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Obtaining an Ideal Work-Life Balance as a Dentist

Dentistry consistently ranks within the top ten overall jobs in US News and World Report’s Best Jobs yearly report. Dentists are well-compensated, averaging $155,600 a year across the US. Dentists can have a fairly predictable and sometimes flexible schedule, but chronic stress can creep its way into this profession just as easily as it can in other jobs. Here are a few tips for dentists looking to feel more balanced and less stressed.

 

Make Your Own Hours

 

As a dentist, you can decide the length of your workday and workweek, which means you can get creative to suit your own needs. If you’re balancing dentistry with raising a family, this means you can work only when your children are in school/daycare. 

 

You also have the option to work more consolidated days and shorter weeks if that appeals to you. A study out of New Zealand by a company called Perpetual Guardian tracked the stress levels of employees working four days instead of five. Their stress levels went down, their reported sense of work-life balance rose from 54 percent to 78 percent, and astonishingly, their productivity and commitment to their career rose as well. 

 

Pencil in Some Zen

 

Yoga is a great way to de-stress and take care of your body. Beyond that, studies show that it can impact your business’s overall performance as well. Leave a yoga mat at your office or in your car. That way, you can sneak in some mindfulness when there are gaps in your schedule.

 

If yoga isn’t your thing, then wear your walking shoes to work. According to the APA, going on a daily walk can reduce your stress level. Consider going on a short walk in a park to decompress before or after your commute at the end of the day.

 

Take Care of Yourself

 

As someone who spends time caring for others, don’t forget to take time to care for yourself. Find something joyful to look forward to every day, even if it’s something as simple as a morning cappuccino on the way to work. There are also other ways you can practice self-care when you don’t feel like you have a ton of free time, like setting a bedtime for yourself or packing a healthy lunch. 

 

Since you spend most of your day having conversations with people, even just a few minutes of solitary “me time” can go a long way. According to Psychology Today, solitary time can actually strengthen productivity while giving you time to recharge.

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Communicate Clear Expectations

Maintain clear operating practices that prevent stress and confusion when situations arise. Do you accept emergency patients outside of your regular hours? What is the protocol for notifying you of these emergencies? If you work with other dental staff members, train them on these important procedures up front.

 

Hello, “Blue Time”

 

Even though a vacation can be an excellent stress reliever, studies show that Americans often don’t take all of their vacation days. As a dentist, it’s a good idea to set aside some time for a vacation ahead of time. Since routine checkups and cleanings are often scheduled six months in advance, setting aside your yearly vacation at the beginning of the year can reduce rescheduling headaches and help ensure that you take some time for yourself. Mark off “blue time” on your calendar!

 

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Have a Positive Support System

 

Remember you are not alone. Opening up to friends and family about stress is a great way to figure out how to cope with it. Research has shown that social support, especially within the workplace, positively impacts overall work outcomes and perceived work-life balance. Since many dentists work alone or with a very small number of coworkers, it’s a good idea to have an external social network or to attend dental conferences to find others with similar career experiences. Bonus: you’ll often receive dental CE credits at special workshops and conferences, too!

 

Dentistry can be an extremely rewarding profession. Dentistry Pioneer and founder of The Dawson Academy, Dr. Peter E. Dawson said, “I've often said I think dentistry is the greatest hobby in the world.”  With a few measures in place, dentists can prevent burnout and feel an overall sense of balance.