How to Stay Mentally and Physically Well During These Trying Times

  • by Eric S. Studley, DDS, and Ivy D. Peltz, DDS, MSEd, PhD, MAGD
  • Apr 20, 2020

Because of the unprecedented situation brought on by COVID-19, dentists across the country have been mandated to suspend practice and stay home. Fraught with anxiety over how to fulfill our responsibilities when we’re housebound and low on resources, we could easily plunge into despair and malaise. Instead, let’s remember that we have the tools we need — not only to stay mentally and physically healthy ourselves, but to help others do the same. Here are a few simple strategies to increase overall wellness.

  • Create a routine. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Brush your teeth. Exercise. Take a shower. Get dressed. While you may enjoy your newly relaxed schedule, it’s important to feel a sense of self-worth each day. When you spend large amounts of time lounging around in pajamas, you may have trouble remembering that you’re a valuable member of society. 
  • Control what you can. Because of the pandemic, you may have lost control over portions of your life that you are accustomed to commanding. You can no longer take for granted simple pleasures like hugging your loved ones or playing on a sports team. Nonetheless, there are plenty of activities that you can control. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Cherish the unexpected time you have with your immediate family. Clean your closets, and organize your finances. Start a fitness routine. 
  • Stop catastrophizing. You keep hearing and thinking about the worst-case scenario, but there are many possible scenarios, including the best. It’s good to prepare for future hardships, but, once you do, try to replace worry with hope.
  • Practice critical thinking. You have learned how to identify a problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate that data, ignore previous assumptions and biases, and formulate conclusions and communicate those conclusions effectively to others. This is a time to use those skills to help others around you process information and understand which reports are more reliable than others.
  • Self-reflect. Rarely do you get the opportunity to sit and think, yet self-reflection is an integral part of learning and development. Are you happy with the way your life and career are progressing? Are there any changes you’d like to make once the current crisis has ended? Use this pause in your career to reevaluate your goals and determine whether you are achieving them.
  • Focus on the positive. Two people can experience the same situation entirely differently depending on their attitude. We’re in a very bad situation right now; there’s no doubt about that. However, by focusing on everything that makes us feel fortunate, we can move past this uncomfortable moment in history with less emotional damage.

Our patients, our staff and our families rely on us for leadership during times of crisis. 
Instead of succumbing to self-pity, let’s repurpose our unique skillset to help us create and navigate the new normal.

Eric S. Studley, DDS, and Ivy D. Peltz, DDS, MSEd, PhD, MAGD, are the co-founders of Doccupations, an online algorithmic dental job-matching service. They are also retired New York University College of Dentistry general practice directors and clinical associate professors.