Resident & Student Wellness

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Stress Management

Medical training and practice are high demand, stressful positions that put medical students, residents, fellows, graduate students, faculty, and staff under significant stress.  Stress can be defined as demands placed on an individual by the environment.  Although stress itself is not bad or negative, excessive stress or feeling that one's resources are overly taxed by environmental stressors can lead to the experience of "stress," anxiety, burnout, and negative health consequences. Below, please find multiple strategies to help manage stress.

Relaxation Strategies

Stress can affect people physically both on a chronic or acute level.  Acutely, stress can activate a physical response often referred to as the fight or flight response, which is the body's alarm and readiness system.  When this occurs, one's hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to release a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, prompting:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Blood flow away from extremities
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Tunnel vision
  • Shaking.

Although this response is adaptive for short-term responses to stress (i.e., if one were about to be hit by a car this response would activate an individual to run), it can be maladaptive when this response becomes dysregulated or fires to often.

Health Consequences Associated with Stress

Several health consequences are related to excessive stress including:

  • Suppression of immune function
  • Heart disease
  • Psychological disorders (i.e., depression, anxiety)
  • Obesity
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive concerns

Strategies to Cope with Stress

Multiple strategies exist to help cope with stress including relaxation strategies, assertiveness, and prioritization.

Relaxation Strategies

Relaxation strategies allow individuals to gain a greater sense of control over their physiological arousal by evoking a parasympathetic (or calming) response in the body.  There are many different strategies one can use for relaxation, ranging from short-term breathing exercises to more involved imagery exercises.  Please see the links below for downloadable relaxation Podcasts.

2013 WAC Yoga Class Schedule

Prioritization and Assertiveness

Stress is often times challenging due to having too many obligations to effectively accommodate one's resources.  As such, when an individual feels that his or her resources are being overly taxed, one will experience more stress.  In order to cope with this, we can engage in prioritization, which is when we "kill the close snake first" and assertiveness, which is when we learn to say no in situations where we can say no.  Please see the links below for specific information on prioritization and assertiveness.

  • Prioritization
  • Assertiveness:  Self advocacy and prioritization in which an individual asserts his or her needs to increase the likelihood of reaching goal, but also to increase sense of self-efficacy for asserting needs. Assertiveness is not aggressive communication.
    • Passive communication:  Not specifically or directly expressing one's needs.  This leaves the person using this style feeling "you matter, I don't" in interpersonal situations.
      • Example situation (role play) between resident and medical student
      • Example situation (role play) between medical students
    • Aggressive communication:  Communicating in a manner to have your needs met at the cost of someone else's needs.  This leaves the person using this style feeling "I matter, you don't" in interpersonal situations.
      • Example situation (role play) between resident and medical student
      • Example situation (role play) between medical students
    • Assertive communication:  Communicating your needs in a mutually respectful and understanding manner.  This leaves th person using this style feeling "I matter and you matter" in interpersonal situations
      • Example situation (role play) between resident and medical student
      • Example situation (role play) between medical students

 

  

For individuals under high stress situations, stress can create psychological concerns such as anxiety or mood disorders.  Should you experience the following signs, it may be beneficial to meet with a psychological health professional for consultation and/or treatment.

  • Sleep problems (i.e., difficulty going to sleep, waking up too early, multiple middle of the night awakenings) lasting more than 2 weeks
  • Difficulty controlling stress or anxiety
  • Difficulty getting work done
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Isolation
  • Decreased interest in joyful activities

 

Resident & Student
Mental Health Program

Welcome to the Wellness Site! We hope you find these resources helpful. 

Clinical Director of Resident and Student Mental Health Program: 

Heidi F. Christianson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Resident Student and Mental Health Program
1155 N. Mayfair Road
Tosa Center, 3rd Floor

Clinic Hours
Monday - Friday
8:00am - 4:30pm
** Scheduled appointments outside of normal business hours are also available.

General Contact Information
General: (414) 955-8950
Intake: (414) 955-8933

Emergency Contact Information
During Business Hours
(414) 955-8933
After Business Hours
(414) 805-6700

webmaster@mcw.edu
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 08/22/2013