Decompression of Stress

As an ER physician, I have become very good at concealing my personal emotions. After all, no one wants to hear their doctor’s emotions, especially during a time of crisis. I suspect most of you have become good at this too. Perhaps, you work in an environment where your emotions are unwelcome. We are taught from a very young age to “keep it down,” “keep quiet,” “keep our opinions to ourselves.” For the majority of us, we have become quite good at this.

I was recently watching a documentary on Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers was highly motivated to get children to learn to express their emotions in an effective way. As a child development expert, he understood that far too often children are asked to repress emotions. We all know, however, that emotions can never fully be repressed and often emerge in unhealthy ways. It was for this reason, that Mr. Rogers worked so hard to get children to express themselves in healthy, positive ways.

It’s interesting to me that we lose the ability to do this, as adults. We don’t have effective outlets for our emotions. It’s been hypothesized that this is why Saturday mornings are the most common time period for heart attacks. The work week is stressful, but our adrenaline represses things and we carry on. Then, come Saturday morning it’s time to unwind. We often experience a flooding of emotions. Recognizing our dissatisfaction with our current state, we then become depressed, anxious and many record feeling an even greater sense of stress than during the week itself.

For many I know, they live for the weekend often trying to finally live over the weekend. Reclaim your life, your family, your hobbies and your peace. Easier said than done though. If you have a high stressed lifestyle, which over 70% claim to have, it has to decompress at some point. When? Saturday morning, it all pours out.

What’s the answer? This isn’t easy. For 75% of families, both parents work, families are often cared for by public schools, after-school programs, and daycare. Our housecleaning and upkeep is deferred or tasked out to someone else. We don’t have control of our lives. For 70% of us, we don’t even like the jobs we have that pay for the things we enjoy. It’s vicious spiral…which is at the center of our health problems.

For most of us, financial freedom is not on the horizon. In fact, the majority of us don’t have enough for retirement, when we get to retirement. Part of the problem is that we all consume material things, expensive vacations, and toys to try and distract ourselves from our miserable jobs. When we do this, we dig ourselves deeper into financial problems, lessening our financial health and pulling on our physical health to make it better.

Here are my recommendations for decompression of stress:

  • Pick a job you love in a place you want to live. Never pick a job that pays well at the cost to your personal well-being. Take a lower pay for better wellness. Pick a company that gets wellness, rather than a company that competes on price alone.
  • Have fun regularly. Fun is one of the best ways to decompress stress. All too often, we defer fun for “fun time” rather than engaging in it regularly. Spontaneity helps with this. Each day, there will be opportunities to stop for a treat, take a walk, pick-up fresh flowers, listen to nature, surprise someone you love. It doesn’t have to be big, we win in small ways here.
  • Work towards financial independence. The sooner you get this, the happier you will be. You can then choose to do things you want with money you actually have.
  • Listen and express empathy. Our fears and concerns often dissolve away when we put others over ourselves. The next time you feel anxious and stressed out, go out of your way to help someone else, a family member, neighbor or friend. You will find that in serving others, you feel less stressed. Life isn’t just about you. Self-focus leads to stress.
  • Practice daily meditation. Each day, practice breathing exercises, even if only for 5-10 minutes. It makes a hug difference in your day, reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and lessens your chances for anxiety and depression.
  • Listen to your heart. All too often, we fixate on the right thing to do. We worry about what others will think. Every day, take an opportunity to be silly, dance in public, wear a new outfit or hairstyle, say something kind, off-the-wall and bonkers.

2 Comments

  1. Wendy Heath on November 9, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    We’re working towards financial independence via Dave Ramsey. 🙂

    Spontaneity is key!! Makes such a HUGE difference.

    • Jeremy Stueven, MD on November 10, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      Awesome Wendy! It does make a huge difference. Thanks for sharing your hard work. Dave Ramsey is great. Such a positive leader for financial independence. Keep up the great work!

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