“I became anxious about the smaller things aswell as the big, even though I’m not a naturally anxious person.”
“I lost interest in things I used to be passionate about.”
“I was irritable, with poor concentration, and worried that my work would suffer”
“A good nights sleep became a bit of a mystery.”
“I’d catch myself clenching and grinding at night”
“Recurring headaches, back, neck and body pains that I assumed were all just part of poor posture or ageing”
Experiencing burnout really took me by surprise. Before I knew it, I had snowballed from a sense of calm to a lower threshold to stressors, a heightened state of anxiety and a tonne of physical symptoms – migraines and electric shock back pain. I remember coming home from another long day from work, feeling utterly drained. I began to question if it were normal to feel zapped and this out of energy. It became clear that I had missed the early signs and reached crisis point.
Becoming overwhelmed by stress and burnout doesn’t need to be an inevitable part of your dental journey. Here are some simple tips to help you recognise its time to prioritise your mind.
I found the first step to understanding myself better was to start with making time for self reflection. The easiest way I realised to become more self aware was by checking in regularly with my emotions, thoughts and attitudes. Ask yourself how you are feeling and why? If you priortise checking in during your day then the skill of self reflection and awareness increases.,
2.Understanding your narrative
Getting to understanding the themes of your thoughts that come up daily helps you to join the dots and appreciating why you feel a certain way can help you become more compassionate to yourself. It’ll also help to lessen the impact of the uncomfortable feeling.
3. Staying with the feeling
This can be very difficult, but pushing away, denying or distracting yourself from that emotion often seems to make you feel more triggered. Instead try allowing the feeling to enter. Sit with the discomfort by reminding yourself that its temporary. The pain of these negative feelings are essential – they are telling you a story and want to be heard.
4. Up coping mechanisms
This may range from the simple sleep early, feed and water yourself and exercise, to mindfulness, journalling or creativity. Coping mechanisms help you nurse yourself to health. Find what works best for you and up those activities.
Breathing exercises make a massive difference. This may be simply focusing on your breath for 2 mins when you wake up or a guided mindfulness mediation session following an app – whatever it is big or small, the effects are instant and life changing.
The science part: when your exhale is longer then the inhale your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This has the effect of slowing you down, increasing calm and focus.
6. Slow down
Say no to extra commitments and give yourself permission to do less. This practice is one of self compassion. While its good to have goals and aim high, at a time of stress, its healthier for you to recognise that now is the time to recuperate.
7. Speak to others
It can be easy to normalise certain thoughts and deny their significance, but speaking to others honestly can open the door to greater connection and understanding your thoughts better too. Saying aloud your emotions also seems to give that feeling less power over you.
You may confide in family or family. Alternatively, having a safe space to talk through things with a therapist could be beneficial.
Healing from stress and burnout is not always a linear process. I realised the key was bucket loads of self compassion. You are brave and more resilient then you realise. Sometimes the best approach is to look at taking small steps forward and having the faith that you’re making the way to better days.