Doing things we have to do - a thought for caregivers and anyone else who wants a happier life

I went to the dentist for a check-up this week, and it’s one of the things I really don’t like doing. I dislike the sensations, the lack of control, the mild discomfort of keeping my mouth open. My dentist is lovely, and the surgery has TV monitors on the ceiling playing Blue Planet to give patients something pleasant to focus on when they have their eyes open. For me, it still falls very short of being a enjoyable experience.

The stereotypical female dread is the cervical screening test. Going to the dentist is worse for many reasons:

· A dental check-up takes longer

· A dental check-up costs more

· You can keep talking throughout the cervical screening

· Screenings are recommended less frequently than dental check-ups

· The dentist is more likely to tell you they’ll need to do more poking around in the near future

Strategies for doing the things we have to do However much I dislike going to the dentist, it had to be done. I am all in favour of delegating or outsourcing where possible and of setting the boundaries of what you are comfortable doing when there are other options. The dentist is one of the things you really need to do for yourself. I have a few strategies for when I’m going the things I’d rather not be doing:

Strategy one – get it out of the way The main message in Brian Tracey’s book “Eat that frog” is that if you have something important but unenjoyable to do (in his analogy this is eating a frog), the best thing way to handle it is to get it done and out of the way – so off I went to the dentist at 9:30 on Monday morning.

Strategy two – think positively about it Have you ever been the driver stuck in traffic, with a passenger talking about how bad the traffic is? It only serves to make the situation worse, and yet we can do that to ourselves all the time. With the dentist it’s easy to fall into thoughts about how unpleasant it’s going to be, and what if there’s something that needs treatment etc etc. So I try to say positive things about it – to myself and others: “once it’s done it’s done”, “it’s better to nip any problems in the bud”, “it’s only a few minutes”.

Strategy three – reward This is the one where I channel my inner child and promise myself a reward when the thing is done. An episode of a favourite TV show when the cleaning is done. A walk listening to my audiobook when a particular piece of work is done. And in this case a nice coffee on the way home from the dentist.

What are your strategies to help with the things that you just have to? Let me know by emailing me at with the subject line “Dentist”

When my in-laws started to need care, I knew how to look after both them and myself – because I’d got it so wrong in the past, when my other half was signed off work with stress and my life was turned upside down too. These blog posts are mostly based on the things that helped me, the lessons I learnt the hard way and what I realise with the benefit of hindsight would have helped. I’ve collected some of the other key learning points and tips and made these available to download at

27 views0 comments