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Dental: Work/Life Balance

Burnout is a sense of emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from work-related stressors such as personnel difficulties, over-packed schedules and other demanding situations. Burnout can lead to a multitude of problems, including chronic fatigue, volatile emotions and depression. Susceptibility to ailments such as colds, fevers and headache increases as well.

Experts suggest that medical professionals - including entrepreneurial dentists - are particularly prone to burnout. While avoiding this condition requires a degree of self-discipline, most mental health professionals and career counselors insist that a few routine measures can take care of the situation - preferably before it becomes too much to manage. The process starts with basic common sense.

  • Attend to physical needs. Adequate sleep, a wholesome diet, exercise and rest during minor illness can head off eventual burnout. Likewise, it's important to go through regular screening for conditions inherent to various life stages (e.g. mammogram, prostate screenings).
  • Pursue outside interests. It's tempting to spend down time catching up with professional reading - or sprawled in an easy chair watching television. Instead, try a new hobby or sports activity, preferably with friends and family.
  • Try to communicate. When nerves are tight or emotions are raging, talk about it. Sometimes a confidante is the answer - a former mentor, dental school classmate or older colleague, for instance. Persons of faith may turn to their pastor or rabbi.
  • Consult a professional. Career coaches, attorneys and financial planners can help alleviate business stressors, but a mental help professional can be a valuable resource for ongoing depression or anxiety.
  • Join a support group. Highly confidential in nature, professional facilitators typically run these groups, with the job of helping participants honestly share professional and personal matters. Keep in mind, though, that different dynamics make up individual groups, so some trial and error might be in order.
  • Control practice demands. Explore strategies for time and workload management. Hiring a dental assistant, office help or a nurse can help, as does capping patient enrollment.
  • Be objective about economic ups and downs. After all, the fluctuating market can drive anyone to despair. Keep the situation in perspective - things will eventually improve.