Monthly Archives: March 2017

Our Stories: Spring has Sprung

How are you? This is a simple question that we get asked probably every day, maybe multiple times per day. There are number of potential answers, but recently I have noticed that a significant number of people respond with “busy,” “tired,” “drained,” or “stressed.”

Stress, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad, but too much stress can result in physical and emotional symptoms and ultimately to health problems. Stress can result from things that we perceive as negative or as positive. Illness, death of a friend or loved one, divorce, loss of job, and financial difficulties can clearly result in an increase in stress in one’s life. We sometimes forget that those positive and wonderful things like marriage, the birth of a child, buying a new home, graduating a child, or even opening a brand-new spectacular children’s hospital can cause stress. I have commonly said that when life is stressful at work I can handle it, and when life is stressful at home I can handle it. It is when life is stressful at both, that I find myself struggling. We sometimes forget that the people we are working with have struggles outside of their day-to-day job. Taking a moment to recognize the good work of a coworker colleague can have positive benefits for both of you.

We have had many discussions about how busy we are today. Our census has been high for so long that now we believe that this is probably our new normal. We have had The Joint Commission in to visit which has resulted in the need to change some of her practices. And though extremely exciting and wonderful, the planning for and opening of the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital was stressful as well. These are all things that can happen when you have a great hospital, when they happen together in time, it can create a stressful environment.

Last week we had a taste of spring, and after a long (though relatively mild for Iowa) winter, spring is in sight. Spring is a new beginning, so it so appropriate that at this time of the year we do what we can to leave the stress behind and look to the future by being resilient. Resilience is not about how strong we are but is about how we see and react to challenges, setbacks, and stressors. We need to take action to control stress and not allow it to control us. There are a number of things we can do to make this so. First and foremost, we need to recognize the triggers of stress in our lives and address them head-on. As we work hard every day, it is very important that we take time to rest. This restful time can be spent doing things we enjoy alone or with family and friends, and reflecting on all the good things that we have. Perhaps you have plans for spring break. Use this time, whether you are traveling or not, to refocus and refresh. Having a positive attitude and seeing things (even with they appear to be negative) in a positive light can impact how we successfully deal with stress. Use this positive attitude to deal with the things that we cannot change but also to focus our efforts on embracing things that we can. Concentrating on all of the good things that you do here each and every day, can help to fill your tank when you are feeling drained. The physical effects of poor diet, lack of exercise, and poor sleep, will compound the effects of stress. Eat a healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity to counteract the stress. Most Americans do not get the necessary sleep to allow our brain and bodies to recover. Taking the time to get adequate sleep will reap benefits by allowing us to be more productive when awake.

Sometimes we may need more to counteract the effects of stress. Having someone who will listen to you and help you to positively face the stress in your life can be very productive. I don’t know what I would do without those who are my friends, my confidants, and sometimes my conscious. There are many programs to help promote wellness and counteract stress available here at the University of Iowa, including but not limited to mindfulness training and the Employee Assistance Program. Use the people around you and the resources available to you to get back on track.

Spring is just around the corner. It is a great time to renew and refresh. Take care of yourselves and have a wonderful spring!!

—Theresa Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer