A Parable for Stressed Dentists
According to the story, a psychologist teaching a stress management course pours a glass of water, holds it up and asks, “How heavy is this glass of water?” She gets the usual guesses from the class: 10 ounces, 12 ounces and 16 ounces. Then she gives her answer: “It depends.”
She explains that even though there is obviously an objective measurement of how much the water weighs, in real-life terms the answer is relative. How heavy the glass of water feels depends on how long you have to hold it.
If you hold a glass of water for a minute, it feels like nothing. You don’t even think about it. Hold it up for an hour and you’re going to start to feel the fatigue. Carry it around all day and your arm could start to feel almost paralyzed with strain and numbness.
And that, says the psychologist in the story, is exactly what it is like with the stresses and problems of our lives. Ponder them for a minute or so and no lasting damage is done. Stew over them for a longer time and pain starts to set in. And if you carry them around all the time, eventually you feel paralyzed and numb.
This is an important reminder for dentists, who as a group report notoriously high levels of stress. The answer sounds simple but it really works. Stresses are unavoidable. But you can avoid letting them take over your thoughts. It’s just a matter of having the right mental discipline to drop them from your mind each time you enter the operatory to greet the next patient.
It’s a matter of insisting that your evening time at home be free from re-hashing office issues in your mind. If you can do something in the moment to improve a situation you should do it. If there isn’t anything that can be done to improve a situation, just put the glass down and feel the relief of a weight gone.