By Molly Pereira, CDA Associate Executive Director
From the Fall 2019 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
The word “wellness” has just one meaning according to a dictionary: “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.”
Since Merriam-Webster documents the word’s first use in 1653, it’s safe to say that the meaning has evolved over time. Today, wellness is a buzz word; it’s a word you can find in any conference brochure or magazine rack. It’s a movement that has a following and the Colorado Dental Association has embraced it in more ways than one.
This topic doesn’t belong in a single box with just one meaning and one goal. Wellness means, and should mean, different things to different people based on what they’re striving to accomplish. In fact, University of California, Davis describes wellness best on their Student Health and Counseling Services webpage, where they state that “wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.”
There are Eight Dimensions of Wellness:
- Emotional – coping effectively with stress and growing from experiences
- Financial – successfully managing financial expenses
- Occupational – enjoying occupational endeavors and having personal satisfaction with work
- Social – developing meaningful relationships that create a healthy support network
- Environmental – respecting surroundings and raising awareness
- Intellectual – having an open mind to new ideas and participating in activities
- Physical – maintaining a healthy body and seeking care when needed
- Spiritual – developing a set of values to gain meaning and purpose
At the CDA, we’re practicing what we preach. The staff participates in semi-annual wellness challenges with incentives (and maybe a little healthy peer pressure). These challenges have included using our new office treadmill desk to check email or conduct conference calls, drinking 64-80 oz of water per day, avoiding all disposable paper and plastic goods for eating and drinking, using the stairs to get to the fourth floor every day, doing lunges on the way to the bathroom and writing one grateful thought each day on a Post-It note stuck to our computer monitors. We have 100% participation. Do we all still take the stairs and lunge to the bathroom after drinking 80 oz of water? Not necessarily, but we do all use ceramic mugs for coffee and reusable water bottles now. These challenges have made us more mindful of our actions and showed us how little efforts can add up to big changes. They also bring us closer as a small staff—similar in size to many dental practices.
On a larger scale, the CDA Membership Council formed a Wellness Committee. This committee is dedicated to reducing stress, improving health, creating relationships and providing resources to help dentists cope with life stressors and seek support when needed before consequences occur. Dentists juggle enormous amounts of stress in all shapes, weights and sizes. They struggle to seek help due to lack of time, insecurities and perceived judgment. And that’s when the balls, or anvils, start dropping—something we have witnessed too many times in the dental community. The CDA conducted a survey earlier this year asking dentists if various wellness benefits and activities would be helpful to them—the results were modest. Then, we asked if those same benefits and activities would be helpful to a colleague they know—the results were astounding. Analyzing these survey questions is subjective but there’s no question that we all can put more energy into personal wellness.
Choose a dimension or two from the above list. What resonates with you? Call a friend and create a simple challenge to conquer. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that committing to staff stretching during the morning huddle makes a difference, or drinking four huge gulps of water between patients helps you avoid the afternoon headache, or making a different staff member the office DJ each week boosts morale for staff and patients.
This issue of The Journal is dedicated to wellness, but the articles span many topics from ergonomics to risk management to improving the wellness of your patients. This isn’t a “how-to” issue, but an issue where we encourage you to read the articles and then reflect on how the information can improve one (or more) of the dimensions of your wellness. Search “wellness” in our online featured news to view all wellness articles featured in this issue.