Editor’s note: Written by: Clint Kendall, FACHE, MBA, MSN, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. He started his career as a nurse, and that perspective still informs his work and passion for the patient experience. Clint holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Nursing, and Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Carolina University. Clint has also earned the Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) certification, and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).
I sometimes wonder if there is anyone who dwells in our community, state, country, or even on the globe whose doesn’t experience some level of stress. If any of you readers count yourselves among this perpetually relaxed group, I want to know your secret.
Stress is an unfortunate visitor to most all of us inhabiting this modern world, but each of us reacts to it very differently. Some of us are able to develop coping mechanisms that elicit a barely-there reaction, while others exhibit many obvious signs of stress, whether that’s not being on the top of our game because we didn’t sleep, or relying on junk food or too much alcohol to manage it.
No matter how a person deals with the stresses in their lives, there’s no question that it impacts their overall wellness in many ways. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, it seems like an appropriate time to think about this reality in all of our lives and how stress affects us.
It’s important to understand also that not all stress is created equal, either. An occasional urgent work deadline is quite different than moving to a new house or losing a loved one. The smaller stresses that come intermittently are easier to bounce back from, but the major stresses that are associated with significant life changes or sustained levels of high stress related to work, for example, are the ones that wear us down.
It’s critical when thinking about your own stress to identify how you react to and cope with stress, as well as what in particular triggers your stress response. The sources of stress run the gamut, from traumatic events of the past and health issues to financial challenges, and more. There are also larger pillar areas of your life that can present stresses that lower your quality of life and damage your health. These include having access to healthy food, feeling safe where you live, whether your home is free of toxins that cause illness, if you have the ability to connect easily with friends, family, and neighbors, and whether you can easily access healthcare and education. We call these the social determinants of health.
Every one of these challenges can create a stress reaction in us, but as I mentioned before, if a person lives with any of these or a combination of them for a sustained period of time, health problems can arise. These include sleeplessness, digestive problems, mental health problems, elevated blood pressure, and headaches, to name a few. If we react to stress in unhealthy ways, like smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, or eating unhealthily, these habits can cause weight gain and damage our livers and lungs (drinking and smoking, respectively). These lifestyle habits also put you at higher risk for serious health problems like heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
With regard to your mental health, stress often increases depression and anxiety. Isolation, like what we’ve experienced over the past two years with the pandemic, has worsened things as well.
Make an effort to become more aware of the role stress plays in your life, talk to your primary care physician about it, and learn about ways to mitigate it. These include everything from eating a healthy diet and getting enough high-quality sleep, to carving out time with a friend or adopting a mindfulness practice like meditation.
On a separate note, I’d also like to give a shout out to our wonderful Angel Medical Center volunteers. They bless the hospital with their presence and work, and help our staff and patients so much. COVID put a stop, unfortunately, to our volunteer visits for a good long time, but we’ve welcomed them back now, and they were ready to serve the minute we asked. We appreciate everything our volunteers do to improve Angel and the community, and we’re all thankful for their dedication and time.
Finally, congratulations to our team members who received the Colleague of the Year award for their stellar service to our patients, and for always going the extra mile at AMC. Our clinical winner is ER administrative supervisor Cara Smith, BS, RN, CEN, and the non-clinical team member recognized is Bridgette Houston, of our Environmental Services department. It is individuals like these who make our hospital special, and whose energies coalesce so we can provide you with unmatched care.