We have all been there – hitting snooze for the 2nd time, reaching for that 3rd cup of coffee, or scouring the lunchroom for any leftover treats that the sales rep dropped off yesterday because we are tired and our brains are looking for that quick sugar/dopamine hit. Working in dental hygiene, we are used to not getting our complete lunch break, running behind schedule, and working late to finish our chart notes, all leading to burnout rates higher than ever. When I often bring up the topic of self-care, my typical response is, “I don’t have time.” Still, when I say self-care, I’m not talking about taking a day off to sit at a spa with cucumbers on your eyes and listening to bird sounds or ocean noises (although that would be lovely). I agree that finding time for that is difficult, but what if I told you self-care could be as simple as 30 seconds to 1 minute? Here are some easy steps to take to add value to your day.
Start with a grateful heart. Gratitude can be a fantastic mind shift. I started keeping a journal and pen beside my bed, and every morning before my feet even hit the ground, I write down three things I am grateful for. Of course, my husband, kids, and family top the list, but I have even written down the simplest things like hot showers, sunshine, and podcasts. Taking 1 minute out of my morning to focus on the excellent stuff shifts my mindset from the stresses that the day will bring, the problematic client I know is booked, or the staff meeting that you are dreading; all seem less worrisome when you focus on the positive.
Movement. Not all movement has to be an hour-long workout that leaves you sweaty, although those are my favourites, and I encourage everyone to reap the benefits of exercise. Start small. Begin your day with 2 minutes, grab a co-worker and go out for a walk on your lunch or if you have a cancellation. Simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in the back row of the parking lot instead of closest to the door, or getting off public transport one stop earlier and walking the extra distance to work add movement to your day and improve your well-being.
Drink water. There are so many beautiful water bottles and travel mugs out there now that can make getting water a breeze. My favourites are ones with straws for easy access and sips between clients, which hold enough that they do not need to be refilled every 2 minutes but still fit in my cup holder. My drive to work takes me approximately 20 minutes. I fill my 26oz water bottle before I leave my house, and my goal is to finish it before I get to work so I start my day hydrated. A good rule of thumb for water intake is that half your body weight in pounds is how many ounces of water you should drink. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should drink 75oz of water. Of course, this is just a guideline, and other factors such as physical activity and caffeine intake will affect this, but it is an excellent place to start. The benefits of staying hydrated include improved brain performance, better digestion, more energy, and even weight management. Sparkling water is a nice treat and an excellent way to sub out sugary drinks such as juice, pop, and energy drinks. Be mindful though and limit sparkling water to 1 or 2 a day as most contain sodium.
Eat a healthy lunch. Enjoy a lunch high in lean protein and vegetables high in fibre to avoid the afternoon energy crash. Salad with grilled chicken, tuna, or salmon with a dressing low in sugar and high in good-quality olive oil will keep you full all afternoon. Another favourite of mine is plain Greek yogurt with berries. Plain Greek yogurt will take some getting used to, so feel free to add a little honey and cinnamon to make it more palatable until you remove the sweetener. Packing lunch the night before is something I have done since I was in school. Taking the 10 minutes in the evening is well worth eliminating the stress of the grab-and-go out of the fridge while you have one foot out the door or getting takeout for lunch.
Sleep. Set a goal to get to bed at the same time every night. Avoid eating anything 1-2 hours before bed and limit screens that emit blue light that can disrupt your sleep cycle. Instead of scrolling screens, play cards or a board game with your family, flip through a recipe book to pick meals for the upcoming week, or read a novel. There is no substitute for good quality sleep.
Keep learning. As dental hygienists, it is easy to get bored with the “pick and flick” that is our daily routine. If you find yourself bored and lost in your thoughts at work, try learning something new. Research a new piece of equipment, offer to update the office’s Health and Safety manuals, and ensure you are up to date with the latest Infection Prevention and Control protocols. Take a course to review the new classifications of periodontal disease, explore orthodontics techniques and skills, or brush up on your radiography. Attending classes can re-ignite your passion for dental hygiene and give you a sense of renewal when you can go back to your op and implement your new learning.
I hope these tips inspire you to step up your day. As healthcare professionals, we must keep ourselves healthy to promote health in our clients.
About the Author
Liisa graduated from dental hygiene in 2006 from Canadore College. After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Sudbury and began her dental hygiene career working for a local orthodontist. Throughout her career, Liisa expanded her skills working as a temp in general practice, in an oral surgery office, as an educator and even owned her own clinic. While gaining valuable experience in other aspects of dental hygiene, Liisa always kept her hands in orthodontics as this is her true passion. She is a core presenter, and Quality Assurance coach with RDHU, and a CDHO peer mentor. Outside of the operatory, she is a Certified Personal Trainer, Pilates instructor, and healthy eating and weight loss coach. Although Liisa loves to travel, she is a true homebody who enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and her dog.