The Importance of Self-Care

By Michelle Watkins, RDH on October, 5 2018
The Importance of Self-Care
Michelle Watkins, RDH

Michelle is a dental hygienist with a history working in private practice, public health, education and advocacy.

As healthcare professionals, we have signed up for a career of selflessly giving to our patients.

We give them our time and our commitment to better overall health. We listen to their stresses, their successes, their failures, their family dilemmas, and so on. Their anxieties and fears are passed onto us as we try to calm and alleviate their angst.

We sit in our chairs, hunched over, sacrificing all we know of ergonomics to make sure they are getting the best possible cleaning because, let’s face it, as type-A personalities, we are perfectionists. And perfectionism doesn’t allow us the ability to destress and unwind as easily as one would hope.

We strive for the best and want only the best for our patients. And when we clock out, we don’t leave it at the door. We drive home worrying if Mrs. Jones will get the root canal, and if Johnny’s parents will take him to the pedodontist right away. 

We worry we might have missed or overlooked something. And I haven’t even gotten to the stress we are subjected to by the commute to and from work, the paycheck-to-paycheck life, the coworkers who make our daily life a living hell, and bosses and patients who don’t appreciate us for all we are and do.  In addition to all that and dedicating our time to our families, we’re often putting ourselves last. 

We give our all in so many different ways, and we must find a balance between work and life. What can we do for self-rejuvenation? What does that even mean and how can we incorporate that into our daily lives?

When we hear the phrase self-rejuvenation, often our first thought is: who has the time and money for an extended beach getaway? But there are ways to rejuvenate and energize us each and every day, and they don’t need to be elaborate or time-consuming.


Stay positive and keep learning

The field of dental hygiene has so many opportunities outside the traditional clinical setting, such as education, manufacturing and sales, public health and research. Also networking and taking continuing education courses can rejuvenate us and focus us on the positive aspects of our careers.

Being able to chat about patient scenarios and building a network of support keeps me fired up to do my best dental hygiene. Seeing I’m not alone in my frustrations and concerns gives me new perspective and new ideas.

Another way to stay positive and energized is by taking some personal time just for yourself, even if it is only a few minutes of each day. It doesn’t have to be anything big, elaborate or expensive.

Your mind went straight to that beach getaway, didn’t it?

Well, I’m here to tell you it can be as simple as a bath after all the kids are tucked in, or a walk with the family around the neighborhood.


Find your creative passion

Take some time to tune into your passions or hobbies. As adults, we tend to neglect our creative side and in turn I think we lose ourselves.

Ask yourself, before you had a career and children, what did you enjoy doing? If you can name even one thing you enjoyed doing, try bringing that back into your life. Continue to paint, draw, knit, crochet – whatever you love to do.

Finding a creative hobby is a way to excite different areas of our brain, and it’s something we can take pride in that isn’t work or career focused.


You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Eat healthy

Another important facet of self-rejuvenation is eating a healthy diet. Healthy nutrition ensures top performance, even at the cellular level.

We can think clearly, and our hormones are balanced, and the “hangry” symptoms dissipate. This in itself should be at the top of the list for self-rejuvenation, and it isn’t talked about enough.

We need to get back to the basics of taking care of ourselves first, then our families, and then our patients – it really all starts with the food we eat.


Get more sleep. No, really.

And lastly, we need enough sleep. And not only enough sleep, but we need quality restorative sleep. 

Getting the proper amount of sleep can help recharge us and ready us for another day! Don’t feel guilty when you need to take a nap! That really is OK!

The stresses of a dental hygiene career don’t have to overwhelm you. Let perfection go, find that balance, and you will see a whole new world out there for you.


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