You’re half an hour behind and you have three hygiene checks to perform. Mrs. Brown’s implant crown popped off while an assistant was taking an impression, not to mention the servers are down and the receptionists are panicking.
Your heart is pounding, you’re getting heart burn, and your stress is overwhelming. What do you do?
Take three deep breaths. Breathe in slowly. Hold your breath. Breathe out slowly.
As emotions go up, intellect goes down. Intelligent and creative solutions cannot arise in the midst of strong emotion. Taking three deep breaths will quickly reduce overwhelming emotions and allow you to think and create solutions.
Stress—whether emotional or physical—leads to high sympathetic tone. This is commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. When in high sympathetic tone, our bodies shut down all processes that are not directly involved in either running away from or fighting the “threat” in front of us. This includes shutting down our digestive tracts and that little valve called the cardiac sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus, leading to acid reflux and heartburn. Stress also leads to spiked adrenaline and, if chronic, also to a cortisol response. Ideally, a high sympathetic tone should resolve once the threat is out of sight. But what happens if the threat never goes away? What happens if life keeps throwing threatening events at you?
Take three deep breaths.
Three deep breaths will help modulate high sympathetic tone and will stimulate the vagus nerve and increase parasympathetic tone. In other words, taking three deep breaths will turn back on the systems that shut down during a high sympathetic tone/fight-or-flight experience.
Three deep breaths can also be used to reduce the experience of pain, can be helpful in managing headaches and migraines and can be used to improve athletic performance. Add deep breathing to your toolbox and teach it to your staff and patients.
Join me in taking three deep breaths as you read this – you won’t regret it!
About the Author
Dr. Young is a general dentist and Managing Partner at Orijin Integrated Dentistry in Calgary, Alberta. He is highly involved in giving back to communities and is particularly proud of his work with children’s charitable initiatives, including the Tooth Fairy Children’s Foundation, the Alex Dental Health Bus and the ADA&C Start School Smiling program. He holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Alberta.