Episode 124 – Cathy Jameson : STRESSED OUT! How to Reset and Start Managing your Stress

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Welcome to the Jameson Files

Carrie Webber:

Welcome to the Jameson Files. I’m Carrie Webber, and I’m your host. Thank you so much for joining us once again for another episode. We’re thrilled. If you’re here joining us live on Facebook, thank you for popping in and being a part of our live stream. If you’re following us on our podcast channels and listening to this through iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify, thank you for being a part of our Jameson Files community. We would encourage you to please subscribe if you haven’t already to follow when we get updates, and invite your dental peers to join the community as well. We want to provide content and information that is helpful for you and your continuous growth as a dental professional. So thank you for joining us and for spreading the word. I am so excited to have with us today Jameson’s founder and my mother, Cathy Jameson.

And I asked Cathy to join us today because what we have all gone through—as a community, as a society, as a whole—over the past months has been nothing less than extraordinarily stressful, both in our personal lives and in our professional lives. We’ve experienced a great deal, even continuing today, and whether we realize it or not, the results of extensive stress in our lives have a long-term impact. A lot of things that people, practices, teams, groups are experiencing now are the results of long-term experience with stress.

And for those of you that may not know Cathy, Mom has spent the majority of our lives studying stress and how to control stress. And we’re very fortunate that she chose dentistry as her point of focus on how to manage stress and control stress in our daily lives. And so I asked you to be a part of today’s episode so that we could speak of your lifelong study on stress and talk about not only what we are seeing happening in our dental realm, but also talk about some ways that we as individuals and as teams could do some work, manage it more effectively to get it under control. So let’s start with what stress is and share with everyone, if you could, what you’ve learned in terms of how we could start to identify what stress is and how we may be experiencing it in our lives.

Learn to Identify and Manage Stress

Cathy Jameson:

Great. It’s a great place to start. Stress. We often use the term “stress” and the whole, “I’m so stressed; this is so stressful.” And so it is important to start with what is stress. Stress is a person’s response, either physiologically or psychologically to anything that’s impacting them from the outside. And an interesting point about stress is that each individual responds to different stimuli in different ways. Your response may be totally different than my response when we face the same thing. There’s nothing good or bad about that. It’s just that because we are different different people and we’re individuals, we’re going to have a different response. And so one of the first things that each of us needs to do is to stop and identify what causes stress for us.

Identify the Source

Now you would do this individually, but you would also do this as a practice. If you’re having problems in practice. If you’re having discomfort in the practice, just stop and say, “What is causing this discomfort? What’s causing the commotion? What’s causing the disharmony?” Because the first step in problem solving is to identify what is the problem in the first place. That’s the first step in stress management to identify what is it that causes stress in the first place. Once you’ve identified what’s causing stress, the next step is finding ways to resolve that. 

So why is so-and-so upset? Not to judge that person, but to realize that each person’s going to respond differently. That doesn’t make them good or bad, strong or weak. We’re just different.

Types of Stress Responses

And so now let me also make one other point. One kind of response is a physiological or bodily response to stress. We know that could be headaches, migraines, cardiovascular problems, intestinal or stomach problems, sleep disorders. There’s many things that can be physiological responses to overwhelming stress. Psychological responses could be irritability, inability to get along with others, a lack of energy, the lack of desire to go to work, can’t get up in the morning, can’t get enough energy to get dressed. It’s the inability to even function or have any kind of desire to function. 

And this can lead to tardiness. It can lead to absenteeism, which translates to a problem for the practice itself that also can lead to a dysfunction in the productivity of the practice, which becomes a problem to the practice itself. So you’ll want to identify what’s at the root of these sorts of problems. Are there problems that are going on that I really need to start taking care of? 

Because when something begins to have a true physiological or psychological impact on a person, it’s then termed distress, and it’s when distress begins to have a negative impact on a human being. This can become very harmful. In fact, Ken Cooper from the Cooper clinic wellness clinic in Dallas, Texas, one of the great, great wellness clinics in the world, in my opinion determined in their research that approximately 80% of illnesses being treated in America can be traced back to stress or distress in one way, shape or form. And many other programs, such as by Harvard University, have said the same.

Stress versus Distress

Carrie Webber:

I’m so glad that you brought that up because that idea of stress versus distress is something you have taught me my entire life. You know, stress under control can be good. Sometimes it can help us in our performance. You see stress under control with great athletes. It can, if we control it, stress can be a part of your healthy way of life and how you perform overall. But when you allow stress to get out of control, or if it is having that continuous negative impact on you, that is distress when you really see things start to fray at the ends.

If someone is coming to you in a state of distress, they’re not themselves. And we have to recognize if you’re working with a team under a great deal of distress (or a spouse or someone in your life, or even yourself) that the best version of ourselves is not coming through because you’re not able to function as your best self. It’s good to be in touch and in tune with what healthy stress looks and feels like versus what distress looks and feels like. There are some things that stress you, that you don’t have much control of. COVID is a perfect example. What you have to be able to focus on are the things you can control and try to make an impact on those things you can control and let those start to lead the way.

Cathy Jameson:

Right. We cannot control the fact that COVID came into our country, that there were mandates put forth. So things impacted us that we had no control over. But we can hopefully respond in positive, constructive, healthy ways. Maybe we didn’t like it, and we didn’t want to do some of the things we were mandated to do, but it was the best thing to do. Right. And so why pull back and push back and fight and complain and be dysfunctional about it? That isn’t going to do anything about the distress.

Carrie Webber:

Yes. And, and the best way to have controlled stress that we really helped a lot of clients with at the time was to focus on the things we can do. Where can we focus our energy? We have to take a step back and say, what can I do in this situation to try and get things a little bit more under control? So let’s talk about some of the things that may be impacting dentistry today, causing stress, either for dental practice owners, doctors, the leaders, even for the entire team. As we talk through this, you may say, “Hey, that’s what’s going on.” We’re hearing that a lot now from doctors trying to get their teams reunified and back together. And it could be that they’re experiencing the after-effects of long-term stress. So what would you say we should be looking at in our own lives and dentistry that could be impacting us in a stressful way?

Stress of COVID Logistics

Cathy Jameson:

Well, my husband is a lifetime member of the American Dental Association, so we get the morning newsletter from the ADA every morning. And I read it. It’s great. And so there’s good news coming from the ADA now that we’re a year into the COVID pandemic. About 25% of people who went to the dentist on a regular basis were not coming as of several months ago. But that’s changing now. The vast majority of the people who were going to the dentist on a regular basis prior to COVID are now coming back.

So we’re seeing that resurgence now in the numbers of people who are coming to the practice. And that’s good. But some of the things that the practices have seen and are still seeing, have to do with the organization of the practice itself. Now one of the things we’re very proud of with Jameson marketing is that you have helped practices educate their patients about what you are doing in your practice to protect them. And that information and education has made a difference in keeping people coming and helping them feel safe. And research from the ADA says that patients do feel safe for the most part coming to the dental practices. So good for you.

Marketing efforts have been so critical because there was a lag in productivity for a while. Then there was a surge of patients coming back and with that revenue came back. But with that return came another organizational problem or challenge. And that was scheduling. We have all this new stuff we have to do. We have to wear all this PPE. We have new filtration systems. We have more things we have to do for infection control. How are we going to get all this done in the timeframes that we have allocated for our appointments? And so it became essential that each of you reevaluate how much time you’re appropriating for different appointments.:

The Success Schedule

And I think most of you have done that. And if you haven’t, it’s time to do that. Now, some of you are reverting back to some of the old scheduling mandates because you’ve figured out how to do things more quickly, but that constant shifting has caused a lot of stress. And some of you feel like it’s caused some financial stress as well, because how are we going to make ends meet by scheduling more time for the patients? But we believe in what’s called the success schedule. Schedule fewer patients in a day and do as much dentistry as possible per patient (but only what’s needed and appropriate). And that’s a benefit to the patients because they don’t want to get off work. They can’t get off work. They don’t want to drive across town.

They don’t want to be exposed more than they have to. And you want to have the appropriate number of team members—not too many, not too few. You want to maximize their talents and not move them around any more than you have to. And by doing this, you’re going to have a more profitable practice. And that’s really what matters. And then hopefully you’ll be able to share the rewards of work well done with your team members. And that’s another way, Carrie, that you’ll be able to control the stress of your practice. 

So two of the most important things to control stress are to (1) communicate constantly with your team and (2) communicate constantly with your patients—through your marketing, through your verbal communication. A lot of practices have told me it’s taking longer with every single appointment because patients are coming in and they need to talk.

They’ve been isolated too. And they get to the dental chair and it’s like you’re a psychologist, and they want to talk. So that’s also putting some pressure on you. But as long as you’re staying on top of what’s happening and you are on the cutting edge and your team knows that you are protecting them, the practice still be with you, don’t you think?

Carrie Webber:

I agree that constant communication, when all communication avenues are open and everybody’s clear and on the same page and everybody’s comfortable and competent, and we’re working forward together, that can relieve a lot of stress, especially for leaders that feel like they’re on their own. When you involve your team and have that engaged, ongoing communication happening, that can make a big difference for you. And it also gives your team members a place and a space to freely share and feel comfortable as well. Having time to connect in meetings and creating an ongoing cadence of intention to work together helps with that adaptive point that Cathy was talking about.

Open Communication

So how are we going to fix this schedule? How are we going to change the way we do things? We have to have time to work on that as a team. I think the takeaway is that communication is the biggest one. That way we can work through issues together and make positive improvements so that we’re not continuing the stress of what’s not working well in your systems or what’s not working with the patients. We can work through that together and make it better, and that reduces stress. And it gives everyone a sense of relief, knowing they have a place to work through those issues that they’re struggling with and creating a safe environment where anyone can say, “I’m really feeling overwhelmed today. I’m worried about this. I’m upset about this.” Oftentimes if you just put it out on the table, there’s a great sense of relief. Especially if you put it on the table and then you’re not judged because you’re feeling that way.

Just today. I saw an interview with Simon Sinek, and he was talking exactly to this point about vulnerability and leadership and talking about how he considers vulnerability a strength that takes courage. It’s actually a strength when a leader is willing to be that open and vulnerable with his or her teammates, because, you know, to walk into a meeting and say, “You know, everybody, I’m sorry. I could not sleep last night. I am really stressed out about this. And I just, I don’t know what to do. Can you all help me? Can we work on this together?” Having that courage to really be vulnerable can build a lot of trust. It can have a unifying effect when they know that you’re trusting them enough to share in that kind of an open way.

Cathy Jameson:

Remember, that you have surrounded yourself with people who are great; otherwise they wouldn’t be there. And so when you trust them with your honesty, they’re going to step up to the plate and help you and support you. And they’re going to feel more akin to you because you’ve been honest with them and you’ve trusted them with your heart and soul.

Evaluating Stresses in the 25 Practice Management Systems

And let me say this. This is a great time for all of you to look at the 25 major management systems in your practice, which Jameson can provide. Look at those systems and say, “What’s going really well in those systems?” Let’s keep doing more of that. But then ask yourself the more productive question. And that is, “What can we do to make these systems even better? What can we do to refine it? What can we do to simplify, to make it more efficient, more effective?” You know, the two great E’s of management: effectiveness, and efficiency. This is a great time to do that, but right along with it, I will say that one of the greatest stresses that we’re seeing, not just in the dental practices, but in the universe itself are the financial stresses.

I can give you a bazillion research projects that have been done on this in recent months about financial stress on the country. This particular data shows that 88% of people in America (this includes your patients, and it includes you) 88% of people are feeling more financial stress than they did a year ago. Do I have a job? Do I not have a job? Did I have to take money out of my retirement today? Take money out of my savings? Am I going to be able to live on what I am making now? All kinds of things. A lot of dental practices are having the best month they’ve ever had because people are now coming en masse.

I’d like to read part of an article from the October 2020 RDH magazine from a wonderful hygienist and speaker in the dental circuit, Karen Davis. She writes that individuals with pre-existing conditions, including periodontal disease, may be at increased risk of developing super infections should they acquire the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Emerging evidence suggests that particular periodontal pathogens may contribute to an overabundance of pathogens circulating systematically. And those with severe COVID-19 infections contributing to a superinfection and subsequent serious outcome, while more scientific evidence is needed. It does remind us that optimum oral hygiene and managed care has never been more important.

Her entire article can be found in RDH in October 2020. And there are many other articles on this. There’s never been a time when oral health is more important in helping people to fight COVID-19. Your role as dental professionals is absolutely imperative. Get that message out to your patients. I know you are but keep giving that message to patients and wow, what a wonderful opportunity, but also remember that your patients may be experiencing some financial stress, so practice your verbal skills and your listening skills. Listen to their concerns. Make their concerns about financing something they can bring up to you without apprehension or embarrassment. And then as a team, be ready and able to find a financial solution for your patients so they can proceed with treatment. And that would be a wonderful way for you to help your practice thrive and overcome any financial stress you may be experiencing and help your patients as well.

Carrie Webber:

So really thinking about this, you know, we’ve talked about what stress is, what you may be experiencing within your practice, both as a team and with your patients. There’s obviously a lot of outside items that may be having a stressful impact on those that you work with and those that you are doing work for. And so remembering too, as Cathy said, take a step back and look at where you’re doing well, where you may need attention, prioritize that time to work on the things that need to improve and be agile, ready to adapt, and that’s going to help your stress, and it’s going to help you and your team feel a sense of readiness in helping your patients through their stress. So as we wrap up, Cathy, perhaps you could share a couple of things from a personal standpoint. What are a couple of things that you have found in your study and your own personal life that could help control stress for someone that may be listening?

Self Care in Stressful Times

Cathy Jameson:

This is a great question. First of all, I would encourage you to take care of yourself. You can’t really take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself. So be kind to yourself, exercise, get fresh air, eat healthily, try to get seven hours of sleep if you can. That’s not always easy, I know. I also believe in reading positive things. I try to start out my morning with a brief reading of something positive, meditation, or prayer—whatever is appropriate for you. I never let my mind dwell on anything negative. I close the day with something positive because my mind is going to work through the night. So even if it’s one sentence, I close on something positive. Try not to watch too much news. I’m in favor of knowing what’s going on in the world, obviously, but the news really just repeats and repeats and repeats the negative. So be careful about that. 

Be careful with your children as well. Watch the amount of screen time. This is very critical for your children. I used to be a teacher, so I know how important it is to have a routine. If you’re doing virtual school, which many of you are, have a routine with natural breaks throughout the day. In school, we used to have a break every 45 to 50 minutes. It’s a pretty good thing to do. And so have a routine, have natural breaks, go out with your children and play with them. 

And be kind to yourself. Read. Do whatever it is that you do to calm yourself. Eat healthily. You know, stress will put off a lot of cortisol, which can really be difficult on your body. Take some supplements. And exercise will release endorphins, and that’s so healthy! The endorphins last a long time. So if you can schedule yourself to even get just 10 minutes of high-intensity impact training. You can just do 10 minutes and do something fast, slow, and then speed up and slow down and speed up and slow down. So those are some things that you can do for yourself that will carry through for your day. You’re very healthy, Carrie. What things do you recommend?

Carrie Webber:

I think that’s perfect. Remember, if you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you ever plan on taking care of other people in their stress? So do something about what you have control of like Cathy shared. Watch what you’re putting in your mind, what you’re putting into your body, what you’re doing for yourself, that gives you the endorphin rushes and makes you feel a little bit better. It’s not going to remove the stress that you’re experiencing, but it’s going to help you be better in the midst of the stress. 

And remember from an organizational standpoint, just as we talked about today, take a look at the areas you can refine, because often under stress, the cracks in your systems and in your practice, more than likely are magnifying right before your eyes, or seem to be. So we can do something about that. We can prioritize time and work on refining the systems and the skills that are going to help us be better in our day to day so that we can function in a healthier and happier way. 

Cathy Jameson:

Yeah. And I’d like to say one more thing, if I may. I think Carrie does this, and I’ve learned from her.  She chooses a word to kind of live by every year. I don’t think I’ll even ask you what your word is yet. And I’ve done the same thing this year. I chose the word kindness, so I’m trying to write down something that I’m doing every day to be kind. And it might just be a text message or something like that. 

Our church is doing things for the homeless and feeding and housing the homeless. People lost their power during the Siberian cold front that hit our state. And so I’m trying to be kinder than I have been in the past. And so remember that when you give, you truly receive. So instead of looking for the things that are not working, look for the things that are. Instead of looking for the things that someone is not doing well, look for even one tiny thing that somebody has done today that has been a benefit and acknowledge it. People benefit so much from even a slight word of appreciation.

Write a note, say a word, give somebody a pat on the arm. Be kind and tell people you appreciate them. It will work wonders to help people through not just difficult times, but even the best of times. And all of us need that. Those words of encouragement and appreciation and team members. Remember your doctors need those words of encouragement, just as much as anybody else. And please, if you are a parent, please remember all of these things impact your children as well. Be kind, encourage, appreciate those precious little ones at home.

Carrie Webber:

Perfect words to wrap up a perfect session. Thank you, Cathy, for joining us for this episode of the Jameson files. If you want to learn more from Cathy, her books and information are on J M S n.com, or you can find them on Amazon. You can find her at CathyJameson.com and you can also find her in our upcoming pathway on the Grow learning platform “Foundations for Growth” that we’ll be launching soon. We hope that we can see you there. Be well, take care of yourself. Be kind to others, be kind to yourself, and we’ll see you next time.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Jameson podcast. Visit us online at jmsn.com. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. Do you have questions or topics you’d like for us to answer or cover on the next podcast? Email us at [email protected].

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