All work and no play…

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Melissa.

I’ll bet you’re no different.

When I first started out, I rarely took time off. I had a startup office, overhead to meet and few patients coming in. School debt to service. Payroll regardless of production to meet it. I took one week a year off at the most. And I did this for years. I was young. I wasn’t used to having vacations. I didn’t grow up going on summer trips or winter vacations, so not taking time off didn’t seem unusual.

My husband and I lived modestly and we both agreed that we were fine. We needed to make some money. We’d take time off later. We’d catch up later. It was fine. He too had a job that continually demanded more and more of him. He’d have a review and all they’d say was “great work, now bill more hours.” More, more, more. That was the state we were operating under. And it was working. We were fine.

After a few years of this, my office was thriving. Really thriving. I had almost paid off all my debt in just under five years. And now I had so many patients I felt I could not leave, because what would they do? Who would be there for them? I adore my patients. How could I not be there? Quite the opposite problem from before. I felt so good, on so many levels. In fact, I felt more than just fine.

I felt needed

I felt successful

I felt skillful!

But…

I felt exhausted.

I wasn’t fine.

My hand started to hurt. My back and neck hurt. I was tired all the time. I was irritable. And I felt I was always behind. Something was always nagging at my attention. What was in front of me suffered. I had so many things going on in my head. My personal life suffered. My marriage was not the marriage it once was. I’m not saying this was all related to my job because it was not. We had other issues too. Every marriage does after time. But I wonder in hindsight if I hadn’t been working so much, and I wasn’t so overwhelmed, if I would have been better able to notice what was happening. I’ll never know. But what I do know now is that I can’t be good for my marriage, my patients, my team members or my children if I am not rested. 

Mentally and physically.

The chronic state of business was taking a huge toll on my life.I wasn’t fine. Things had to change.

Ten years into my start-up I finally started taking regular time off. Time to truly get away. At first I stayed home. A staycation. I’d get stuff done, home stuff I never had time to do. But inevitably I’d be pulled into the office. I felt if I was home, and they needed me,I should go in.I felt my office would think poorly of me if I didn’t. I wondered if my patients would know?! This was not helpful. My family wasn’t too pleased either. This worked against our time to reconnect and it left my family feeling resentful.

Now I try to leave the state. 

Seriously. 

The pulls of the office can’t find me as easily. And children’s friends can’t find them either! I’m lucky to be able to do this. I try to stay off dental sites. I’m working on phoneless vacations, but so far I’m not that good! I try to reconnect with my husband, my children, and myself in ways I can’t do when there are zillions of tugs at me. I try to ask more questions about them and how they are. We play. We laugh. I feel my headaches go away. My neck stops throbbing. My right hand stops hurting. Exhaustion is replaced by energy. I’m able to recharge, emotionally and physically. I remember what I love about my husband, and how much I need my family. All these things that suffer when my tank is empty.

Then, as my time off draws to an end, I truly look forward to returning to work. I can’t wait to see my co-workers (who are amazing!). I miss my patients and the daily chit chat of the dental office. I’m ready to go back and tackle the complex job of managing skills, people, pain, and money – in short, running a business.

Taking time off with my family has truly made me a better dentist, boss, mother, and wife. I can enjoy those around me when there is more of me present. I can give more to my office too. 

Please remember, your patients and office will be there tomorrow. They will. But your health and marriage may not. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of those who need you.