How to Rise Above the Anxiety and Panic of a Pandemic
Dental professionals everywhere are facing the biggest challenge of their careers. Are you equipped with the mental health strategies needed to rebuild from a place of hope?
Dental offices all over the country have been forced to shut down. Teams are laid off. The media is reporting scary statistics 24 hours a day on every device in your home. 80% of people who contract the virus will have only mild symptoms, but infectious disease specialists warn that the infection most concerning to them at this time is that of the mind.
If thoughts really become things, there has never been a more important time in our history to monitor your thoughts and fears than this Coronavirus Pandemic.
“I am not scared of Covid-19. What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world.”
Weathering this storm will have as much to do with mental health strategies as it does proper hand-washing and social distancing. Josey Sewell, VP of education for Dental Intelligence reminds us in Leading Through a Natural Disaster, “History is being written right before our eyes, we have the opportunity to write our own story rather than it being written for us.”
Start with Self-Awareness
How are you feeling now?
Mindfulness teaches us to get in touch with, and honor where we are before trying to change it. In a society where numbing is the norm, and busyism is our latest addiction, carving out time to just “be ” and “feel” can seem unproductive.
Since most of us have more time alone and at home right now, set the timer on your phone for 5-15 minutes for stillness. Play some relaxing music on YouTube. Tell your family you have an important meeting (with yourself) and cannot be disturbed. I meet with myself daily to recenter.
You may sit or lay, and close your eyes, or fixate on an image. There are many forms of stillness, mindfulness, or meditation. Find what works for you.
Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders. Begin to breathe through your heart, allowing your lungs to expand. Let go of thoughts as quickly as they show up. Feel your way to the center of yourself.
How are you feeling right now?
What thought is attached to that emotion?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps a patient “talk out” negative and self-limiting beliefs to bring awareness and focus on a solution. A therapist leads the discussion via Motivational Interviewing.
In self-coaching, we ask ourselves the questions. Imagine your heart as the therapist, and your mind as the patient. If you understand where the anxiety or fear are coming from, you can rise above it to change it. You are not your thoughts. You are the thinker of your thoughts. And you control them.
What thought is attached to the way you are feeling right now?
If it does not come readily to you, grab a pen and paper and ask yourself, “What are you afraid of?” Don’t censor, just allow the fear to speak. At a primal level, it is there to protect you. It is just doing it’s job. Give it a voice. Write.
What would you like to feel instead?
Now that you’ve identified how you are feeling and what you are thinking, ask yourself, “What would you like to feel instead?” What is the opposite of that negative emotion?
Peace? Security? Wellbeing? Write down whatever comes to you.
What thought would someone who has that be thinking?
Imagine yourself in the near future living that vision. See your practice thriving again. Imagine going to a packed conference. There are so many small things we once took for granted. Connect with the vision as if you have it now. BELIEVE in it fully. If you cannot believe in it, can you at least hope for it? Reach as far as you can into that hope. Come back again later if it seems out of reach today. Emotional fitness is much like physical fitness. You don’t develop this muscle overnight.
Do whatever it takes to connect to this emotional state of wellbeing for as long as you can. Five seconds is a good first attempt. Remember, we get what we focus on, so allowing your mind to wander into the fear zone will give you more fear. Gratitude for what you currently have, versus what you’ve lost, can help you stay positive moment to moment.
Mental health is as important as financial and physical health for small business owners and healthcare providers
Now that you’ve slowed down and connected with your heart for a moment, ask yourself one last question from a place of positivity:
“What one small step can I take today to rebuild even stronger?”
It may be to schedule a Zoom meeting with your team to put their minds at ease, read a book on leadership, or put together that course you’ve been creating in your mind. Maybe you’ve been thinking about adding implant placement or sleep medicine to your practice. How might this time off from clinical treatment be a blessing?
Dr. Anissa Holmes, CEO of Delivering WOW, wrote a great article on How to Lead Your Practice During Challenging Times. She suggests you look for opportunities,
“What opportunities do you see around you? Could you invest in training for your hygienists? What about your front office team? Could you invest in putting new systems or processes in place? What about putting together a social media strategy for your dental practice or building dental marketing funnels for when things pick up.”
How will you stay visible during this drought? How can you best support your patients when you cannot see them clinically? Visualize the future the way you’d like it to be, but focus your action on the present. Taking just one small step in a new direction can set you up for success. Each day the process is the same; get centered, then act from a place of hope.
If you are a dental practice owner, check out the COVID-19 Resource Kit Driven Dental Marketing has created to help you not just get through this difficult season, but to come out thriving.