Guard Your Heart

October 28, 2022 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

All of you have heard me quote the famous proverb: “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” It is great wisdom. It is also very practical.

To remain healthy and safe, our “hearts” need to be protected. We need rest, downtime, and peace of mind. We need a life that gives energy as well as demands it. We need people around us to remind us of who we really are and what is important. We need to say yes to what is most essential and no to the things that aren’t essential.

In recent weeks I have heard a podcast interview of two people on the other side of burnout and a forced six-month sabbatical. I have had multiple conversations with dentists and dental teams that are overwhelmed and disillusioned. In addition, I have listened to a sad story of a friend who started behaving carelessly and out of character secondary to the fatigue and frustration of unrelenting pressure and career demands. He just wasn’t himself.

Many of you are running full speed, meeting the relentless demands of your practice as well as pursuing teaching and writing opportunities. The question I pose to each of you is “Which opportunities and demands are the most important—essential, to you and your unique life?”

We needlessly increase stress when we compare ourselves to others and think we should achieve what they are achieving. We create pressure on ourselves when we feel we should say yes to others’ requests for our energy and time. In contrast, we honor health when we pause to consider what is best for ourselves and recall our personal priorities.

Our purpose, capacity, energy, desires, loves, dislikes, and circumstances are unique to each of us and unlike those of anyone else.

I have listened to and read about people, who have been through periods when they struggled with their physical health, energy, and emotional state. To recover, they found that vacations were only a part of the solution. They had to find a community of peer support. They had to find ways to make each day healthier and more productive. They had to intentionally create “white space” in their life, place only the most important events on their schedule, and develop a respectful way to say “no” or “not now.”

Saying no is difficult for most of us but is required to live our one short life on purpose. In addition to living on purpose, there are other essentials for wellness. I’m thinking of:

  • Resilience—Restoring physical, mental, and emotional strength often requires more rest, exercise, and recreative interaction outside of work with family and friends to reframe perspective.
  • Meaningful work—Do what you love at least 50% of the time.
  • Energy management—Pace yourself, take breaks, enjoy the “flow” that occurs when you are highly engaged in your work, and respectfully rely on your leadership team to help you maintain a schedule that prioritizes the most important activities.
  • A peer-to-peer community of support—We have the human need to give and receive empathy, understanding, wise counsel, sparks of creativity, and encouragement.
  • Dedicated time to recreate the self—Think in terms of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal-yearly rhythms. Create time to regularly relax, relate, and play outside of dental practice. Like a surfer running to the beach when the waves are perfect, allow yourself some flexibility to embrace spontaneous opportunities.
  • Spiritual nourishment and expression—What nourishes the most foundational part of you? Seek the goodness that elevates your soul and feed on those nutrients. Celebrate that goodness with gratitude.

We talk a lot about balance at Pankey, and we do this because it is all too easy for healthcare providers to run out of steam…to run out of oxygen. Like the airline steward says, “Put on your emergency oxygen mask first before assisting others.”

Our positive thoughts, emotions, words, and actions—our joyful hearts, are what make it possible for us to be a wellspring of understanding, compassion, and love. We need to protect our hearts to enjoy our work and improve the wellness of everyone around us.

Related Course

E3: Restorative Integration of Form & Function

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Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

Understanding that “form follows function” is critical for knowing how to blend what looks good with what predictably functions well. E3 is the phase of your Essentials journey in which…

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About Author

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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