Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits are due to stress related issues?
I did not know this figure was so high, but according to the American Institute of Stress, these findings are not surprising.
In medicine, we are not taught how to prevent the consequences of stress which becomes illness. We are taught how to put together symptoms, diagnose, prescribe, and become excellent technicians during surgical training.
However, other essential skills tend not to have as much emphasis during our training.
How to speak to a human, how to have compassion, how to look people in the eyes and be present, how to acknowledge trauma, how to understand how chronic factors such as racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, erodes our soul and causes real disease. Our history taking includes knowledge of current medications, smoking status, occupation, to name a few, but we neglect to ask, acknowledge and address how the above situations impact overall health and illness.
In medicine, we tend to focus on the symptoms. The fallout. The end (and devastating results) of stress. We put band aids, trying to plug up the holes on the dam, hoping they will hold long enough, until they can’t. Our body and health collapses and that is when we seek care. We do not prioritize taking time to slow down, but we are then forced to slow down when we feel the effects of migraines, gastritis, fibromyalgia, or heart attacks.
I should know. I have personally experienced the painful and physical manifestations of stress and the end result: burnout (twice).
Burnout is not just for those in the so-called “healthcare” space. This affects all of us. Teachers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, blue collar workers- all of us. No one is immune by age or economic standing.
We just think this is a “normal” part of life. How could we not be stressed? What choice do I have? How can I not worry? Well, worry is praying for what you don’t want. So, you can choose to worry and suffer from the thoughts you continue to focus on, or you can choose to pray for what you actually want to happen.
Even more effectively, you can step back and acknowledge all the things you can be grateful for in the situation you are in. There is always something we can be grateful for.
I should know. I have personally experienced the painful and physical manifestations of stress and the end result: burnout (twice). - a physician shares. Click To Tweet
You have a choice.
We are taught we do not. That things just “happen to us.” That we are stressed, mad, or sad because someone said something or “hurt our feelings.” No one has power over your internal state: only you do. That is the true sense of freedom and joy to realize you don’t have to be like the plastic bag floating on the air with the wind, falling and tumbling around due to the power of the wind or the external circumstances.
You can stand strong in the middle of the storm because your internal emotional state can radiate joy, peace, and happiness even when the wind is blowing. Have you ever been in a windstorm before? What did you think about it? How inconvenient and annoying was it? Or perhaps how wonderful that there is wind so it can carry all the pollen and seeds to help beautiful plants and flowers bloom in the spring? They are both “truths” and stories you can tell yourself, but how did you feel when you thought about the inconvenience and annoyance of the wind? Did you feel buoyant, light, or free? Probably not. Your jaw was probably clenching, and you were squinting your eyes in annoyance. But if instead you thought about the plants and flowers that would bloom in the future, you likely felt warm, happy, and even a slight smile came to your face when you could imagine the beautiful colors of the flower blooming in the spring.
So, understand that all the worry, all the stress will affect your mood, your outlook and with chronic release of all daily stress hormones it will lead to disease. Do you like headaches, reflux, abdominal pain, decreased immunity, pelvic pain, or heart attacks? It seems like you may because that is where the road is leading if you don’t change your internal worry and stress. You may not be paying attention, but your body is. The “issues are in the tissues” as Kurtis Lee Thomas says. All your emotional states will stay in your tissues and cells.
understand that all the worry, all the stress will affect your mood, your outlook and with chronic release of all daily stress hormones it will lead to disease. Click To Tweet
If you don’t believe me, try to remember when you are stressed how your neck and back tenses and you need a massage.
Or how when you have been under a lot of stress, you tend to be ill and can’t shake off that pesky cold or sinus infection.
However, when you feel grateful, you feel excited, you feel love and appreciation, how is your energy? You likely can connect to others in a better way and feel the shared experience of humanity with others. If you feel love for others, you will understand we all are trying our best with the capabilities we have. If you feel judgement or frustration, you will feel dismissive and begin to believe you are “better” than the other person. Your ego will come and erode the bond of basic humanity between you.
So, learn to push the pause button in the fast paced and hectic world we live in. Take time to breathe consciously, to appreciate all the gifts this world has given us, to practice feeling compassion and love for others. The cascade of stress hormones, fear, anger, and frustration will melt and will leave you standing strong in your true essence: love, joy and compassion. Try it.