Stress? What Stress? I earned this Ulcer.

04/03/2009 at 5:56 AM Leave a comment

In everyone’s life stress will enter. There are very few exceptions IMHO. The few people that come in genuinely serene and unmarked by stress don’t appear to have dogged it, but have in some way transcended the stress. I don’t mean that they just toughed it out, anyone can do that, I mean that they allow it to flow over and around them and not let it effect them.

I used to be one of those. It seems so long ago now. I had obtained a piece of serenity about the events swirling about me and life was good.

But either life got harder ( good possibility) or I got weaker ( another good possibility) or simply things changed. From personal and professional observation it seems that our capacity to deal with stress changes with age. In our youth we seem capable of dealing with the most awful of stressful situations but as we go along that ability seems to diminish. I had thought that with effort, training, insight, creativity and mentoring that we could learn to deflect the stress. (Be like the blade of grass that does not fear the hurricane, not like the tall strong tree that is upturned by the strong wind). 

However, it now feels that the ability and resistance to stress is just like many of our other capabilities, limited, and age dependent. I talked to one of my patients that is my age and has similar type of job and we concluded that one (if not the main ) problem is that as we get older we do not tolerate the stupid things as much. (We get poorer at suffering fools well). And life is full of foolish things and people.

I do worry about different things now, and I find it curious how life works. The things that worried me twenty years ago are no longer important to me, the things that did not matter then seem to fill me with concern.

Like most doctors I used to worry about being falsely accused of malpractice, now that is not a primary concern anymore (not to say it would not aggravate me if it happened, but I don’t spend much time worrying about it).  Back then, the rate of NO Shows ( patients with appointments that did not cancel at least 1 hour ahead) did not affect me much. It is one of the major problems with long waits at offices. Today I spend an inordinate amount of time frustrated by it. Had a patient called and cancelled we could have seen another sick patient. It would be a win, win, win. Yet despite much effort we remain at 3% NO Show rate. ( apparently the national average).

And this serenity thing seems to be a moving target. We get older and develop health concerns (even if minor) that we did not have before. Our relatives get older and pass or get much more debilitated. Our endurance wanes, the mind still commands but the body does not respond.  It would be so easy to allow self-pity and constant chronic irritation to rule the day. And I see lots of patients that have chosen that path. Yet there is another choice. The choice less often taken (apologies to the poet) which is an acceptance of life the way it is, a joy of the life that is offered. Generally these are people that continue to be involved in the world and don’t isolate themselves. I am grateful that my job exposes me to some of those people on a daily basis. They may not know it but they are my mentors, my role models and my thanks go to all of them.


Entry filed under: Doctor Musings.

Did you mean tylenol or aspirin? Second opinion anyone?

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