Stress Stacking

Stress Stacking

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems minor things set you off?
At times what would otherwise be a blip in our day turns into a tremendous obstacle.
What if the problem is not the problem? What if the real problem is the accumulation of the stress that we have experienced over the days, weeks, and months working in healthcare?

The accumulation of stress is known as stress stacking.

This week I had a meltdown because our clinic ran out of paper towels.
Thank goodness it was in internal meltdown.
This “meltdown” caused me to do some inner reflection to identify the cause of a benign obstacle turning into such an adverse reaction.
With consideration, I was able to diagnose the cause of the internal meltdown.
I had been stress-stacking.
I had several complex patients that I was highly concerned about.
When I searched for a paper towel to dry my hands, the impact of all of the day’s accumulated stress hit me at once.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We deal with stress daily.
It is part of the job.
Unfortunately, it is what we signed up for, whether we knew it or not.
We need to be aware of the long-term effects of stress.
Chronic stress has an accumulative impact leading to the stress stacking situation.
This type of stress has many well-documented adverse effects on our mental and physical health due to elevated cortisone levels, which leads to decreased brain function, a less effective immune system, weight gain, depression, and anxiety.

The good news is we don’t have to give in to stress, letting it accumulate, fester, rule our lives, and dictate our outcomes. With the implementation of interventions and tools, we can mitigate the effects of our prolonged exposure to chronic stress.

The first step to breaking the stress stacking cycle is to become aware of what is happening.
Awareness helps reprogram our brains; awareness is a prerequisite to changing our default reaction and move us in an intentional direction.

Once we become aware of our stacking stress, we can implement strategies to combat its effects.
The first of the tool is simple and can be done anywhere at any time.
Just breathe.
We always have time to take a deep breath, in between patients, before responding to a coworker.
Even when running a code, there is always time to take a deep breath.
A deep breath is a reset button and can clear the stress.

Taking a bathroom break in which we can collect our thought and take 2 min to take several deep breaths and take care of personal needs will clear stress.

When possible, take a 5 min decompression break to step outside or look out a window is an excellent stress stacking clearing method.

It is tempting not to take a break or use your lunch to catch up on work.
Taking a lunch break to replenish and refuel will help to clear the accumulated stress.
We are human and need to take care of our human needs to perform at our best. Don’t skip this step.

When done with intention, these simple steps can have a significant impact on our overall well-being.

Thoroughly clearing the stress and reset the accumulated stacking needs also to include an off-duty routine.
We are all different, only you what recharge and refresh you.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
What matters is that we take the time to do it.
I reset and restore with some physical activity and spending time with my family.
For others, it might be mediation, reading a book, getting a massage, cooking, or some creative outlet.
The important thing is to be intentional and consistent with a stress-clearing routine.

Please don’t underestimate the destructive power of chronically elevated cortisol levels that come from stress stacking.
Take the time to take care of yourself, whether in the moment or in your off time.
Clearing the stacked stress is a game-changer. Remember, nothing changes if nothing changes.

My Name is Monica Myers. I am a PA-C and an Advanced Certified Life Coach. If you’d like help with your work-induced stress I can help.
I teach Healthcare Professionals to defeat burnout and restore balance.
DM or email me.

Check out my website

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