Mental health issues are prevalent among adults in the United States, and the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated those conditions for many people. Dental and medical professionals, in particular, have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, caring for others despite the difficulties they are also facing. It is vital that dentists take care of their mental health, as personal wellbeing is necessary to also give a high level of service to patients.
Try the following resources and ideas to protect yourself emotionally during this incredibly stressful time.
- View the webinar Building Resilience in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Dentists, dental students and non-dentists have access to this webinar from the ADA, which focuses on the importance of resilience for surviving times of mental strain. This course will help you enhance mental focus, reduce anxiety and increase resiliency. The mind-body practices taught in the course are restorative and help improve wellness. The webinar is led by Dr. Aparna Chawla, a licensed dentist working in New Jersey and a longtime instructor of advanced breathing and meditation techniques.
- Practice using mindfulness exercises to minimize stress.
Mindfulness has been shown to be a powerful way to manage anxiety by pausing the “fight or flight” response in the midst of a stressor. Mindfulness, which incorporates focused breathing techniques, draws the attention to the present, rather than ruminating on the past or the future. A few common practices are meditating, deep breathing and engaging in physical exercises. Visit this Kaplan article for more mindfulness techniques and resources.
- Visit the Dental Mental Network (DMN).
DMN was launched in November 2019, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. DMN is free and helps dental professionals learn coping skills, find peer support and live better lives outside their practices. Learn about DMN in this profile in Dentistry IQ, and find the group on social media and on its website.
- Connect with other dental professionals in your area.
A social support system, made up of peers who understand and empathize with your situation, can keep you from feeling alone during times of intense stress, like many are experiencing now. Finding local groups of dentists can help you build that system. Look into regional member organizations to join. Becoming a member of NYSDA, for example, also gives you access to ADA and local component society benefits.
- Reach out to a mental healthcare provider.
There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for a little extra help on your mental health journey. Whether that’s talk therapy, medication or a combination of the two, there are solutions to help you feel better. As a dentist, you can find a therapist that specializes in problems unique to healthcare workers and who is comfortable dealing with your specific situation. In order to take care of your patients and staff, you have to first take care of yourself, and mental healthcare workers are eager to support you on that journey.
As you continue to deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19, dentists are reminded to visit the New York State Dental Association website for up-to-date information on NYS Health Law alerts and more. MLMIC also encourages dental providers to monitor all COVID-19-related updates on our resources page and continue to consult our detailed blog post on safely managing practices during the pandemic.