Dentistry’s guide to staying stress free during the coronavirus crisis
Following the government’s lockdown announcement last week, millions of UK workers are now confined to their homes in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.
For many, it is work as usual. But for the dental industry, this is a situation far removed from their day-to-day practice environment.
With the help of dental professionals and experts, we have put together a guide to staying stress free as you say goodbye to the practice (for now) and work together to make a difference.
During this unsettling and uncertain time, these tips are designed to help dental teams maintain their health, wellbeing and happiness.
Fitness is always important when it comes to keeping stress-free and healthy. But, for many of you, your daily commute may have included a 20-minute walk or a stroll to the supermarket to pick up some lunch. It’s crucial to keep these routines a part of your day – not only to stay fit, but to keep the cabin fever at bay.
As we all attempt to juggle various elements of our life, it can be easy to fall out of sync with our usual routines. Although gyms and exercise classes are closed for the foreseeable future, this does not mean that you have to be glued to the sofa. And if you are not usually a fan of exercising, this could be a great time to start. Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep your body moving.
Alongside practising as a dental hygienist and therapist, Pat Popat is a gym owner. For him, exercise is key to keeping stress away. He believes incorporating an exercise regime into your new daily routine will help both your physical and mental health.
He said: ‘The predictability of a daily routine can offer some comfort in an otherwise currently unpredictable world.
‘We have to be a little bit careful not to get too stuck in our routines that they start to cause us stress, or stop us from doing the things that we want to do.
‘As long as we’re finding our routines helpful and not harmful, and feel able to flex and change them as our life changes, they can be a great thing to build on and develop over time.’
Some tips for your at-home exercise routine include:
- If you like to listen to music when you exercise, put together a number of different playlists and alternate them each time. This will make the routine feel less repetitive and make it more enjoyable
- Create a 30-day workout plan. Not only will this mean there is variety, Pat sees it as a great way to involve the family
- Virtual workouts have hit an all-time high for a nation stuck indoors. Key fitness figures, such as Joe Wicks, have launched a number of different classes via YouTube, including PE lessons for children. Take a look to see if your local gym is hosting anything online too
- Exercise at different times each day. Now you’ve got an abundance of free time, it might help to break up your days. Remember, now the clocks have gone forward there will be more light later on in the day. Take advantage of this with an evening jog or garden workout
Being at home all day means constant access to the kitchen. While this means you can make fresh meals for lunch, it also makes it easier to snack throughout the day. Food, like exercise, has a significant impact on our mood.
Pat suggests the following as an example of a balanced diet:
- 7-8am Breakfast – Small bowl of cereal/small omelette and spinach
- 10-11am Mid morning – Some fruit and protein shake/small amount of chicken and some vegetables
- 12-1pm Lunch – Rice cakes and some form of protein
- 3-4pm Mid-afternoon – Nuts and some fruit
- 6-7pm Dinner – Fish, chicken, vegetarian protein alternative and some vegetables
- 9-10pm Post Dinner – Fat-free Greek yogurt and some blueberries
Hydration is also important. Make sure you are drinking two to three litres of water each day, and limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume. Too much can lead to anxiety and insomnia, which, especially now, are important to avoid.
If you do not already factor meditation into your daily routine, now may be a good time to start. Meditation is an effective way of dealing with stress and harmful emotions, especially during this uncertain time.
Hina Patel is a nutrition and stress management coach, as well as a dentist. She points out that chronic stress can lead to a reduction in brain mass – especially in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with behaviour, reasoning and short-term memory.
She said: ‘It has many well-researched health benefits and helps us to stay calm, focused and improves our resilience.
‘I would take this time to learn about meditation, as it has far reaching long-term health benefits and aids in memory and cognition.’
Get a good night’s sleep
Consistent, good quality sleep has an abundance of health benefits. It’s very tempting to change your usual weekday sleep habits – especially if there’s no need to set the alarm. However, this can have a negative impact on our body clock, which requires regularity.
Hina argues that melatonin is a ‘crucial’ anti-oxidant and shared her top tips for getting a good night’s rest:
- Make sure the room is dark
- Avoid bright lights and gadgets at least an hour before bed. Many studies have shown that blue light in the evening can disrupt melatonin levels
- Foods rich in melatonin include eggs, fish and nuts – especially pistachios. Fruits include grapes, cherries and strawberries
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine four to six hours before bedtime.
Scrub up on your CPD
Now is a great time to catch up on any CPD requirements. As highlighted by the General Dental Council (GDC), there are many options other than face-to-face CPD, many of which can be completed from the comfort of your own home.
Why not use this time to continue learning? There are many remote CPD options out there that will allow you to utilise your time productively – Dentistry Study Club included.
Spend time with your family (and friends)
With the schools closing down, it’s likely that many of you are spending more time with your children than ever before. Although circumstances may be overwhelming and tensions may run high, try to use this time as a chance to spend quality time with your family.
Dental marketing expert Shaz Memon is married with a young daughter. He believes now is the perfect opportunity to spend time with those you love.
He said: ‘We have never seen an opportunity like this, where on a global level it is entirely acceptable to be at home with your family and offer them your undivided attention.
‘My advice is to not waste this precious time as you will look back upon this period and may regret not using it effectively. This is a guilt-free time to focus on the relationships with your family.’
His top tips for family time include:
- Be in the moment. When you are having conversations with your family, particularly if you are interacting with your children – be in the moment. Don’t let the stress of what is going on in the outside world overshadow this. Accept that beating COVID-19 will take time, so whatever you are discussing with your loved ones, or even if you are playing a game with your children, do your best to be in the moment. Leave your phone somewhere out of reach
- Go outside. If you have access to outside space, use it. Run around, release those endorphins. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body
- Plan. Without planning, all your days at home can merge into one big blur. Decide in advance what you could do together as a family. This could be discussions, board games, Facetime calls with other family members, fun learning, cooking together, baking, reading, or movie nights.
For many of you, some family members will not be in your household. Consequently, this time spent away from them can be painful and difficult. Make sure you put some time aside to connect with them – and friends too. Facetime, House Party and Zoom are all video platforms that allow you to talk to more than one person at once.
As the UK enters its second week of lockdown, the NHS is in desperate need of assistance. Following a call out from the government, more than 750,000 people applied to assist efforts in keeping the virus at bay.
Volunteering is a good way to utilise your skills and get involved in a national drive to save lives and stop COVID-19. Chief dental officer for England, Sara Hurley, is urging dental teams to volunteer where possible. In a letter last week, she encouraged practices to support any national and local calls for help. In a bid to effectively redeploy dental staff, a survey was released to assess the competencies of each volunteer.