10 Relaxation Techniques for Dental Students

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Nov 02, 2016 @ 11:45 AM

Legs-Up-The-Wall-Pose-Viparita-Karani-yoga-poseiStock_000030761864_Medium-300x192.jpgStress is a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress helped you to get this far in school and headed towards a successful career. But if you don't get a handle on your stress, it can seriously interfere with your work, family life, and health. Our message to you? Relax. You deserve it, it's good for you, and it takes less time than you think. Following these tips can take you from “take a pill” to “chill” in less than 15 minutes.

1. Meditate

Humans have been meditating for centuries. It’s free and is has no side effects. A few minutes of this practice per day can help ease anxiety. Solid physiologic evidence has shown that meditation alters the brain’s neural pathways in a process referred to as “neuroplasticity”. You can effectively rewire your brain to look at life and its associated stressors differently.

It's simple: Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting -- out loud or silently -- a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply

Even when you’re stacked up with patients, you can take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Focus only on the sensations of air moving into and out of your nostrils. This simple trick counters the physiologic effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

3. Be Present

Mindfulness is an extension of meditation. It compels you to be present, to pay attention to things in your environment--even if just for a few minutes. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food. Pay close attention to the smell of fresh coffee brewing, or even something as mundane as the hissing of the autoclave or the sound of the air conditioner. This is an extension of meditation, and is incredibly powerful.

4. Reach Out

You are a leader by the very nature of your job, and leadership can be lonely. Remember that your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others -- preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what's going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong. And remember that it is always preferable to lean on friends, colleagues, family, and counsellors than it is to lean on staff or patients.

5. Tune In to Your Body

When you get home from a busy day, take some time to mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress might be affecting it. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels. You can focus on those tight traps in your shoulders and get them to relax. You can ease that tightness in your lumbar paraspinals or the achiness in your feet. Allow the muscles to your hands to relax: their work is done for the day. As you breathe, imagine that fresh oxygen is flowing into those body parts, nourishing and relaxing them.

6. Decompress

Physical therapists rely on modalities such as heat and acupressure to treat tense muscles. You should too. Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension. You can place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball, and hold gentle pressure for about 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot, and apply pressure. If you’re fortunate enough to have an understanding significant other, that works too.

7. Laugh Out Loud

It is said that laughter is the best medicine. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals including endorphins and dopamine, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.

8. Crank Up the Tunes

Listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. You can create a playlist of relaxing songs or nature sounds like the ocean or rain. Many online websites have these canned soundtracks for meditation. You can focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the music. You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes, dancing, or singing like no one is watching!

9. Get Moving

Exercise is a cheap psychotherapist, and in fact numerous controlled clinical trials have confirmed the efficacy of exercise in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs. And it’s free.

10. Be Grateful

Gratitude is powerful medicine for the worst events in your life. Even when things are difficult, you still have all of your skills, your friends, your knowledge, your family, your patients, your support staff, your means of transportation, and a home. Gratitude for the small victories in life helps to stomp out stress and improve your outlook on life. It helps keep challenges in perspective.

Keep a gratitude journal—or running list on your smartphone--to help you remember all the things that are good in your life. Use these notes to savor good experiences like a child’s smile, a successful patient case, a sunshine-filled day, and good health. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments like mastering a new knowledge factoid at school or a new hobby. Take care of yourself, doctor-to-be. Then you can be more present for others.

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Tags: stress management, stress relief, relaxation techniques, relaxation

4 Signs Your Daily Routine is Getting in the Way of Your Potential

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 @ 01:30 PM

student-struggling.jpg“Killing time” is not in the dental student’s vocabulary. With how busy the average dental student’s life is, it’s easy to find yourself adhering to a daily routine. While it’s good to have structure, and be able to get all of your necessary tasks done in an orderly fashion, doing the same thing every day may lead to burnout, a depressive state of mind, or even a lack of constructive days.

It's hard to juggle so many things, and having any free time might seem like a longshot. Even at times when you might find yourself with a good stretch of time, you might not know what to do with it. Life is full of these situations, and for any dental student running from class, to clinic, to making sure to eat, it’s only more of an issue. Make sure the free time you DO have is maintained well. Seize the days!

Here are some signs that your daily routine is getting in the way of your productivity:

Not Susceptible to Change

Does change scare you? When the grind of hours of class and clinic move in a slightly new direction, do you overreact? Falling into a daily routine may mean that any problems against that routine may be overwhelming. You may find yourself scrambling to get things back in order. However, change, even in the slightest sense, may actually benefit you in the long term. If you find yourself burned out by your typical day-to-day, find a new study spot, try a new food, or just turn on a new light in your room. You might be surprised by how good you feel.

No Wiggle Room

If your schedule is maxed out every day, you may not have any wiggle room to set aside for some of the more drastic things that may arise. Emergencies and other last-second rearrangements cannot make their way into your current routine. If you cannot conceive the possibility of one of these situations coming into play, you might need to rethink how tight your schedule is. No matter how busy you might be in any given day, make sure to at least be prepared when these things occur. If you had a medical (or even a dental!) emergency, would you be prepared?

No Creativity

Creativity is defined as the use of the imagination or original ideas. You might think of creativity as leading to big things out of your talents. You don’t have to paint the Mona Lisa to show some creativity, it’s much simpler than that! Think of creativity as more in terms of creating something, and you’ll have a much better time being more creative! Make a figurine or other craft, bake some food, or write a blog for THE NEXTDDS! Make sure to sprinkle some creativity into your daily routine in an effort to make each day different than the last. The reward will definitely be worth it!

Stress and Taking a Look at Yourself

When’s the last time you did something for yourself, in order to relax? With so much going on around you, it can be easy to overlook the fact that you haven’t been taking very good care of yourself. In the modern dental student curriculum, stress is sure to sweep its way into your life. Don’t let stress buildup in your psyche and be destructive. It’s important, every now and then, to treat yourself to something that relieves that tension. Going to the gym, getting a massage, or just doing something you really enjoy can help lower your stress and get you back on the right track in your dental career.

No matter how tight things get when you’re in school, it’s important to liven things up every now and then, or you might risk doing some serious damage to your well-being. Stress and anxiety affects so much of the body and mind that it’s important to ease your feelings and emotions to remain healthy and continue working hard on your journey to becoming a successful dentist.
Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Related Readings:

Top 10 Ways to Make Time for Exercise

Being Flexible: Yoga for Dental Professionals



Tags: dental school, stress management, stress relief, daily routine, productivity

3 Ways to Recharge on Your Day Off

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

girl-stretching-working-out-resize.jpgGiven the density of your dental school schedule, it might seem like you never have a day off. Free time is sparse, and when you do schedule a few moments for yourself, you definitely want it to be both productive and relaxing. But how do you make the most of it?

Here’s three things to do on your off day to recharge your batteries!


Haven’t had the time to go food shopping or clean your apartment? Do them on your off day! Get to these chores early in the morning to get them out of the way and free up the rest of your day to relax, study, or go to an event. As time permits, you might even combine two of these and study through one of THE NEXTDDS webinars. Scheduling chores ahead of time as well can be a good way to work on your time management skills. Amidst very busy weeks, errands are an unwelcome but necessary aspect of life, so checking them off your list as early as possible will help free up your day to more important tasks.

Make a Quiet Space

Try to create a day for yourself free from distractions and noise. While being on the phone or playing video games might sound like a good day off, chances are you’ll probably feel crummy wasting the day away with electronics. Relax, meditate, or just otherwise make sure that you’re in a clear state of mind. Reading, meditating, crafting, or just going on a nature walk will help put you in a good mood to tackle the rest of the day and ready for more dentistry.

Work Out

Sometimes, all you need is a quick boost to reenergize yourself for the coming days in the classroom or clinic. Exercising or working out are good ways to reboot your physical self, while also refreshing your mental state. Sticking to a workout routine can really help maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can also read or listen to podcasts (Stress and Burnout in Dental Education) while working out, in case you need to study as well! If you are unable to attend a gym, try going for a walk and otherwise being active to clear you mind, body, and soul.


With a little planning and some energy, one will no doubt be able to formulate a successful day off. Time is so valuable to dental students, and being able to put that time to good use is so important. Juggling studies with a personal and social life is no easy task, so be sure to manage your time wisely!


Related Reading

Sheri Granader’s article, “Top 10 Ways to Make Time for Exercise,” in the Spring 2014 edition of THE NEXTDDS Magazine

Tags: stress management, recharging on your day off, time management, exercising

Ways to Reduce Stress Before Finals: Chocolate, Clutter, and Literally Shaking It Off

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Thu, Dec 03, 2015 @ 12:30 PM

Stress_Management2.jpgAs a dental student, you more than likely feel stress on a daily basis. With finals fast approaching, your anxiety levels may skyrocket. There are plenty of familiar tools to help you reduce stress. However, there are a number of unconventional methods you may not know about. So, before you send yourself into a finals-induced tailspin, take a deep breath (often number one on the list) and consider one or more of the following:

Unclick temptation – Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat can add to your mounting stress levels. Take a stand and turn off your social media notifications.

Go with the dark stuff – A little bit of chocolate can go a long way when it comes to alleviating stress. Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidant flavonoids. According to research published in the Journal of Proteome Research1, these flavonoids help blood vessels relax, helping calm overall stress. They can also minimize your risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure.

Break your fast – After pulling an all-nighter, you’re sure to need some sustenance. At some schools, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute2 to Northwestern3, faculty members are on the serving line to provide their students a special late night breakfast to give them the strength for another long day of exams. Eating three square meals a day will also help keep your stress levels down.

Scream therapy – Being under so much stress can make you want to scream. So, just do it! At many schools, including Northwestern, Stanford, and Harvard, students take part in a “primal scream,” where everyone opens their dorm windows and screams as loud as they can. It might not go over at your school, but you can find your own place to scream (without having the neighbors call the police).

Rub your Hoku Your “hoku” is the point in the webbing between your thumb and index finger. It’s also an acupressure point related to upper body tension. When squeezed, it can minimize stress.

Embrace your clutter – For years, neat-freak parents insisted that their kids’ messy bedrooms be ship-shape for the sake of productivity, sanity, and basic nagging rights. Forget about it! Eric Abrahamson (a Columbia School of Business Professor) and David H. Freedman (a journalist) have reported that moderate messes can actually enrich creativity and minimize anxiety.

Cackle long-distance – Make a quick phone call to your parents, BFF, or whoever else makes you laugh. Make it a simple and pleasant five-minute distraction.

Let it all hang out – Open up to a friend, family member, or any trusted colleague about what might be stressing you; letting it all out may provide relief.

Stand on one leg – Do it where people can see you and just breathe. This is also an exercise in not caring about what others think. Hopefully, this will make you even more focused to stay in the present moment.

Change perspective – Switch everything on your desk from one side to the other for one day. Life is all about perception. It’s always good to get a change of perspective when you feel stressed.

Lose your shoes – Taking off your shoes is a comfy way of relaxing while studying. Reflexology, or foot manipulation, is an ancient practice in some eastern philosophies that has a calming effect on the mind and body.

Cry me a river – Yes, that’s right, cry. A good cry can be restorative, and can separate you from a total emotional meltdown. Stress and grief-produced tears remove toxins, reduce anxiety and even kill bacteria. Your tears can work for you.

brain-after-walk.jpgRun away – Don’t take it literally, but activity and brisk exercise (e.g., walking, running, kickboxing, or shaking it off dancing), provide benefits in several different ways: oxygen enriches the bloodstream, the heart gets at workout, stress hormones are reduced and endorphins are released. That’s not news to medical professionals, so use it to your advantage!

Catch some Zzz’s – Sleep is a luxury most students can’t afford, so get it whenever you can. Allow yourself a nap between classes or every time you switch your study topic. You’ll be amazed at the results.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel – Even the calmest individuals can begin to stress just thinking about their workload. Harness the energy to focus on the tasks at hand. If finals are just around the corner, remember that in a matter of days, there will be plenty of free time to enjoy.


Find more great ways to reduce stress and stay healthy during your dental school days, by downloading our series of articles we released for "Stress Awareness Day" back in November!

Stay Stress-Free Throughout Dental School


  1. Martin FPJ, Rezzi S, Pere E, et al., Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects. J Proteome Res 2009;8(12):5568–5579. DOI: 1021/pr900607v. Publication Date (Web): October 7, 2009. Accessed 11.25.15.
  2. Otitigbe J. Finals week: Helping Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students de-stress before final exams. December 9, 2014. Accessed 11.25.15.
  3. Division of Student Affairs. Special Events: Fall Exam Relief 2015. Accessed 11.25.15.

Tags: stress management, finals

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