Maintaining Your Practice During Times of Personal Stress

Find ways to help yourself as you continue helping others.

When you envisioned a career in service to others, you may never have considered the potential impact a personal crisis of your own could have on that mission. Whether a divorce, a family illness or the loss of a loved one, real life happens to doctors and dentists, too. Studies show that practitioners often have trouble balancing demanding jobs and personal crises, and that they’re often reluctant to seek help.[1]

Share, judiciously
As the leader, you set the tone of professionalism for your practice. Clearly, the treatment room is no place for you to unload personal issues onto a captive patient — or staff member. At the same time, it can be just as destructive to office morale if your normally happy, caring demeanor changes and you suddenly become distant or distracted without explanation. Be honest and share details with people as needed, especially if the crisis will affect your ability to perform certain functions. 

Be realistic
If you had a patient with a serious issue, you wouldn’t tell him or her to ignore the problem. So don’t do that for yourself. Be honest with yourself. Admit that this crisis may force you to do things differently for a while, and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.

Exercise
No matter how many demands you face between the office and your home, regularly taking a few minutes for a run, a brisk walk or a bicycle ride isn’t selfish — it’s self-preservation. The release of endorphins can improve your mood even in dark times, and leave you physically relaxed and better prepared to deal with the mental and emotional stress you’re facing.[2]

Avoid negative outlets
At stressful times it’s especially easy to seek relief through alcohol or drugs. Studies show that physicians and dentists, because of their easier access to prescription drugs, are especially susceptible.[3] Yet for those who seek help, treatment programs can be remarkably successful, with abstinence rates of up to 90% following treatment.[4]

Take the time you need
For some people, staying busy at work is the best therapy. In other cases, you may need some time away to deal with your personal crisis. As important as you are to your patients and employees, they’re probably more resilient than you think. Plus, your partners, despite their own stresses, may be more than willing to cover for you. Taking the time you need, rather than trying to tough it out, may help you return to your best form that much more quickly once the crisis passes.

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Important Legal Disclosures and Information

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309062/

2. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

3. Physicians reference: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/819223; Dentists: http://www.dentistwellbeing.com/pdf/DentistsDoDrugs.pdf

4. Physicians reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704134/ Dentists: http://www.dentistwellbeing.com/pdf/DentistsDoDrugs.pdf

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