Are you a stressor or a stressee?

February 1, 2016

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via



What a day! Road rage, a flat mobile phone, a parent/teachers’ meeting tonight and I’ve still got to write this blog about being stressed.

Ah, that’s better. It’s a new day and instead of writing the blog when I was tired and wound up, I wisely left it until now. If only all stress would evaporate so readily.

This is not an examination of stress in dental practice. For that, I recommend an excellent study on the Yorks and Humber Deanery website:

And this is not about managing stress because I agree with dentist and communication coach, Brid Hendron, who says we need to be eliminating stress.

This is also not a guide to stress relief. There are plenty of those available and the Stress Management How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress article here is better than many.


So what is this blog about?

Well, let’s ask a few questions and perhaps face a few home truths. Are you the source of stress in your practice? Can you honestly say you don’t ever put stress on your subordinates/superiors/equals? Be honest, do you bang on endlessly about problems that cannot be solved within the practice (government policy, for example)? Do you set unnecessarily tight deadlines for your staff to complete tasks? Are you careless about returning equipment so that colleagues can’t find it? Do you leave an empty loo roll in the toilet and a dirty mug in the sink?


#LoveYourImperfections (not)

Such behavior may, according to the online dating service TV advertisement, result in you finding true love but that won’t be in your practice. Instead, it will result in stress, which will have consequences. According to the HSE, 9.9 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain in 2014/15.


Just stop

Like ceasing smoking or the consumption of alcohol in too large quantities or (as in my case) pigging out on crisps and nuts, stopping causing stress is easier written than acted upon. Here’s what you should do. Suffers of stress are advised to keep a stress diary. Do likewise but instead of recording stressors on a daily basis, you should identify ‘stressees’ (the colleagues to whom you’ve caused stress). This won’t be easy. Not everybody reacts to stress by pigging out on crisps or bursting into tears. Quite probably, you won’t witness the effects of your stressful action within the practice. So here comes the clever bit.


Stress balls

At a team meeting, explain you’ve read an article about stress in the workplace and want to learn how many people in the practice feel it. Now place a bowl of marbles, walnuts or (if you are in an upmarket practice) Ferro Rocher chocolates in the staff room with a mug beside them. Ask your staff to place one of the items in the mug at the end of each week if they’ve felt stressed.


Self-regulating stress reduction

Once this has been done for a few weeks (so that staff have become comfortable with it), explain that you’re keeping a stress diary and would like others to do likewise (anonymously, of course). While there is no direct correlation between what people note in their stress journals and the weekly marbles/walnuts/chocolates ‘score’, it is in everybody’s interest to reduce the stress they place on colleagues in order to decrease how many ‘stress balls’ are in the mug at the end of the week.


Give it a go! It can make a significant difference not only to those around you but also to your own sense of well-being.