Over the past few months, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing disruptions to our work and personal lives, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed sometimes.
Even if you’re extremely adaptable, like dental assistants tend to be, navigating change can be difficult for anyone.
What are some of the best ways to stay grounded in times of heightened stress? Below, dental assistants share ideas for taking care of themselves, especially during the pandemic.
Taking a Break from Technology
These days, technology has supported successful changes in work routines — with dental assisting educators and their students transitioning to remote, online learning, for example. Also, technology allows people to virtually connect with one another via text, email, social media and even video conferencing.
Despite the benefits technology offers in this digital day and age, sometimes it can be healthy to take a break from the internet. This includes a break from reading online news articles as well as posts on social media, since the 24/7 cycle of news and updates can feel endless at times.
Dental assistant Thais C. has found some peace during the pandemic by logging on less often. “I’ve limited the amount of news I consume, as I find that watching or reading it all the time causes more anxiety for me,” she says. “I’ve decided to sign up for breaking-news reports and summaries instead.”
Finding Comfort in Faith and Meditation
Now especially, dental assistants also have found comfort in their faith and faith community — even at home, from a distance. Approaches such as quiet, meditative reading and attending virtual services via video conferencing have been popular amid COVID-19.
In recent months, Thais has taken care to focus on the positive. “I’ve prioritized my physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health during this trying time,” she shares. “I’ve signed up for [online] fitness challenges and have been working out at home every day. And, I’ve been reading and meditating, and this has helped to calm my heart and mind.”
Similarly, Brenda T., CDA, says: “I do believe that things could be a lot worse, which is what keeps my faith so strong right now. This will all pass; at some point, we will be back to normal (or the new normal).”
Journaling to Strengthen Self-Connection
Another way that other dental assistants choose to decompress is through writing down their thoughts. “I’ve begun to keep a daily journal, recording my top three reasons for being grateful, as well as my thoughts and feelings — not just related to this pandemic, but in general, since I’ve had the time recently to really get in touch with myself,” Thais shares.
Cindy D. also finds journaling to be a soothing experience. “I personally love the idea of journaling,” she says. “It not only can resolve or reduce stress, but it also can enhance a feeling of personal accomplishment and forward movement on your personal journey.”
Supporting Community through Volunteerism
Dental assistants also have found ways to boost their spirits through supporting their communities. For example, starting in the spring, Sue K., COA, spent her time at home sewing masks, which she donated to help keep grocery store workers and others in her area safe from COVID-19.
And when her college was contacted earlier this year by the local hospital, which was seeking donations of personal protective equipment, instructor Rebecca W., CDA, was happy to help fulfill the request. In fact, she coordinated the donation of about 20 boxes of masks, several boxes of disposable gowns and at least 10 boxes of protective eyewear.
“When we asked our college administrators, ‘Do you mind if we donate?’ we were told, ‘Yes. Anything our community needs, we will donate. We would love to do that,’” Rebecca recalls.
As many dental assistants like Sue and Rebecca likely know, lending your time and talents is the best gift you can give. “Helping people in our community, especially those who are often overlooked, is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had,” agrees Elisha R., who has volunteered with organizations like Project Homeless Connect.
Similarly, Jodie S., CDA, knows the endless rewards of volunteerism. “My experiences certainly have made me grateful for the many blessings in my life,” she says.
Celebrating Big and Small Milestones
Overall, it also can be a positive, uplifting experience to consider your goals and accomplishments. While the days can seem long, the years can feel short — and upon reflection, you might smile at how far you’ve come despite any roadblocks you faced along the way, and all the things there are to celebrate in life.
For example, while the pandemic has challenged us all in a plethora of ways, good news still may be popping up. On a large scale, some might be hearing an exciting new-baby announcement in their family or social group or might have been invited to virtually attend a wedding held from afar.
One dental assistant exchanged virtual wedding vows in the spring with her now-husband. “We decided to use Facebook Live to stream our wedding,” the dental assistant bride shared. “We received great feedback from everyone for our idea. Everyone loved being able to still be a part of our day.”
On a small scale, do you have a work anniversary or birthday coming up? Can you reflect on where you were a decade ago at this time and identify personal and professional growth? Make sure to recognize and applaud these victories. You might even take note of them in a journal entry!
And consider also jotting down any lessons you’ve learned. For example, Brenda lately has observed one key takeaway. “If the pandemic has taught me anything, it is the importance of slowing down to spend quality time with my family,” she elaborates. “Having this time at home recently has been a blessing, so my family is what I focus on.”
How do you find calm during stressful times? Let us know.