with a very small number of outliers able to rely on skill, and a lot of luck, to go about it alone. The majority of dentists idealize the outliers, spending tens of thousands of dollars to attend their workshops or buying their programs just to become like them, all the while continuing to listen to and conform to the cultural attitude that going about it alone is the standard expectation of a successful dentist. This is the biggest mistake of all that will keep you stressed, overwhelmed, and dreading Mondays.

What to do

Solutions to each of these mistakes are clear but not simple or easy to always implement.

  1. To stop tolerating, you need to know what you tolerate. This coincides with the first step of stress management -- know your stress.
  2. To become aware of your warning signs requires the second step in stress management -- assess your stress.
  3. Step three in stress management is to reduce your stress, which you can't do by going it alone. It takes a network of the right people for you to learn from, share with, problem solve with, and lean on. Reducing your stress is a result of intentional work with strategic implementation of defined coping methods.

You'll find your energy and passion for dentistry again when you stop making these three massive mistakes and make efforts to know, assess, and reduce your stress.

Jen Butler, MEd, is the CEO and founder of JB Partners and has been working in the area of stress management and resiliency training for more than 25 years. Learn about her services at www.jenbutlerpartners.com, or contact her at jen@JenButlerPartners.com. You can learn about her Catalyst Seminars and download a free e-book.

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

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