Helping patients, and ourselves, cope with stress

by Dee Henderson, MSN, RN-BC on May 16, 2012 · 2 comments

in mental illness,stress


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The Menninger Clinic family of staff and patients recently experienced one of life’s stressful events: moving.

Even though we all love our wonderful new facility, the process of preparing for the move, making the move and settling in have created stress that is challenging for us all. During Mental Health Awareness Month, one of the areas of focus for the month is stress and how it affects health.

When under pressure, we all experience similar feelings, such as fatigue, irritability and a decreased ability to cope. We may experience headaches, stomachaches or other physical manifestations of tension. However, there is a difference between common stress and abnormal stress. With common stress, the symptoms are temporary, and emotional and physical equilibrium are re-established once the stressful stimulus is over or has significantly lessened. When the symptoms of reaction to stress persist and compromise functioning, it can indicate mental illness.

Sometimes a simple change such as deep breathing, taking a walk, talking with a friend or having a cup of tea can help relieve some of the feelings generated as a reaction to stress. As clinicians, we need to appreciate that we may experience the effects of the strains of everyday life and that simple techniques may be adequate to help us get through periods of difficulty.

Yet our patients come to us with emotional challenges that make them more susceptible to the negative symptoms of the pressures they face, and their response to stressors may evoke maladaptive behaviors. It is our task to do more than provide support and care to help them get through short-term stresses like moving. We must teach coping skills that will help them not only survive stress but prevail over its often deleterious and pervasive effects on their lives and their health.

Be Sociable, Share!