On the way to work you feel ill.   Later in the day you lose consciousness and wake up in an emergency room.  WAIT!  You have a dental practice to run.  You can’t call in sick. You need to get back to the office.  How is your practice going to run without you?  Get out of bed and tell your doctor “I’ll be fine, I’ve got to get back to the office”.

Does this scenario sound likely to you or do you think, “It will never happen to me”.  The true reality is you have a known risk.   The last thing you ever really want to spend time on is this unpleasant topic. On the other hand, you are smart.  You know that being prepared for the unexpected is a vital skill that all dentists have developed during their careers.

Physical pain is one thing. Psychological pain is entirely another. The anxiety generated by your inability to either temporarily or permanently practice dentistry can be overwhelming. There are a number of well thought out steps to take when you are severely injured or ill and cannot practice. Whether you are out of work for 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years;  the devastating effects on an active dental practice are essentially the same.   See our posting for the tens steps to survive disability ;  TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY   This will get you started,  but is only part of the entire picture.

What should you be asking yourself now?  “How can I become resilient to this tragedy?”  Resilience is not our capacity to endure pain. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity.  Be prepared for grief, and even temporary loss of your ability to practice can be traumatic. Not every story has a happy ending, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Resilience can be learned.  It is not about being brave, it is about strengthening your resolve.  Determination to succeed is a trait shared by all involved in the dental profession.

Adversity is not evenly distributed and some of us will have more than our share. Recovery doesn’t start at the same place for everyone and you will need to plan your actions with care and determination.  Becoming motivated to learn resilience can be a challenge.  Get started now and add meaning to your misfortune.

STEP ONE:  STOP Blaming yourself for your hardships. You are not responsible for the past, and must take full responsibility for the future. Your actions will dictate the success of you rehabilitation and recovery.  Don’t worry about regret, focus on the true problem at hand. You are injured or ill. GET BETTER BY FOLLOWING YOUR REHAB/RECOVERY PLAN EXACTLY.

STEP TWO:  Question your expectations.  Write down a belief that’s causing you pain and then disprove it. Work to determine what is really false and what is really true regarding your situation.  It should be no surprise, that many things that cause us anguish are self-inflicted wounds. Be honest with yourself and move on.

STEP THREE:  Activate your support system of extended family, friends, and colleagues. No one survives totally alone and use others to speed your recovery.   Break the isolation that tragedy breeds.  You will likely say “I’m fine” when asked how you are doing.   Be honest and tell them “I’m actually not doing that well”.   The most common thing about grief, about loss, and about adversity is silence.

STEP FOUR:  Give yourself permission to move forward and make smart decisions on your future.  You no longer need to live in fear.   You need to determine the time when to take solid actions on your future.  Whether it concerns a second career, return to dental practice, or transitioning into a new field.  Ultimately you are in control and only you can get started on the next phase of your life.

STEP FIVE:  Look for happiness in the little things in life and understand that your injury or illness may have permanent effects.  These effects may not subside, but you don’t have to feel bad forever.   You decide how you feel and being happy is a growth process. Great things are possible with appreciation of the small things we do every day.   It’s never to late to get started on self-compassion.  Treat yourself with kindness.

Take a look at this TED talk on resilience and survival.   It may give you real inspiration to move on with your recovery.

We need to acknowledge the capacity of the human spirit to survive.  The instinct for self-preservation/survival is one of the most primal instincts we have as humans.  Don’t underestimate the strength of this trait.  You can call on thousands of years of human experiences to learn who you are and who you can be.









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