Your work as a dentist is unquestionably fulfilling—and after everything you had to go through to get this far, that’s a good thing! It takes a special kind of passion and commitment to become a successful dentist. It takes even more passion and commitment to be a good dentist. You deserve all of the personal satisfaction and value you derive from your career.
Being a fulfilled dentist means that you also have to be a fulfilled person. While work may be at the center of your life, your life has to be about more than work. Finding that balance and maintaining it is often a lot harder than it sounds.
Set Personal Goals and Milestones
Personal accomplishments should be just as important as your business goals. Personal goals could include learning a new skill such as cooking or picking up a sport. It could also have to do with running a marathon or learning how to be a better listener. Whatever your personal goals are, follow a basic matrix to make sure they’re sustainable.
- Will this goal add to a sense of fulfillment and purpose?
- Is this goal likely to add more stress and commitment to my life than I can handle?
- How soon would l like to attain this goal and is that realistic?
This chart from Indeed is intended for job goals... but it makes perfect sense for personal goals and fulfillment, too.
Maintain Your Hobbies and Interests
Just because you have a demanding career doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the activities and hobbies that you enjoyed before you became a dentist. Maintaining outside interests is key for work-life balance. A hobby doesn’t have to be challenging, either; In fact, it should be mostly fun and not remotely stressful.
Everyone's a little bit different, so one person’s hobby is not necessarily another’s. Maybe you’ll be a more fulfilled dentist if you go to a wine tasting or two every month. Another option is just going out to the movies and a relaxing dinner with friends or a partner. If your idea of fun is keeping up with your favorite sports team, then buy season tickets. Whatever it is, engage in an activity that completely allows you to check out and unwind.
Schedule Personal Days
You may not know it, but a day off at least once a quarter is good for your mental health. The longer you go without taking a personal day, the more that stress could accumulate and make you absent-minded and foggy-headed.
Your job requires that you are extremely focused throughout the day. To remain a fulfilled dentist, schedule personal days at regular intervals, or at least have days during the week where the office can function if you need to stay home and take a breather.
You get paid time off for a reason. Use them. Plan the type of vacations that don’t require a lot of planning or coordination. Every so often, we all need to completely unplug and decompress for at least a solid week. You’ve earned the right to do that, so book a trip that is full of opportunities for some well-earned chill time!
Ask for Help
To keep your job as a dentist fulfilling, you need a support system, at work and at home. The people around you want to help you not just as a professional, but as a person. Surround yourself with supportive people and remember that they want to help you just as much as you want to help others.
Be on the Lookout for Signs of Burnout
Medical professionals, and especially dentists, are extremely susceptible to burnout. Rather than waiting for it to hit you, recognize the signs and take immediate measures to mitigate work pressures and personal stress.
Signs of burnout include:
- A lack of motivation
- Minimal enthusiasm for your job
- Impatience and irritability
No one can be at 100% all day, every day. That is especially true for dentists and dental professionals. Try and spread out your patient schedule enough that you have a few moments in between each appointment. When the weather is nice, step outside throughout the day to get some fresh air. Make sure that you and the entire office take their allocated lunch and meal breaks. Prioritize taking a few moments to decompress, even if it means walking away from a scheduled meeting or an appointment until you’re calmer.
Remaining a fulfilled dentist is going to be impossible if you’re not in good mental and physical health. If there’s a recurring theme in this post, it’s this: You won’t be at your best for your patients in the long run if you don’t make your wellbeing as important as everyone else’s.
Just like you advise your patients to take care of themselves, you need to take your own advice. None of this is likely to be new information for you, but here is your official reminder to:
Get plenty of exercise.
Physical activity reduces stress hormones and produces the very hormones that keep us healthy. It also increases your mental capacity, helps you concentrate, and boosts your physical endurance. Join a gym or keep a treadmill at home. Even a mild walk a few times a week will get your heart rate up and help you decompress.
Avoid convenience eating.
Some grab-and-go convenience food every once in a while is fine, but it shouldn’t be your regular go-to. Plan your meals as best you can with high-fiber, lower-fat, high-protein foods. To keep your energy up and your hunger at bay, keep healthy snacks around the office and at home. Give yourself enough time in the morning to cook a healthy breakfast or keep supplies at work to avoid fast food drive-throughs and high-sugar breakfast bars or cereals.
Get plenty of sleep.
Research is conclusive that sleep is one of the most important ingredients in a healthy lifestyle. A consistent lack of sleep is increasingly connected to serious health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. If your goal is to be a fulfilled dentist for the long haul, getting enough sleep has to be a top priority.
What is enough sleep? Experts agree that we’re all a bit different but you need at least 7-8 hours per night. Again, just like you follow good dental hygiene, follow good sleep hygiene. Avoid alcohol right before bed, and make sure to unplug from work as soon as you can. Stop checking emails long into the night, for example. Consider using a smartphone at home that doesn’t have your work email so you can totally unplug the second you walk in the door.
If you need help managing the stresses of running a dental practice, whether that’s accounting or billing, personnel management, marketing fulfillment, or more, let us know.