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Episode #509: The Power of Self-Care & Rituals, with Courtney Dalton & Gina Diakonov

the best practices show podcast Dec 09, 2022

Dentistry is draining. And to recover physically and emotionally, you need to practice self-care. There are different ways to do it, and Kirk Behrendt brings back two amazing ACT coaches, Courtney Dalton and Gina Diakonov, to talk about their self-care rituals, why having one is important, and how you can start your own. Care for yourself so you can keep caring for others! To learn how to get started, listen to Episode 509 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Atomic Habits by James Clear: https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits

Main Takeaways:

Self-care is what refills your tank.

Make time for self-care and make it a ritual.

Don't feel guilty about taking time for self-care.

Your self-care ritual will set the tone for your day.

Hold yourself accountable for creating self-care time.


“Gender plays a big part in this. A working mom dentist has some added responsibilities — dads do too. Those dad docs do too. But let's talk about the mom side. It takes so much out of us to be a parent. It’s amazing, it’s fulfilling, and it’s the best job in the world. But it’s exhausting. And then, when you wake up to go to work and you spend your day there, I hear those mom docs say to me, ‘I've got nothing left. I still have to prep the dinner when I get home because I didn't do it on Sunday. How do I have the energy from having a long day of work and still have the energy to give my best to my family? Because I want to show up. I'm just really tired, and I don't know where to go from there.’” (6:01—6:47) -Gina

“Our teams and our doctors that we work with, they feel so pulled and so dictated by the needs of the practice that they get caught up in it and get overwhelmed by it. And rightfully so. It’s hard to be a business owner. It’s hard to have people with you that you trust to help fuel your business forward. But to Gina’s point, at the end of the day, when you go home, if there's nothing left in the tank, you don't have the energy for your family. You definitely don't have the energy for self-care, for doing the things that you want to do. So, one thing that we do, as coaches, is help them find the balance.” (7:24—8:01) -Courtney

“If you're not present for yourself, you can't show up in either facet of business or personal.” (8:08—8:14) -Courtney

“I find that what makes me feel great in self-care is fitness. I feel 100% guilty when I do anything after my working hours. Because the kids are gone, I'm work, work, working all day, now, I'm done and they're home, and I feel compelled to give them all of my energy. Whatever I have left, I want to be present for them. But there are nights when I leave and I have to go teach a fitness class, or I sometimes leave to go take one. And I will tell you, the guilt is real. But I love it. If I don't do that for me, I am not there for them. I need a little me to give more to them, to my career, and to the people that matter.” (8:36—9:31) -Courtney

“We recently purchased a Tonal. It’s a workout equipment that's in my house. So, the time that I now have to not worry about changing and driving to the gym and dealing with traffic, I've inherited back. It’s more time for me to get into the room with a Tonal and get out. But what does that mean? I'm feeling guilty that I'm in my own home making the babysitter, my husband, somebody else watch the kids so I can get that me time. So, I feel that guilt as well. I totally need it. I get that endorphin release and I'm a happy person. And my kids and my family feel it too.” (9:46—10:34) -Gina

“Everybody’s got to find their thing, whether it be at night, whether it be a yoga class — something. You've got to find the time and carve it out.” (12:07—12:13) -Kirk

“When I don't have the exercise, I have to take two or three deep breaths when there's something stressful. [When I take time to exercise], I'm like, ‘Ah, whatever. It’s all good.’ So, you've got to find the time.” (13:12—13:23) -Kirk

“You don't find [the time], you make it. You have to carve it out. And I'm an early bird. Maybe because I'm in the season with the kids and they’re seven and four, and I have to. And I have the guilt afterward. So, I carve the time out before.” (13:28—13:45) -Courtney

“It’s important enough to me that I don't mind that early wakeup call. I don't mind it at all because I feel so good after [the workout]. And it sets the tone for my whole day. I can tackle the big team meetings. I can tackle the really hard client issue that's been festering in my brain for a few days. I'm good. I've got it. But if I don't get that time in the morning, I set myself up for a tough day.” (14:28—14:53) -Courtney

“Your spouse, your partner, or your significant other, whoever is your companion and is helping you day in, day out, tap into that person to find the balance. And it goes back to E minus R. Have the conversation out loud. I know that one of the things that I do if someone sends me a text message, I respond in my brain, but I forget to hit send. And then, I think I hit send, and I think that we’re clear, but we’re not clear because that wasn’t actually an external conversation. Have the conversation out loud, ‘You do dinner because I'm going to go here,’ or, ‘Get everybody ready for school, and I'll pack lunches. And then, I'll do this.’ If you don't clearly outline who’s going to do what, it goes right to communication, then you're going to have a really bumpy day or a bumpy week.” (19:03—19:55) -Courtney

“My husband, when it’s the summertime, he works very long and late hours. So, it’s a little bit dicey depending on when we are in the year based on his career. He’s a tennis pro, so he works when people are outside playing and having fun. So, I already know that division of labor is not going to be equal, and that's just a part of our relationship. So, in the summertime when he does have an evening off, I know that he actually needs that time to go and clear his mind because he has been working so hard.” (20:28—21:05) -Gina

“I can't even imagine how difficult [it is to be a single parent]. But I would say this, even in that environment, clarity and communication and division of labor is really important. I know a lot of single mothers that are dentists, and they get help. And they're not afraid to get help. They have parents helping them out. They have a nanny helping them out. They have somebody helping them out . . . I'm not ashamed to pay for help.” (22:28—22:52) -Kirk

“You've got to find out what you're happy to pay for.” (23:36—23:38) -Kirk

“How about a babysitter so that you can go out on a date, to have that self-care with your significant other, or your girlfriend, or your buddies? Bring it in. That's a good use of money, in my household.” (23:50—24:03) -Gina

“Babysitters are cheaper than divorce attorneys and psychiatrists.” (24:06—24:09) Kirk

“It’s the power of rituals, finding rituals in a week, whether it be exercise, whether it be when you start work. You're going to see all of this goes back to one thing: we’ve got to get some rituals down. And what rituals do is they create neuropathways.” (25:43—25:59) -Kirk

“That conversation [at the dinner table] — there's no phone. No phone at the table. TV, off. Be connected with each other. Now, we’re imperfect. Sometimes, the TV is on, I won't lie, in my house. But we don't do phones at the table. We are connected to each other. And the sense of harmony that that gives us is so invaluable. I don't think that we could function without that time together to check in and to talk and connect.” (27:16—27:52) -Courtney

“How do we connect? We do roses and thorns at the dinner table . . . We all take turns. Usually the youngest, it’s her idea, and she says, ‘Roses and thorns, everybody!’ And she’ll start us off. Her rose that she shares with us is the best part of her day. And the thorn is the part of the day that maybe didn't go so great. Not the worst part, necessarily, but something that maybe sparks a discussion. So, we go all around the table. We all share it. It’s the best ritual.” (28:01—28:36) -Gina

“If you're a dentist listening right now, you never bargained for how physically, emotionally stressful dentistry was going to be at this point in your career. You're 15 years in. You never thought, ‘Yeah, I knew it was going to be this stressful.’ No. It is a physical sport that's emotionally and spiritually draining at times, and you've got to find a way to refill the bucket. And a lot of it is going to have to be with your personal rituals, whether it be exercise, whether they be dinner, whether they be when you finish, when you start.” (31:31—31:59) -Kirk

“Self-care, in whatever form that looks like for you, if it’s reading, if it’s walking, if it’s fitness, if it’s family time, whatever that looks like, make time for it. If you can't figure that out, we can help you figure out how to put that as a priority so that you can be present in what you do, be present for those who depend on you, and be present for yourself. It’s so important to carve the time out. Make it a ritual. Make it a habit. Make it repeatable so that your days are better and better.” (32:59—33:35) -Courtney

“The dentists in this world, and team members, that have control of their time are the wealthiest people anywhere.” (33:49—33:55) -Kirk

“My biggest piece, which I always have to work on, is holding myself accountable to that ritual. Carve out the time. And if it’s really hard, do a little bit of those Atomic Habits style. Plug it in here. Plug it in there. But keep yourself accountable to whatever it is that you're passionate about for your self-care, and it'll get easier. You're going to keep stacking that habit and you're going to be able to organize your life to hold yourself accountable and prioritize yourself. You're going to love yourself for it.” (34:25—35:00) -Gina

“We have dentists come in here and go, ‘Oh, I see patients until 6:00.’ Then, we make them not do that anymore, and they go, ‘Gosh, my practice didn't die at all. I got busier.’ I'm like, ‘You've got three more hours a day. You could do a lot with three more hours a day. You could be a better person. You could sleep better. You could feel better.’ So, make sure you get control of your time. And when you don't feel like you can, that's when you reach out to somebody to help you be accountable.” (35:07—35:32) -Kirk


0:00 Introduction.

2:36 Courtney and Gina’s backgrounds.

4:58 Why self-care is important in dentistry.

8:14 The guilt that comes with self-care.

12:07 Make the time for self-care.

14:54 Advice for dentists who want a great life.

17:34 Division of labor and communication in the household.

21:42 It’s okay to ask for help.

24:24 The power of rituals and patterns.

32:50 Last thoughts on self-care.

Courtney Dalton, BS, RDH Bio:

Courtney Dalton is a Lead Practice Coach who focuses on establishing a solid foundation in order for a practice to thrive. With over 15 years of experience in the dental industry, she is as passionate about patient care as she is about those who are providing it.

Courtney has an A.S. in Dental Hygiene from Manor College and a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from West Virginia University. Outside of coaching, she enjoys teaching group exercise classes and spending time with her husband, Dan, and children, Lola and Levi.

Gina Diakonov, MHSA, RDH Bio:

Gina Diakonov has been involved in dentistry since 2000. She has held multiple roles in the industry such as dental assistant and hygienist, faculty member at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, and Director of Development and Training. She advanced her education earning a Master of Health Service Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. She has a passion for community dentistry and volunteers regularly in Metro Detroit.

Gina enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, their dog Suge Bite, traveling, amateur gardening, and playing tennis.


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