The myth of work-life balance and finding your peace

Photo of Amrita Patel, D.D.S.

Blogger Amrita Patel, D.D.S. (left), is a general dentist in private practice in Westchester County, New York, and an adjunct faculty member in the dental hygiene program at the University of South Dakota. She graduated from the New York University College of Dentistry in 2011 and completed a general practice residency immediately afterwards. From 2018-20, she chaired the New Dentist Committee of the New York State Dental Association. She was the recipient of a 2021 American Dental Association 10 Under 10 Award, which recognizes 10 new dentists from around the country for excelling in their work and inspiring others, as well as a Denobi award in 2022. She serves as the social media manager for ICD-Global, on the board of the NYU Dentistry Alumni Association, as the leadership columnist for the Academy of General Dentistry Impact magazine, and on the editorial board of Dental Economics.

During my journey in dentistry, one of the phrases I’ve heard ad nauseum refers to work-life balance — this mystical and mythical concept of being able to juggle it all. Much is asked of us in this profession. We are expected to be business owners, practice leaders, team players, role models, and that’s before you add in the personal life component and all that goes along with it. It can seem overwhelming — and it is.

I have accidentally overcommitted myself to meetings and Zooms and speaking engagements where I’ve realized almost too late that I had to be in multiple places at the same time. Aside from the stress of unwinding my schedule, the feeling of guilt over not being able to split up myself, and my time, started to really wear on me. I got to the point where it became apparent that I had been running my life this way (and running on fumes) for the better part of a decade, often to the detriment of my own sanity, health and stability.

It was time to make a change. That change was hard; it took time and a hefty dose of introspection. What was I really looking for? What was my purpose? Were my actions helping me to fulfill my goals and hopes and dreams? This reorganization of priorities led to a serious reduction of stress, headache and heartache and an increase in my overall mental and physical well-being. Realizing that I didn’t have to do everything for everyone all the time and learning to lead my team better at work were the two biggest wins for me.

But I get it. We’ve all been stuck behind a computer screen for the better part of the last 36 months, watching social media, analyzing what everyone else around us is doing and sometimes unfairly judging ourselves based on what we see. If you were to look at my Facebook and Instagram pages, a life that seemed glossy and happy was actually one that was bringing me no peace. The travel, the awards, the fun, even the private moments I didn’t share with the world, none of these made me happy anymore. Striving towards homeostasis was only depleting my emotional reserves as fast as I could build them up.

Part of the introspection I forced myself through taught me that there is sometimes peace to be found in chaos when you realize that it’s not forever. Dentistry can be incredibly isolating, but with a village around you (friends, family, hobbies, pets, therapy — whatever), we have the capacity to be incredible providers, caregivers, leaders and contributors to society. Make sure to stay authentic to your own self on your journey and find your peace.

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