If you would like support and advice about coping with loneliness, call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 377 700 or you can request support via email.
Anyone can feel lonely. For some dental practitioners, the nature of their work, a new position, a busy workplace with little time to engage with peers, or changes in their personal life can each contribute to feelings of loneliness or isolation. This can sometimes escalate to feeling stressed and shouldn’t be ignored.
Dental practitioners work in a service-oriented profession. Some, especially those in rural and remote areas, may work alone and not have colleagues with whom they can discuss patient care. This can sometimes result in a sense of professional isolation. Also, because members of the dental team may each provide different aspects of dental care, there can be limited opportunities to compare ideas or learn from colleagues’ experiences. This can also contribute to feeling isolated or alone.
To combat these feelings, consider creating opportunities to share issues and problems with your colleagues, employer, a mentor or someone with an understanding of the dental profession and the difficulties that may be presented to practitioners. Such interactions don’t need to be face-to-face and you could find or establish a secure online environment to discuss issues with someone or others who relate to your circumstances. Industry events and professional development days are another good way to extend your network of colleagues and form unofficial collaborations and professional communities.
Stress is part of life, but it’s important to recognise what is causing your stress and if it’s having an adverse effect on your work, life and wellbeing. Isolation is well-known as a contributing factor that causes stress.
Joining group activities outside work can help shift your focus from work commitments to exercise, friendship, and hobbies. If you are feeling overloaded, a stress management course might help you to recognise what are the contributing factors and how to bring your stress back to a reasonable level.
Stepping away from the practice for a longer break helps to give you a different perspective and regular holidays can reduce and prevent ‘work overload’. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by isolation, seek professional help. You can talk to your GP or get a referral to see a psychologist.
The COVID-19 global outbreak has meant many people, including dental practitioners, have experienced a level of isolation they may never have had to face before. Discussions about how the pandemic has affected mental health have been widespread.
With each state and territory of Australia imposing different community health measures and practice restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19, dental practitioners have had to adapt quickly in response to changing circumstances.
To stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 requirements affecting dental practitioners, go to our COVID-19 update page.
Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to connect face-to-face with peers and others to reduce the impact of isolation and loneliness. The key is to recognise and understand the causes so that preventative steps can be taken.
Keeping sight of the bigger picture is an important part of managing your own self-care, especially if you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed. Andrew Wilson, from his blog ‘The lonely life of a dentist’, offers this advice:
“…No matter how low or lonely you may feel, there are people out there who are experiencing the same things that you are. Any professional career will be tough. When life gets you down, try not to let current difficulties cause you to lose sight of the whole picture. Hold onto what brought you here. You are a highly skilled, empathetic professional who can deliver amazing care to your patients. Don’t forget your value.”