And then the ambulance came…

No great story ends this way but that was one of my clinical days this week.  Stuff happens, we’re trained for it, we deal with it, life goes on.  So why write about it?  Well, I feel I’ve reached a place of recovery where my anxiety levels surrounding dentistry are pretty low again and it’s good, life is good.

When my patient had a medical incident in the chair the whole team dealt with it perfectly (and my patient fully recovered later in hospital). The whole incident for us from start to finish it was probably an hour, you’re in the moment, in emergency mode adrenaline surging and you just do what you need to do.   It’s only when the ambulance pulls away you feel the after effects of all that adrenaline and cortisol.  Wired but tired, harder to focus, on edge and not performing at 100%.  When I got home I went straight out for a walk just to clear my head and it got me thinking.

At my lowest point last year, I was so chronically stressed that my threshold for the same stress response as to this medical emergency was ridiculously low.  It could be as little as seeing a particular name on my day list, seeing potential complaints at every turn or encountering staff issues the moment I got to work.  I would then feel anxiety, not have that full focus and not perform at 100%, I survived like this for months.

So I have two sets of advice:

  1. If you have a medical emergency at work, check your staff are ok to carry on working, even if there’s a waiting room full of patients, get out of the surgery, debrief and unwind with a walk or a cup of tea at the very least.
  2. If you’re chronically stressed and having days where you heart rate and anxiety levels will soar at the drop of a hat then pause, reflect, breathe just as with the above scenario but also look at ways to manage this long term

Top Tips for Managing Daily Anxiety

  • Breathe – practice breathing techniques, belly breathing, nasal breathing any technique which works for you.  Practice them in the car on the way to work, between patients if necessary this will help bring that heart rate back down.
  • Move – get out for a walk at lunch or after work, stretch and mobilise, go to the gym, enjoy a group fitness class with friends, maybe yoga?
  • Journal – note the good with the bad, either notice what your anxiety triggers are or look for the bright spots of your day and use it as a gratitude journal.  You may see patterns with triggers and can work with your team to reduce your exposure to certain procedures, patients, staff scenarios or come up with ways to make them more manageable.

Noticing what your going through is the first step towards sorting it all out, this piece only scrapes the surface.  Look after yourselves, and watch out for your mates.  You got this.