Is It Stress?
This summer has been very, very busy in my neck of the woods. Many weekends away have resulted in more things needing to get done in less time at home. We lost two major trees in two thunderstorms (so far), and with refinancing the house, re-roofing part of the house, planting trees, buying a new (used) car, family celebrations as well as planning upcoming vacations, I have been busier than usual. I started working out a few mornings a week, which cut down on my sleep time a little bit, but I'm still getting about seven hours every night. I finish all my work responsibilities on time, as well as taking on some new projects, but each day feels a little rushed.
Last week while I was doing my hair, I felt a little more of my scalp than normal. A bald spot. I rushed downstairs and insisted my husband look at it, and sure enough, there was a spot of hair missing behind my ear, about one inch in diameter. There is a history of alopecia in my family and I immediately thought of the worst -- that I would lose my hair.
Maybe it's too soon to be writing about this, but here I am. I'm surprised and scared by my little spot, and for the first time in a while feel a little out of control. I made an appointment with my physician assistant, who took some blood tests for my iron and thyroid, among other things. Everything came back normal. So what could possibly be causing my hair loss, if all the tests are normal? Stress, she said. I corrected her. I'm not stressed, I'm busy. But maybe she's right.
I think about a few patients I had as a student who presented with neck pain and worked 50 to 60-plus hours every week. Although I did not think of it at the time, I now understand and empathize with how stress may have been more important than I realized. I blogged earlier this summer about screening for depression and now I'm appreciating the importance of asking our patients about stress. I now have a list of resources for my patients about managing stress and their benefits for counseling, if needed.
So one of my only projects for the next few weeks is to relax. And that's it.
What about you? How do you know if you're stressed? How do you reduce stress? Do you ask your patients about stress?