stress

Stress: Benefits and Dangers

I consider myself a lucky man. I enjoy a great career as a physician with a wonderful staff and great patients. I am usually treated with deference and respect. At times I feel stressed, and it is real. Taking care of very sick patients in my office or hospital and trying to stay on time are just two of the real generators of stress in my life. I have, however, come to the conclusion that a little bit of stress has its benefits; it reminds us that we are alive and not leading a monotone life with little to no excitement or adventure. I believe we all need a jolt of adrenaline floating through our veins.

Today I had an encounter with a new patient and I listened to the job stress he endured in the past decade that I wonder how he survived. He told me that he was a banker for a large national bank and he was in charge of cleaning up the bank’s mess during the 2007-2010 mortgage crisis. I cannot imagine how he was able to go to work every day only to listen to the calls and messages from angry mortgage holders whose financial lives were on the brink of disaster, to opening the door to his office and know it would be very unlikely he could satisfy a single customer. Eventually the crisis simmered down and he retired doing whatever anyone who endured his ordeal would do; he moved to Montana. It took at least two years for him to recover before he moved back home.

My studies of stress and the resulting inflammatory response reveal that he was at extreme risk for both acute and long-term effects on his cardiovascular, immune and central nervous systems. He is truly a lucky man to have weathered the storm of stress. Eventually he had to move on and end his career prematurely. What a disappointment!

What are the take-home lessons in this blog?

We all encounter stress every day; some is just living a real and authentic life full of ups and downs that reminds us that we are human. Others are exposed to such high pressure and stress, they have to pay an emotional and physical price. My patient who worked in the mortgage department of his bank made a very wise choice in managing his stress risk. He chose the route of avoiding imminent risk to preserve his mental and physical health, and it paid off for him.

Other than just running away, how can we all learn to weather the storm?

Tune in to my next blog on strategies to manage stress.

To a Long and Healthy Life,
Dr. Bernstein