We always want to help our patients, even if it is beyond our expertise. While we enter the holidays and continue to navigate what is going on around us in the world–from the COVID-19 pandemic to violence across the country and world–it is important that our patients know how to take care of themselves and relieve some of the stress they may be feeling.
Here are some tips that you can share with your dental patients to help them find some relief from their stress and anxiety.
Assess threat level
For patients who are overwhelmed with worry or fear, it can be helpful if they inform themselves of the facts to assess their personal level of threat. For example, if you look at the overall statistics of COVID-19, it is alarming. However, if you look at your individual state, down to your town, what are the numbers there?
Patients should understand their risk level and know what to expect. This is also where practicing preventive measures can reduce their risk as well. That means wearing a mask, physically distancing, washing their hands and staying home as much as possible.
Know what you can control
We have seen this mentioned before, but it is important for our patients to understand what they can and cannot control. When patients encounter stress, they need to make sure that they ask themselves if they can do anything about what is happening. If there is an action to take, then taking that action can help to reduce their anxiety.
However, if it is something they cannot fix, then it is best to move on in some way. For example, while they cannot control the overall pandemic, they can do other things such as hand washing or wearing a mask.
Change negative thoughts
What we think influences how we feel. If your patient doesn’t like the way they feel, it is important for them to actively change negative thoughts. For example, if a patient expresses that they are frequently worried about the virus, angry about physical distancing or feeling sorrow over lost income, it is important that they try to shift those thoughts.
This requires redirecting their attention to something new as needed. Try going outside for fresh air or taking on a new activity such as painting, listening to music or reading a book. Shifting thoughts can help people to change the channel in their head to something more positive.
Remain physically active
Staying active is great no matter what. During the pandemic it is even more important than ever to maintain activity. While a lot of us are at home, we can and should find ways to remain active. This can include going for a walk or run outside. If you live in a busy city, make sure you bring a mask in case you encounter large groups of people.
There are also virtual fitness classes that would be great to follow. Whether it is an online yoga class or a high intensity interval training class, there are a lot of great and free virtual options available.
It is important for our patients to keep their health and well-being top of mind, and that means finding ways to relieve their stress. If stress continues, it can lead to further complications such as jaw pain and sleep disruptions.