Stress Relief

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I always considered myself a naive person in many ways.

From my overprotective family, who had serious worries about my crossing the street without someone holding my hand even when pushing forty, I moved, through several exotic domiciles, into a marriage where my husband would never dream of permitting me to cross a street without holding my hand. Read more on You Think YOU Got Stress?…

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I started researching workplace stress more feverishly and with fewer records of sources than usual for me, as the patient was — and still is — me.

I have practiced in every setting I can imagine a psychiatrist being in — public and private, government (from federal to county) solo and institutional, whatever.

But now I have more physical and emotional fatigue.  More struggle getting my work done in the timely manner I expect from myself.  More need for (albeit, sounder) sleep.  And more “Sunday Night-it is” — for who has not complained about job stress? Read more on Sunday Night-itis — AKA Job Stress…

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It was not the first time I had spoken with this attractive, fifty-ish woman.  The first time this co-worker had come into my office at the clinic where we both worked “to say hello.”  She occasionally stopped by to report to me one of her great successes with a patient.  Often she would also tell me how wonderful I was.  But this time, her pleasant visit ended with a real break-down, reducing this lady to teary exclamations about how horrible her job was.  The tears and complaints spilled out so fast that she soon was complaining about how rotten her entire life was.

burnoutI knew this person was a cracker-jack therapist — one of the best I had known, ever.  Until then, I didn’t know she was also miserable, with the worst and loneliest professional life I had heard of in a while — divorce and abandonment from men who sounded as if they had not been as resourceful and energetic and smart as she was.

It was a clear – and severe – case of professional burnout.  Of course, that’s not a real psychiatric diagnosis. She may have needed something for depression or anxiety or both, but there was no way — none at all — I would ever consider thinking in those terms about a coworker, no matter how much I liked her. Read more on Burning Out On The Job…

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I always start a session with a patient by asking what is going on with them.  I expect something about how he or she feels that moment, sitting in my office.  I almost never get that. In a typical work day, a simple “Hello, how are you doing?” has been met with such things as:

“I don’t think I am ever going to get better.”

“I still can’t get over what my mother has been doing.”

“I am going to end up on the streets.”

These statements are filled with emotional intensity concerning the past and/or future. Worries about the future. Obsessions about the past. The fastest, easiest, and most effective ways to deal with this kind of emotion are to focus on the moment that you are living in.  Then, it suddenly becomes possible to process logically in your head what is going on. So people who claim they are happy or relieved to see me are actually very distressed when they do not have to be.

rodney_dangerfield

Rodney Dangerfield — His act was all about his stressful life.

The notion of living in the “here and now” is a very powerful notion that can help even “normal” people to get through life with considerably less distress. A complete “living in the here and now” is impossible by definition. After all, we are who we are because of our pasts.  If we do not take control of the planning for our future, we are doomed to be controlled by forces outside ourselves.  Good, if we are lucky enough to focus on the positive stuff.  Bad, if the negative thoughts and agendas around us take charge of things. Read more on How To Get To The Here-And-Now…

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