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    3 ways to manage your personal problems while at work in the dental practice

    My world is crashing down in my personal life, and I am still supposed do my job? How am I going to keep my colleagues from knowing that my son is on drugs or my marriage is ending? I don’t want to be the center of gossip.

    Has this happened to you? Have you felt trapped in your life and just want to run away and start over? Many of us have … some of us over and over again. You aren’t alone.

    One of the things we don’t talk about in the “real” world is what happens when your work and personal worlds collide. You want to be the “perfect” professional and keep work things at work and personal things … well … personal. But, this doesn’t always happen. When you are dealing with incredible stress (debt collectors, a disabled parent, teenagers refusing to go to school, etc.) on the home front, it takes its toll on you. What do you do about it when you feel the air being sucked out of the room and the pressure continuously building?

    First, tell someone what is going on. Find a friend, a family member, a support person, or a therapist before you feel like you are suffocating. Stuffing down your feelings doesn’t really work. Some try to cope through food, alcohol, prescription drugs, the Internet, and even sex. Eventually, you will blow a gasket and that can spell disaster. Even if you can’t tell the whole story yet, letting someone know that you are going through a rough patch can help diffuse some of that pressure. Remember one thing: You don’t have to go through this nightmare alone. You have friends and family who care about you. Reach out to them.

    ADDITIONAL READING: The 5 worst things overhead at a dental practice

    Second, keep your priorities straight. You have to look at the bigger picture. If your marriage is falling apart, you need this job more than ever. You can’t afford to do anything to jeopardize your livelihood. The bottom line is that money talks … and it talks loudly. If you don’t have a job, a multitude of other problems rear their ugly heads, including having no health insurance and/or not being able to pay bills, but it could get worse than that. You need to be able to keep confidence in yourself. You need to know that you can survive just about anything.

    Sometimes, time is the only thing that can get you there. When I am in this kind of pain, I pray not just to get through the day, but to get through the next hour and sometimes even the next minute.

    My own personal priorities are health, family, and then security. Security can cover everything from finances to how I feel about myself. You can’t allow yourself to fall into a bottomless pit of despair. I have been there and it’s not a place I want to revisit. Being in emotional pain is just as horrible as physical pain. Just because it isn’t as obvious doesn’t mean it is any less severe. It will get better one way or another … you just need to keep your priorities straight.

    ADDITIONAL READING: How to clear the negativity out of your practice

    Third, keep focused on doing your job. Staying busy is an excellent diversion for many of us. When we wallow in our problems over and over again, rarely do things improve. Taking action of some sort such as throwing yourself into your work with gusto can distract your mind from ruminating about your stress.

    No, it isn’t going to cure the problems. All it is going to do is postpone them while you are working. That is sometimes all you can wish for. So often, I have felt that people would judge me for the mistakes I have made, but that kind of thinking doesn’t do anything to help me. Get over your “poor me” attitude. The sky may actually be falling, but you aren’t alone. You choose to be alone if you don’t reach out to your support system or even those acquaintances you don’t know real well. They may come through for you when you really need them.

    If you can relate to this topic, e-mail me and let me know your thoughts. If you agree or disagree with me, that’s fine. My goal, as always, is to get dental professionals to think about these topics and then take whatever action works for them. I can be reached at [email protected]. Talk to you next month.

    Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
    Lisa Newburger, a master's level social worker supervisor, helps audiences find humor in talking about tough topics. Her "in-your-face" ...
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