Stress is something we all face purely as a function of living on the planet.

Managed well, a healthy level of stress helps us grow.

Poorly managed, we can find ourselves veering off course.

Unmanaged, and we can quickly find life turns upside down.

I’m not a believer in silver bullets, but I do believe in mastery of fundamentals.

Mastering fundamentals that help us survive – and thrive – through stress, can make a world of difference.

Not only limited to personal wellbeing, the benefits extend to life and business as a dentist too.

Use this Ultimate Dentist Checklist for Thriving Under Stress to keep you balanced and on track for the end of year busy-ness and beyond.

#1 Become Friendly With Your Stress Response

Like many habits, our default reaction to stress is unconscious. A result of experience, programming and our unique filters, our default reaction is not always healthy.

For some it could be anxiety; for others, an immediate need to fix things.

The first step towards more a constructive stress response is awareness.

By becoming aware of, or ‘friendly’ with what we do habitually, we can identify potential areas for constructive change.

#2 Step Back

A reminder shared by podcast guest, Dr Linda Wilson, the idea of taking a step back is essential for surviving through stress.

Stepping back allows perspective, space, and new information to emerge.

Being able to step back requires a presence of mind that is virtually inaccessible while we’re stressed.

So how do we step back when we’re feeling stressed?

Go back to #1 on the checklist.

By becoming aware that we’re stressed in the first place – and seeing that response – we create the best chance of being able to step back.

#3 Accept Differences

Every individual’s response to stress is different.

In a purely practical way, this means, no two people will respond to a situation in the same way.

Although this points to differences, it’s also the opportunity to practice acceptance.

From that position, we can be more understanding and less judgmental. And this will always lead to better outcomes – for you and the others involved; especially when stress is involved.

#4 Stay Curious

It could be my coaching mindset, but I’m a fan of the maxim ‘stay curious’.

Curiosity in the realm of surviving stress means creating space.

In the words of Dr Linda Wilson it requires we ‘stay in the question’.

We can do this by observing our thoughts, emotions and reactions in any situation.

Rather than judging or assuming we know the answer, by staying in the question we allow possibilities.

I know that when I do this, the field of possibility expands. By contrast, when I don’t, the options available to me are limited.

#5 Count Your Stress Costs

Any calculation of the cost of stress should include the physical, emotional and psychological costs.

While it may not be possible to eliminate all stress in business or life, calculating the real costs can be helpful.

Apart from identifying the sources of stress, it can be a useful exercise for identifying your limits.

Too much stress and we burn out; too little, and we get comfortable and don’t grow.

The key is finding a manageable balance between the two that allows you to thrive.

#6 Get Creative

Have you ever tried to be creative when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed?

I have. It doesn’t work.

Going hand in hand with #1 and #2 on my checklist, getting creative is a surefire way for being creative. But it doesn’t happen when you’re stressed.

Science tells us when we’re stressed, the creative and generative part of the brain shuts down. We actually prevent solutions from showing up.

My tip? Slow down and step back.

Not always easy when you’re in the thick of things, but essential if you want to reduce your stress – and get creative.

#7 Get Back To Basics

So often the source of our stress is a result of disconnection.

Caught up in the whirlwind of business and life, we forget about just being.

We lose sight of things that are important to us. Relationships with those we care about, staying true to ourselves, taking time out.

The antidote is simple, but not easy: a return to the basics and what’s important to us, as individuals.

Using our own values and yardstick as the guide, it’s much easier to focus on our priorities.

For me, it comes back to that mastery of those fundamentals I mentioned at the beginning.

Get the basics right and a lot of the other ‘stuff’ often falls into place.

#8 Switch Off

The 24/7 nature of the world driven by technology makes it incredibly difficult to switch off.

But switching off is essential to reducing stress and thriving.

Over-stimulating your mind with unhelpful content can have negative consequences.

Make a commitment to switch off at least once a day and notice the difference to how you feel.

#9 Take Good Care

We each need reminders to take good care of ourselves; professionals like dentists, especially so.

Clinical practice requires we extend personal care to each patient. Personal lives that include family and friends often demand the same.

If I was to admit to you that amongst all this caring, I’ve found myself left short, I don’t think you’d be surprised.

You’d be even less surprised to know there are thousands of dentists just like me out there.

Taking good self-care is a vital step for any dentist wanting to navigate stress more effectively.

Some would say, it’s the most important step.

We’ve all heard the ‘fit your own gas mask first’ analogy, so schedule in some regular self-care time today.

#10 Take Regular Time Out

Both science and various wisdom traditions indicate that regular time out – mentally and physically has huge benefits for us.

In this arena, it’s important to find what works for you and the sky’s the limit when it comes to choice.

Meditation has been shown to be effective for slowing incessant thought, but if meditation isn’t your thing, there are other options.

Consider listening to beautiful music, spending time in your favourite natural setting, or just making time to be creative.

Any practice that allows you to slow your thinking – will help manage stress.

#11 Outsource

There are few things that will drag a person down like trying to ‘do everything’.

As a dentist running a business and balancing life, it’s impossible to do it all without stress becoming a rate limiting factor.

By knowing your values and strengths, you can gradually delegate tasks that can be better handled by someone else.

An initially daunting prospect, outsourcing wisely can make the life of a dental business owner more manageable – and enjoyable.


Final Words

As the end of year approaches and the pace of life accelerates, we can easily slip into habits that don’t serve us.

To stay balanced and calm, keep this checklist handy.

Implement one or two tips and notice the difference they make.

Want to set up your practice to thrive next year? You can do that at our final 2017 workshop – Masterplan 2018: Preparing to Win – which will be held in Brisbane on 23-24 November. It’s the perfect way to refine your moves and drive business success in the year ahead. We’d love to see you there.