Coping with stress – Final thoughts.

Over the past weeks, I have attempted, to chart something of the history of our present-day usage of the word “stress”; especially in the sense of both its applications to, and implications for healthcare and quality of life. We have referred to the origin and usage of the term, in a variety of real life situations and practices. We have also made passing reference to the manner in which human stress (as the term is deployed in this particular context), may also have an important, if complex role to play, via subtle shifts in the human body’s autoimmune system.

Time and again throughout this series of blogs, we have come to observe (and also from time to time to comment upon), the manner in which one aspect of human behaviour is, in reality, complexly interwoven with and into others. For example, in these recent postings, we have focused upon stress and in particular, upon what we have come to mean by the term “human stress”. Yet unavoidably, this has caused us to take account of other key contributors to human behaviour; e.g. learning and previously acquired knowledge, understanding and insight, which in turn, have also often been affected by a wide range of individual characteristics and differences. We have further seen how those similarities and differences do, in themselves, connect to and interact with the world in which we live.

Let me attempt to further reinforce wnat it is that i really mean here. Very early on in my days as a clinical psychologist working in a healthcare setting, I came into contact with a patient; a pleasant and very articulate lady in her late ‘fifties’, as I remember her. From the outset, she came across as being a deeply religious lady, whose spiritual, social and (from what one could gather’) domestic and family life focused on and around her local church and its roll within the local community.

At the time of our first meeting, she had been admitted as an in-patient to the Oncology ward of the hospital in which I was working. As time went by and as the ovarian cancer from which she was suffering appeared steadily to be progressing, in spite of the treatment that she was receiving, bouts of low and depressed mood became more apparent and frequent, adversely affecting her overall quality of life. Whereas in the early days of her illness, she had – or so it had appeared – managed to remain quite ‘up-beat’; as now we chatted and I was coming to know her better, the effort of “holding the line’, as it were, especially when family members and/or friends were about, was becoming more and more difficult for her to achieve.

Not surprisingly, the effort of maintaining this largely superficial ‘show’ of ‘managing’ and coping (for the benefit of her family and friends; or so it rather appeared) was, in effect, having an altogether different and detremental effect on this troubled and unhappy lady. Moreover, as the expectations and overall approach of the family and friends increasingly took hold, a kind of wholly unintended and unintentional ‘blackmail’, seemed to be becoming more and more evident. Perhaps you might, from some previous personal experience(s) of your own, be aware of and recognize the sort of thing to which I am referring; i.e. “You/she will cope, because of who you are/she is and because it is what we have all come to both admire and expect of you/of her ”. Even up to this very moment in time, rarely have I witnessed a more troubled and deeply stressed and distressed lady than on the occasion of which I write to you.

You will also, most probably, be coming more and more aware of the fact that I have by now more than exceeded the normal length of our weekly contact, which, so I very much hope, is of some interest and (dare I ‘say’) from time to time, of some help to you. After all, this is by far, the most important reason for my writing to you in the manner in which we have both bocome accustomed to.(To be continued next week)

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