Being Human Involves Coping with Stress

Being Human

Jim Kendall, LCSW, CEAP

We all deal with stress on a daily basis. Stress can be both positive (eustress) and negative.  It often signals that there are challenges or changes in life. That stress may be focused on finances, family, health, our professions, and other aspects of our lives. Generally, the amount of stress is not so much the issue, but rather how well we can cope with the stress. 

We never know what someone is going through emotionally, even though they may look so composed on the outside.

We are all human: Your boss may be dealing with a child who is struggling with depression; your pharmacist may have just been diagnosed with breast cancer; your neighbor may be having difficulties finding a way to pay rent; your colleague's daughter may be planning a wedding; or you may be about to launch your grown child, leaving you an empty nester.

We often perceive that those around us are handling things so much better than we are.  Yet, they may be experiencing similar insecurities or challenges of confidence. Among college students, this is called the Stanford Duck Syndrome. It is a phenomenon where people are struggling to survive the pressures of a competitive environment, while trying to present the image of a relaxed, calm duck gliding across a fountain. Under the water's surface, and out of sight, that duck's feet are working hard to keep the duck afloat.

The same is often true for ambitious individuals in the workplace. We don't discuss our anxiety riddled expectations, our imposter syndrome, our struggle to appear competent among our peers. Social media may also add to feelings of inadequacy as we tend to compare our lives to the carefully curated posts we see.

It is important to accept that as humans navigating today's complex world, we may be imperfect.  We may have difficulty coping with obstacles facing us.  Afford yourself grace and space to be "good enough". If you are dealing with stressors in life that are impacting your ability to cope, it may be a very difficult time for you. For some additional psychological support, VUMC faculty and staff can call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 615-936-1327 to make a free, confidential appointment with one of our counselors.

Additional Material

Stress Resilience

I am Human: Transforming the Culture of Medicine   (produced by Stanford Medicine WellMD & WellPhD)