Breaking the Cycle of Stress

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By Mary Shinn

Chronic stress can steal joy found in a job well done and make work environments intolerable. Stress in dialysis clinics have multiple sources including difficult patients, unexpected staffing shortages, work overload and unpleasant team dynamics. Managing stress properly can help foster efficiency and a rewarding work experience.

Amit Sood, MD, the director of research and practice in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic, developed a program to fight chronic stress, incorporating concepts from neuroscience, psychology, philosophy and spirituality.

“Stress is our body and mind at war with itself and the rest of the world,” Sood said. “When a country is at war it cannot take care of its citizens very well. That is what stress does to us. It depletes resources. It impedes your ability to focus, impacts your creativity, judgment and decision making abilities.”

Stress can also make you physically older, hurt your relationships and make you more susceptible to infections, Sood said.

“There are three aspects in an experience that make an event stressful versus enjoyable,” Sood said.

The first is demand-resource imbalance, when you must do more with less.  The second is lack of control. Health care professionals may perceive many new regulations affecting their practice as impeding on their control, he said.

Finally, inability to find meaning in work can be stressful. Health care workers may feel their efforts have been wasted if a patient passes away, he said.

To break the cycle of stress Sood suggests two broad approaches: problem focused and emotion focused. The following are some of the emotion focused approaches:

  • Instead of focusing on what is not working in life, focus on what is working,
  • Cultivate kindness by developing compassion for yourself and others,
  • Learn to control the controllable and develop acceptance for what is out of your control and,
  • Find your purpose. How are you making this world a better place and what you can do in the future?
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