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All of us are facing unthinkable stress right now as we cope with the coronavirus pandemic, an economic shutdown, mass layoffs, school closures, and the uncertainty over what the next few weeks will bring.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. But many of us don’t have the ability to just crawl back into bed and pull the covers over our heads. We need to still take care of our families, our friends, our colleagues, and our community.

So what can we do to get through the difficult moments?  Stress management expert Jen Butler talked to Patient Prism CEO Amol Nirgudkar to offer real-life tips and strategies to cope with the stress.



Six Steps for Stress Management

In the video, Jen Butler describes how each of these steps work. Here’s a quick look:

1. Stop for the moment

“People get foggy brain when we’re under stress. So when we need to make critical decisions like closing your doors, deciding which bills to defer, applying for loans, your stress response is triggered. It causes our hearts to beat faster, which causes us to shallow breathe. So the first thing we need to do is interrupt that response,” said Butler.

2. Breathe diaphragmatically

Taking slow, deep breaths slows the pulse down, lowers the blood pressure, and increases the amount of oxygen to the brain.

3. Interrupt your thought pattern

Some people might just say “Stop” several times out loud. Others might do a positive affirmation such as, “I will get through this. I just need to take it one step at a time.” Still others might sing the happy birthday song or do something else that distracts the brain from the stressful, panic-inducing thought.

4. Ask “What do I need to do in this moment?”

When you’re in crisis mode and you feel paralyzed, Butler said to ask yourself, “What do I need to do right now, in this moment, that will make the biggest impact to get me to the next moment?” It might be going for a walk to clear your brain, or having a drink of water to rehydrate, hugging your kids, watching a funny video, anything that helps you get through that particular moment so you can refocus.

5. Narrow your world view

Instead of focusing on the global pandemic, narrow your view to just what impacts you and the people that you love. Focus on the things that you have direct control over, recommended Butler.

6. Focus on small steps

Take things that are big and break them down into the individual steps that need to happen. By going through a problem step-by-step, it makes it easier to accomplish the overall goal.


Fight, Flight or Freeze Response to Stress

Everyone’s heard of the fight or flight response, but a lot of people have a third response: freeze.  They feel paralyzed by what’s happening and can’t make any decisions.

In addition to taking the six steps outlined above to get the panic under control, there are other ways to manage stress.

Four coping strategies are adapting, avoiding, altering, and accepting.  Click here to download our guide that outlines these in detail.

People have different responses to stress. Being able to identify which coping strategy your spouse or colleague is using could help you understand where that person is coming from.


What You Can Do to Reduce Stress at Home

“One of the things to recognize is that it’s not just you that’s stressed at home. It’s everyone who is at home,” said Jen Butler. “The best thing to do is establish a routine and structure.”

Simple things like getting dressed and having breakfast before you turn on your laptop can make a big difference in how you feel, explained Butler.

Another tip? Establish zones in your house for different tasks. For example, you may have the kids do their schoolwork at the kitchen table instead of in their bedrooms. For the adults, establish a place to do your work without distractions such as the TV. It makes it easier to mentally shut off work when you can physically walk to a different area of the house that’s designated for relaxation.


Laughter Reduces Stress

This one is easy and everyone can do it.  Once an hour, give yourself permission to watch a funny video or play with the pet or ask the kids to tell you a joke. Laughter is a natural stress reliever, and that two-minute mental break can help you keep the stress under control.


Help is Available

If you or somebody you know has moved beyond stress and into a depression, it’s important to get help. The first step is to call the person’s medical doctor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.



Jen Butler has a lot of resources available on her website JenButlerPartners.com.  

For more guides and advice from industry leaders to help dentists through this difficult time, visit Academy.PatientPrism.com. Plus, the Academy includes hundreds of interviews, training videos, and resources to help your team prepare for the surge in dental patients that will come once we can return to normal.

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