10 STEPS TO RECOVER FROM BURNOUT

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Primary Blog/burnout/10 STEPS TO RECOVER FROM BURNOUT

BURNOUT
WITHIN DENTISTRY

10 STEPS TO RECOVERY

"Daddy, get up! You promised us that you would take us sledding." Looking down at my little boy, I knew what I needed to do but I didn't know why I couldn't get myself up. "O.K buddy, just let me sleep another half hour." I promise I will get up and take you guys."


The next thing I remember was waking up as the kids were brushing their teeth and going to bed. I jumped out of bed and realized the moment had passed and I had broken another promise. Being a great father always came naturally to me but even this now seemed hard for me. I didn't realize it at the time but I had hit a critical point of severe burnout. This sense of burnout is not uncommon in the dental profession. While dentistry offers us financial stability, it often comes with stress and hidden struggles. Stress can take a toll on our health and well-being and eventually lead to a crash. This collision was extremely challenging for me and I hope that my experience might serve as a warning or guide to recovery.
Burnout for me in the moment seemed to happen suddenly but looking back I know there were signs that I didn't see. I grew up from a humble background and was taught to work hard always. After graduating from Dental School in 2012 and finishing an Implant Residency in 2013, I started my practice in a suburb of Salt Lake City, UT. Everyone told me not to return to Utah and not start a practice. Time and time again I heard the words, "Utah is saturated." I have never been one to listen much to the naysayers and much to everyone's surprise, it took off quickly. I made tons of mistakes but kept learning and growing. Having finished my MBA in my 3rd and 4th year of dental school, I wasn't afraid to market my practice. Within a few years, I had niched myself into one of just two practices well-known in Utah for being an ALL-ON-X clinic. This was so exciting and the impact I was having was amazing. By my third year, the 1500 square-foot office I had leased was too small for my growing dreams and I purchased a 15,000 square-foot building downtown Salt Lake. I hired and hired more team members, and then doctors. The added team members and overhead created more and more pressure on me to produce. Some team members loved being on the team and lost track of time and before we knew it, we were leaving at 6 or 7 o'clock every night. This slowly leads to a culture of long hours. The long hours were not something that was required but a result of not intentionally designing a healthier culture of getting home to our families. The imbalance began to stack up negatively in my relationships at home including my marriage, my health, and my spiritual connection to God. I kept saying yes to more business growth. I kept telling myself and my wife, when I...." then it will be better. Soon all the yes's led to being over-committed and that's when the anxiety began. I felt like I could never relax because I was getting texts all the time from my team members. I didn't want to discourage them from caring so much so felt like I had to engage in after-hour communications. Being present at home was hard but I would sacrifice my sleep to be the best dad and husband I could. The problem is that doing this over a sustained amount of time will drive you chemically crazy. Sleep deprivation leads to a plethora of problems, including mood swings and now i was the loving Dr. Hendriks one moment and Dr. Hyde the next. This makes even the people you love begin to change the way they act around you. This is where you lose connection with the people you love and ultimately connection to yourself. Once you aren't connected to yourself, you begin to find things that numb you or sedate you to take away the discomfort of your true feelings. Instead of addressing these issues, we may find ourselves seeking temporary relief through unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, and even more work. These substitutes, that we don't want to admit are addictions, rob us of our souls. Within our souls we find the answers to life. Its where we feel connected to God and other human beings. When we fill disconnected from our soul, we simply drift through life looking for the next substitute/shiny thing to fill the massive void. I will reveal more to the story in subsequent posts but let me tell you the top 10 things I did to liberate my soul and begin to recover this severe burnout.

STEP 1: PULL OVER

Sometimes the hardest step is to stop. We convince ourselves that we can not stop. This lie will lead to an early heart attack. Just stop for a moment and let's get your bearings. Pulling over isn't easy because it requires us to disappoint the people were planning to meet. We need to start saying no to all the things that have stolen time, energy, and courage from us. This could be well intentioned team members, patients willing to give you money for treatment. I know I had an addiction to movement alone. I had to be moving 1,000 miles per hour to quench that void I was feeling.

STEP TWO: ASK WHERE AM I NOW

A map is useless if you don't know where you are. Where are you concerning your marriage, kids, health, finances, spirituality, business? Score yourself from 1-10. In some areas you will be better than others and let's face it, not all of these areas are equal.

STEP THREE: WHERE DO I WANT TO BE?

This is the harder question because so often we forget what we want in life. We often start navigating on co-pilot. I love the movie Click with Adam Sandler. There is a memorable life lesson conveyed by the character Morty, played by Christopher Walken. He says,
"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." In one of the last scenes in the movie, he realizes how he put his focus and attention on the wrong things and neglected the most important things in life. On his deathbed, he tries to correct this mistake by telling his son, "Family Comes First."

STEP FOUR: IS MY CURRENT APPROACH WORKING?
A common misconception is that financial success automatically leads to happiness. Dentists often enter their field expecting a comfortable life, only to realize that wealth alone doesn't bring personal contentment. This relentless chase for financial achievement can spiral into continuous stress and dissatisfaction. The key to breaking this cycle lies in understanding that true happiness comes from finding meaning and purpose in work, beyond the monetary gains. An extra zero will never bring happiness. Trust me. I tried.

STEP FIVE: THE JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY

The second step is profound self-reflection on what truly brings individual fulfillment. My mentor Tony Robbins teaches about two fundamental skills we must develop. The first is the science of achievement and the second is the art of fulfillment. As dentists, we all have mastered the science of achievement but what is this art of fulfillment? Whereas the science of achievement is a science and is constant across careers, the art of fulfillment is different for each individual. Dentists may find their daily routines becoming repetitive and uninspiring, offering little opportunity for self-exploration and growth. It's vital to step back and reevaluate your aspirations and passions. This might involve indulging in hobbies outside work, pursuing further specialization in dentistry, or volunteering. Discovering joy beyond financial success is crucial in combating feelings of discontent and emptiness.

STEP SIX: THE POWER OF DECISION AND PIVOTING

It's not about what we do in our life that will make us happy. It's who we become throughout the process. To pivot into our second journey, you need to have the courage to make hard decisions. Massive decision-making is going to change your life and put it back on course.

STEP SEVEN: BREAKING UNHEALTHY PATTERNS

Evaluate the habits and patterns in your life. What are the triggers that cause you to lose congruency and return to an old sedation method to avoid your real emotions? What people do you need to remove from your business? This means reassessing the balance between work and personal life, setting realistic goals, and adopting healthier lifestyle choices. For dentists, it's crucial to establish boundaries to prevent work from encroaching on personal time and vice versa. Embracing self-care routines, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and mindfulness practices, is fundamental. For those struggling with substance abuse or other mental health concerns, seeking professional therapy or counseling is a critical step in the healing process.

STEP EIGHT: SAY "NO" MORE OFTEN THEN YES

Saying yes to one thing is saying no to another and so once you are clear about what is important to you, it takes courage to begin saying no but as you do, you will feel your life begin to change. You will also be living congruent with what your heart and soul are telling you. This breeds positive energy because we start the journey of self-love and creating self-esteem. The key is to begin to make decisions from your heart and not your head. Heart-driven decisions will empower you and pull you up and out of the pit of burnout. Turn off your phone. I often leave my phone in the car or even at work. This forces me to be the father and husband my kids deserve.


STEP NINE: RECONNECT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Most of us put so much time and energy into our business that we have lost touch with friends and the people in our lives who remind us of who we are at the core. Connecting with people that we know genuinely love us for who we are and not our titles will help us remember who we are and help us find the path forward.

​STEP TEN: EXERCISE AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY OUTDOORS

Exercise has the power to deplete the built-up cortisol that is within our bodies. The positive effects of any sort of physical activity will produce a positive effect. When possible, do this activity outdoors. This grounds us and helps connect us at a deeper level to humanity.

Bonus

Talk to a therapist. I can't stress how much this helped me with feelings of isolation and helping me move forward in decision I was stalling on.

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Hi, I Am Dr. Hendriks

CEO Of ALL-ON-X Secrets

I believe in doing good in the world.

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