Are you at your wits’ end?News
Posted by: The Probe 15th February 2020
Your to-do list is never-ending, there are a thousand things on your mind, and time is your enemy in the face of fast-approaching deadlines. It’s easy for many of us to feel stressed under these day-to-day pressures. We all experience some degree of stress in our lifetime and for some, stress is a constant companion. However, it is not always bad for you. In fact, without the ability to feel stressed, humankind would not have survived for as long as it has.
Stress is primarily a physical reaction to threats or difficulties, no matter whether they are real or perceived. When you are stressed, a “fight or flight” response is triggered, as the body releases a complex combination of hormones and chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. This causes various reactions in the body that prepare you for action, including diverting blood to the muscles and temporarily shutting down essential functions like digestion. These reactions enable you to stay alert, motivated and focused on the task at hand.[i]
In the modern world, the fight or flight response can help you protect yourself from dangerous situations, which might include reacting swiftly to someone running in front of your car as you are driving. The challenge is when you experience stress too often or for prolonged periods of time. In this case, your body remains in a constant state of high alert, which can impact your physical and mental health, particularly if stress overwhelms your ability to cope with it.
Unless the body is given enough time to calm down and re-establish equilibrium, it can become overworked and the immune system eventually weakens, making you more susceptible to illness. Furthermore, stress can disrupt vital bodily processes, including the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems.[ii] This can increase your risk of developing serious conditions – stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune syndromes and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.[iii]
This is alarming considering there are many people across the UK who are currently struggling to deal with stress. According to the largest known study of stress levels in Britain, 74% of people had felt so stressed in 2018 that they had been overwhelmed and unable to cope. This study also revealed that stress can be so damaging to a person’s wellbeing that one in three people have been left feeling suicidal, and one in six have self-harmed as a direct result.[iv] The reasons behind why people feel stressed are varied and wide-ranging, but work remains one of the biggest sources.
A survey conducted by CABA shows that nearly half of all UK employees are close to breaking point due to increased stress levels at work, with mounting pressures contributing to five hours of lost sleep per employee each week.[v] Due to the very nature and working conditions of a dental practice, dentistry can be a particularly demanding profession and there are many clinicians who are all too familiar with the feeling of stress. Research by the BDA found high levels of stress and burnout amongst a survey of more than 2,000 UK dentists, with almost a fifth admitting that they had seriously thought about committing suicide as a result.[vi]
Although you cannot always prevent it, there are steps you can take to better manage stress. It seems distraction through entertainment – whether you are reading, listening to music or watching TV programmes or films – is the most popular way to alleviate stress.[vii] Other stress-busters include takings breaks, eating healthy, exercising regularly, practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, finding time for hobbies you enjoy, and/or spending time with friends and family.
For dental practitioners, it is particularly important to speak to colleagues and peers in order to effectively manage stress. Especially if you are dealing with challenging cases, it can be really helpful to have a referral partner like Ten Dental+Facial, who you can turn to for trusted referral support and guidance should you find yourself being overwhelmed by the stress of a complex case. Beyond this, it may be worth seeking help from a professional who can advise you about treatment if you feel that you are no longer able to manage stress on your own.
Taking steps to reduce stress is vital to leading a happier, healthier lifestyle. It is also worth addressing the root causes of stress to try and manage the source, rather than simply treating the symptoms. Most importantly, when you feel you are unable to cope, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There is support available that can help you improve your quality of life and ensure that stress does not become a permanent burden on your general health and wellbeing.
For more information visit www.tendental.com or call on 020 33932623
[i] Blake, H. (2017) What happens to your body when you’re stressed. The Conversation. Link: http://theconversation.com/what-happens-to-your-body-when-youre-stressed-81789. [Last accessed: 04.11.19].
[iii] Mariotti, A. (2015) The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future Science OA. 1(3): FSO23. DOI: 10.4155/fso.15.21. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/. [Last accessed: 04.11.19].
[iv] Mind Health Foundation. (2018) Stressed nation: 74% of UK ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’ at some point in the past year. Link: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year. [Last accessed: 04.11.19].
[v] CABA. (2019) 4 in 10 workers close to breaking point, new study finds. Link: https://www.caba.org.uk/news/press/4-10-workers-close-breaking-point-new-study-finds. [Last accessed: 04.11.19].
[vii] Open Access Government. (2019) The UK’s most stressed cities, ages and professions. Link: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/uks-most-stressed-cities/61254/. [Last accessed: 04.11.19].
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