Originally published in the South Dakota Dental Association’s Newsletter, Dentistry in South Dakota, Spring 2021 Volume 56, Number 1
We became accustomed to a non-stop, frantic pace. How do we make sense of the whirlwind? How do we transition to a new pace? Experts say that pandemics have three surges and it’s predicted mental health issues will be the fourth curve of the pandemic. We need to address our own mental health needs now in order to transition well and create a way forward, often with different values.
Guilt and loss are two hurdles that prevent us from moving forward. It is time to let go of the guilt of what we did or didn’t do in the last year. We all navigated the best we could. No more “should have, could have, and would haves.” The pandemic inflicted great loss. Our losses must be acknowledged and validated in order to heal. Be mindful of validating losses in conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and patients.
Seven key themes for emotional wellbeing as we transition:
- Practice self-compassion. Use self-kindness, not self-judgement.
- Find “Battle Buddies”. Process the losses, frustrations, and celebrations with others. Let people help you.
- Acknowledge moral injury. We were often unable to give quality care consistent with our values.
- Pace yourself. While we are figuring out a new pace, patience is paramount.
- Invest in yourself. Adopt the thinking that “Self-Care is Patient Care.”
- Limit social media: Stay in contact with friends/family. Let go of the frustrations and political angst that depletes us of our time and energy.
- Take mini breaks. Check out the apps Calm and Headspace (free now with your NPI #) to take 3–10-minute breaks.
Be proactive in asking for emotional support. Dentists often wait too long due to stigma, perfectionism, and extreme independence. Know the signs: feeling burned out, exhausted, cynical, irritable, pessimistic, apathetic, wired and tired, stuck, overwhelmed, guilty, or lonely. It’s a strength to be aware of symptoms and to seek the right resources. When we are well, we lead well at work and home.
We will get through it together. We need each other. It’s the power of connection that heals and helps us flourish.
The South Dakota Dental Association is pleased to be working with Mary Wolf, President of Veritee Partners to provide resources for the mental health of our members. Mary has coached executives and physicians through the pandemic and learned ways to help professionals transition during COVID. This article highlights the challenges we all face and present some tips for maintaining emotional wellbeing.