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Can stress be your friend?

Blog Author Lauren Harrhy

Blog Date 26/06/2018


I came across this really interesting TED Talk from 2013 by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who looked at some research suggesting that stress can be a positive force, especially when it makes you reach out to others – I’d recommend watching it.  

As dentists, we all know that it’s a career that is going to be fast paced and pressured, and we know this is what we have signed up for. It’s a competitive environment, but that doesn’t mean you are failing if you do find you are struggling to cope at some stage in your career.

We all have been there. 

The reality of working in the environment, from what you imagined it would be like at dental school, can be quite a shock to the system.

We know that dentistry is an isolating profession. A lot of us who work in NHS dentistry work in a surgery, perhaps with a team and colleagues, but the responsibility is on us to be the clinical lead and set the pace, which can be both mentally and physically exhausting, and it can be extremely challenging at the start of your career. 

It’s important to remember you are not alone. 

The BDA is doing a major piece of research work into the issue of stress in the profession and we look forward to seeing the report on this soon. 

Dentistry often gets left out in discussions about the stresses for healthcare professionals, the issue has been well recognised now for GPs, and we’d like to see those working in NHS dentistry to be given access the same kind of occupational health support, if they need it too.

We all have to develop coping strategies to ensure our work/life balance works for us (everyone is different), that we develop some resilience and, I think most importantly, that we have people to reach out to if we do need just to talk to someone. 

There are lots of ways you can do this, personal networks and meeting people face to face, perhaps at study days or BDA branch and section or Young Dentist Group meetings are often a great way to develop networks and talk to others, and to be able to ask for help and support from colleagues, when the need arises.  

There are networks online to help you too, in response to seeing so many dentists feeling stressed or anxious, I set up the Mental Dental Facebook group – it’s a closed group, where you can anonymously post your concerns or issues, and receive helpful and constructive feedback from other dentists. It has nearly 5,000 members now and we have a very active community - come and join in.

I know it’s a cliché, but I think it’s often true that a problem shared is a problem halved – whatever you are going through, I can guarantee that someone else has probably been through it, and if you can talk about it, then they might be able to help you get back on track. 

Lauren Harrhy
BDA Young Dentist Committee Vice Chair &
Welsh General Dental Practice Committee Vice Chair

Supporting you at work

There are a variety of resources available to dentists on helping to manage stress, and ensuring wellbeing in the workplace, take a look at our campaign page for some advice on stress.