Have you ever been affected by the Sunday scaries? This refers to the intense dread on a Sunday when you think about the workweek ahead of you. This can range in severity and intensity and may come with physical side effects.
I started to experience the Sunday scaries after two years working as a dental hygienist. It was happening because I was feeling burned out. The intense feelings and emotions led me to start a social media page, @toothfairytish, which became an outlet for me to openly express what I was experiencing.
Through this page I’ve also created Sunday Scalies, a monthly live session hosted on my Instagram page where I connect with other hygienists to provide support and discuss burnout, mental health, and other topics. I strive to remain open and honest about my experiences to support others who may be going through similar experiences.
I started my dental hygiene career in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. I had struggled with mental health issues and was seeking treatment, but I really struggled during the pandemic. My graduation was delayed, and there weren’t many clear answers on what things would look like moving forward.
I failed my clinical board exam, which resulted in losing my provisional license. Patient-based exams were few and far between in Pennsylvania, and patient compliance was even more limited. I wasn’t sure if I would ever become a dental hygienist. But through a lot of perseverance, I passed my second clinical exam and began working full time.
You might also want to read: 10 ways for hygienists to avoid burnout
I was surprised at what happened next
I thought everything would fall into place. I thought I would feel happy and fulfilled because I finally had everything I had dreamed of. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I struggled to find my footing. I lacked confidence when treating and educating patients. I struggled getting into my routine and finding my process of care.
I was constantly comparing myself to the hygienist I worked alongside, who had 23 years of experience. I quickly became overwhelmed with my rapidly growing schedule and patient base. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so much anxiety and dread over something that I’d worked so hard to achieve and wanted so badly. I didn’t understand my emotions. I had a large support system between family and friends, but I was still feeling isolated.
I turned to social media to tell my story and share my emotions, thoughts, and experiences. As scared as I was, I knew there were others out there who felt the same or had similar experiences. I was craving a sense of community. I wanted to connect with others and provide support and encouragement. Thus, my idea for Sunday Scalies. Openly sharing my experiences has really changed the trajectory of my career. Recovering from my burnout is still a work in progress, but Sunday Scalies, speaking my truth, and writing have been helpful in the process.
Don't be afraid to reach out
For hygienists who have had similar experiences, don’t hesitate to reach out and seek community and support. Recent grads, educate yourselves. Make yourself aware of what you might experience as a health-care provider. Start early with preventive measures; I know I wish I’d done this. I learned that awareness is extremely important.
Seek community and support and find a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, voice your concerns, and share your thoughts and apprehensions. Know that you’re not alone and there are others with similar experiences. It’s OK to talk about your failures or struggles, and it does not have to be a shameful experience.
My social media page and Sunday Scalies can provide support, encouragement, community, and a safe space. Feel free to reach out anytime, privately or publicly. While dental hygiene may feel overwhelming at times, overall, it’s a very rewarding career full of supportive, helpful, and encouraging individuals. Keep pushing forward and remember, take it one day at a time.