Episode 63 | The Compounding Effect of Stress

In this episode I share about the compounding effect of stress and the opportunities for self discovery and emotional wellbeing we can discover when we are curious about our stressful experiences. I also share tips on managing stress as veterinary professionals and explore the intimate relationship between feeling stress and experiencing fear.



  • How stress compounds in veterinary medicine, and the effect it has on wellbeing.
  • What veterinarians and veterinary technicians fear most in veterinary practice.
  • Opportunities to relieve stress reactions by using two strategies


The Happiness Rapid Reset Challenge with Joyful DVM


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Hi, everybody. Welcome to Episode 63. Today, we're going to be talking about the compounding impact of stress. Now stress is something that we're all pretty familiar with, and if you're anything like me, you spend a pretty good amount of time trying to figure out how to alleviate stress from your life. What you've probably also learned as you've tried to do this is that eliminating it completely is something that is really impossible to do now that in and of itself really isn't a problem.

But what becomes the problem is when we believe that we should be able to completely de stress everything inside of our lives, in our life experiences. This leads us to trying to control all the variables. If I have any control freaks out there, listen up because I'm talking to you. When we try to control all of the things around us, it all comes back to an underlying desire to really dissipate fear.

We control the things that scare us. The control leads us to being able to eliminate that potential of being afraid. At least that's what we think we're doing, but it doesn't always work out that way. Because as much as we try to control all the variables, there's just very little in this life that we actually control as that becomes something that we become aware of.

Then we begin to feel stressed, not because we are embracing that, which we can't control, but because we start to judge ourselves for not being able to control it, we don't even realize how little influence we have on what happens. It's not what our culture teaches us. We are taught from the time that we are little kids that we can hurt each other's feelings that we can make.

People feel bad, that we can make people angry. And although the intent behind those lessons is good, the message is just wrong. What's true is that each of us is individually responsible for our own emotional wellbeing. And that includes the emotions that we experience the golden. This life is not to eliminate all of the uncomfortable feelings. It's not to never feel sad or angry or frustrated,

or even embarrassed or stressed or anxious. That part of the emotional spectrum just comes along with this human experience, but it's uncomfortable. And our culture teaches us that experiencing uncomfortable emotion is something that needs to be solved for. It's something that we need to fix. This really sets us up to fail in a lot of different ways, especially for those of us who are high achievers and highly compassionate people.

We don't want to feel uncomfortable and we don't want anybody else to feel uncomfortable either. We really do care about the other people, but when we try to control their emotional experience, it puts a lot of pressure on us. And as we try and try and put out all of this effort and recognize that the people around us still often have a negative emotional experience,

what shows up and maybe snapping at us or rolling their eyes or saying things like you're only in it for the money. Then we start to turn the responsibility for all of that onto ourselves. It plays into a lot of our underlying fears that we're not good enough that everybody else is doing this job better than we are. That if we were just different than this would be easier,

all of that self judgment just starts to compound. And this is where that compounding effect of stress starts to play in. If somebody asks us, what is it that we're stressed about? We can make a list and I encourage you to do that. What stresses you out right now? You're probably going to come up with things like money or a relationship,

maybe a challenge with a coworker at, at your employment, perhaps the way the clients interact with you, maybe your student loan volume. You're going to come up with a list of things though, that are specific to you. And it's going to be pretty easy for you to come up with those things. Now what's important about those things is that we are taught somewhere along the way,

that the way to eliminate stress in our lives, the stress associated with those things, if you will, is to fix all of those things. It is to solve all of those quote unquote problems. So if money is one of the things that causes stress, the solution is to make more money. If the relationship is something that is causing you stress,

maybe the solution is to change or to leave the relationship. If a coworker is causing you stress, maybe the solution is to avoid that coworker to work shifts when you don't have to be interfacing with them or to leave your job completely. And as we recognize that many times, it's not as simple as making those changes, that a relationship isn't that easy to get out of and money,

isn't that easy to create more of and jobs are that easy to come by. You're just not willing perhaps to change your job. We start to feel really trapped in our stress. We start to believe that we don't have any choices. The good news is that we do have choices. We have choices in all of those areas, but the better news is that it's not doing something or fixing something.

That's going to change the stress for you. We don't have to go that far. Stress is an emotion and I will kind of like to put stress and anxiety together because they often play back and forth. And they're never straightforward. They're never coming from just one thing. So I call them layered or bucket emotions. We can kind of see this. When I asked you,

what are you stressed out about? And you're able to come up with a list or what's causing you to be anxious. You can come up with a list. And so you can see that those emotions aren't coming from just one area. If we take it a step higher, and we remember that the emotions that we experience come from the thoughts that we're thinking.

So our thoughts, our opinions, or beliefs in our conclusions, we can start to see that we don't have to do anything. We don't have to change anything. We don't have to take any actions to eliminate stress. This is actually really good news. So that compounding effect of stress usually comes because underneath all of the stressors, that list of things we identify,

we also have a to-do list. The things that we should do that we believe will eliminate distress. And because we're also in a position that it's not as simple as doing those things, we tend to conclude that the stress is inevitable. This is how it compounds. We kind of become stressed out about being stressed out. It's a vicious cycle and I've lived in that one for years.

So for those of you out there who can relate to this, believe me, my friend, you are not alone, but the great news is that it doesn't actually have anything at all to do with any of those external things. The stress that we're experiencing is simply created by the story that we're telling ourselves about those things that we've identified as stressors. And that story is something that we have a hundred percent opportunity to change for ourselves.

Now, I'm not going to say that it's easy, that you're going to be able to flip a switch and just change all of your thoughts about all of your circumstances. That's not what I'm saying at all, but we have to at least start by seeing that if we can adjust the way that we're thinking about our lives and thinking about the things in our lives that are causing us stress,

that we have an opportunity to feel better quite quickly without having to do anything differently. There's a lot of freedom that comes along with that in addition to that is the opportunity to simply redirect. Now, what I mean by that is that when we start to find ourselves spiraling down into doom and gloom around all the things in our lives that are stressing us out,

the thoughts about one lead to the thoughts about another than thoughts, about another thing that we like to call catastrophizing, and we all do it. So don't beat yourself up about it. It's just something that the human brain just does. But when we start to recognize that we're in this catastrophizing downward spiral, we do have the opportunity to simply redirect. If we can just start thinking about something completely different shift,

our focus to something that interests us, something that excites us, or motivates us something that we're interested in. Something that we're curious about. If we can just shift our focus away from the things in our life, that we really don't have any control over to the things in our life, that we really enjoy the amount of stress that we feel that emotional stress starts to decrease.

And this is really important for us to do stress over time creates a lot of cortisol in our bodies. Y'all are medical professionals. So I know that you understand the stress response from a physiologic standpoint, there are real physiologic impacts then for what happens to us. When we go through periods of prolonged stress, it's really important for us to remember this. Now in this day and age that we're living in here almost two years into a pandemic and all the ways that the world has changed since the beginning of 2020.

It's really important for us to see that if physiologically, we aren't feeling our best. If we're feeling irritable, we're feeling foggy. We're feeling disengaged in our lives. A lot of what may be happening is that compounding effect of stress. If we then recognize that we are stressed out, or maybe not even label it as stressed out, but we're focusing on all of the things that aren't the way that we think that they should be.

Aren't the way that we want them to be. We actually compound that stress effect. We just keep thinking about the things that we want to change. And we recognize side by side that we don't have the power to change them. It creates more of that compounding stress effect, which is absolutely impacting you physiologically. The reason I want to bring this up is just to remind us that we have the opportunity to redirect our minds.

Intentionally our minds are always going to go to the catastrophe. That's just what it does. That's that lower, very primitive part of our brain. That's trying to keep us safe. And if you take a look at everything that stresses you out and you ask yourself, why am I stressed about that? You can actually answer a different question, probably more easily.

What am I afraid of everything that stresses us out and creates anxiety underneath. It has something that scares us, something we're afraid of and something that we may or may not be judging ourselves for. So we're either afraid of something that might happen to us or happened because of us or that stress point is coming from a judgment we have about ourselves, an underlying belief that we're not good enough that we're not worthy enough,

that we're not lovable. That we're not smart. That we're not pretty, that we're not capable. Something like that. One of those beliefs that we're holding about ourselves is coming up for us in these times when we feel stressed. So it's either some type of self judgment, some type of fear, and more often than not. It's a combination of both.

Now, the good news is this. As I already said, we have some opportunity to adjust the way that we feel in the moment by changing the way that we're thinking we can change the way that we think about the stressors. We can also simply redirect and focus on things that bring us joy. Things that we enjoy doing things that we are passionate about,

learning new things, participating in activities, creative things. There are lots of ways that we can redirect our minds, but none of those things do anything to relieve the stress that comes from those compounding negative beliefs that you have about yourself. Here's what I want you to hear those thoughts that you have about not being good enough, not being strong enough, not being pretty enough,

not being smart enough, not being as good as the other doctors or the other technicians. Those thoughts that having you wonder if you've gone down the wrong career path, if you've gone down the wrong life path, all of those thoughts are simply that they are simply thoughts. There's no truth in any of that. And for those of us who have a very negative and judgmental sense of ourselves,

it's hard for us to see that that's not the truth. It's something that we've learned early on. It's something that somewhere along the way, these ideas have been introduced to us. They've been reinforced our mind, of course, gathers evidence to prove our thoughts. True. So over time, we just feel like we have gathered all of this evidence that says,

yes, I am not as good as everybody else. I am not as smart as everybody else. I shouldn't have done these things. I should have gone into this job. I'm never going to be as good as they are. If that's the type of thought patterns that we've had over our entire lives about ourselves, it's can be a little bit tricky to get out of.

And they feel like facts. They feel like truths for us. And it's definitely a opportunity for stress to compound because it doesn't matter how much all the external variables change, how much you try to control, how much you achieve externally. If the way that we think about ourselves, the way that we believe in ourselves, isn't supportive of ourselves, then all of the achievements in the world,

aren't going to matter at all. It really doesn't matter. But the beautiful part about all of this is that those thoughts, those beliefs that you may have about you, that don't support you being the superstar that you actually are, that don't embrace the concept that you are here, absolutely intentional with gifts and abilities that only you have and an impact that only you can have in this lifetime.

That it's all for a reason that your life is happening for you and not to you. If you can't see that, just know that it's there, that the beliefs that you have about yourself are simply beliefs that were offered to you somewhere along the way. You are not obligated to keep them. And they are not true. The truth of who you are is not defined by the external opinions of other people,

or even by that internal dialogue that has been so judgmental and unforgiving, as you've got along your life, that is all just external programming. I promise you, it's something that you've picked up along the way. It may be generational. It may be a theme within your family. It might be something that you picked up from your friends. We can become curious about that and try to figure it out,

figure out where it came from. But ultimately the most important thing to know is that even if you have function in your life through a very negative or judgmental or, or doubting sense of yourself, that you can start to release that as the truth, that is not who you are until we each start to develop that competence sense of ourselves to embrace who we are as individuals to allow other people to believe whatever they want to.

And for us not to accept their beliefs as true, which that's a hard one. I know a lot of us will listen to what other people say. And we believe that somewhere along the way, we were taught not to trust our own instincts, our own beliefs, our own opinions. As we develop that new skillset to trust ourselves first above everything else,

then that compounding effect of stress starts to decrease. It becomes harder and harder for the stressors to layer on top of each other and to influence and feed fire to each other. When our sense of self is absolute, that sense of self is the most important thing that you can cultivate. And I want to give you 100% permission to do that. You're never supposed to be like everybody else.

That was never the goal here in this lifetime. It's what we humans have turned it into. We've turned it into some kind of game where everybody's supposed to be exactly alike. And there's all of these rules for life that we must achieve in order for us to be good enough in order for us to be valuable and worthy and successful. But all of those metrics are manmade and none of them hold truth when it comes to what's important in the grand scheme of things,

what's most important is that you are you, that you listen to that gut instinct about who you are and what you want and what you like and what you want for your future, that you stop comparing yourself to everybody else around you. Even people that you have similarities with. So the people in your profession, the people in your families, the people that you've been around your whole entire life,

you don't need to be like them. If you feel very different from them, that's totally okay. You're supposed to be different than them. This is your life. This is your experience. This is your journey. And the more that we start to believe and buy into the idea that a journey is done a right or wrong way, and that there are certain things in this life that we have to do in order to be success successful and worthy and accepted,

then the harder it becomes to be who we are in our jobs, in the veterinary profession. There's lots of opportunity for this to blow up all around us. There's lots of opportunity for judgment, both inside the profession and from the clients on the outside, not to mention that constant evaluation and judgment of ourselves and how well we do with our patients and with our clients.

That opportunity for judgment is everywhere. And so that compounding effect of stress comes directly from that judgment. And from the fear that comes right along with that judgment judgment is always linked to fear. We are afraid of being judged. If we are judged harshly than something bad might happen. So just recognize that when you're feeling stressed and when your instinct is to try to fix all the things around you.

So to change all the things around you, that in those moments, you have an opportunity to remember that it's not the things around you that is creating stress for you. It's simply the beliefs about all the things around you. And more importantly, the beliefs about yourself, the level to which you trust your ability to handle any situation, your own connection,

with the sense of who you are and the confidence to be who you are, no matter what anybody else thinks. It's those things that make a difference in how we respond when life happens. When work happens, when the unexpected happens as a species, we don't like uncertainty. We know where it comes from. Think about it from an animal perspective. If you walk into an uncertain situation,

you absolutely could become somebody's lunch. So we have a very protective instinct, but where we live in this day and age, we don't need to be protected from ourselves. We don't need to be protected to the level that we keep trying to control the environment around us. Our growth comes through the challenges that we face, and you will only ever see what you are made of what the essence of you really is capable of.

If you allow yourself to experience those challenges and part of experiencing those challenges, my friends means allowing yourself to experience the discomfort that comes along with it. The negative type emotion, it's all there, no matter what, 50, 50 positive and negative, the idea of happily ever after is a myth. It is never the expectation. We're not always supposed to be happy.

A hundred percent of the time being happy, a hundred percent of the time. It leaves us nothing to work toward. We wouldn't even know we were happy if we were always happy on the flip side of that though, is our tendency to judge the discomfort, the negative emotion as something that's going wrong. That's a conclusion that we've drawn as a society.

And so as you start to think about the areas in your life, where you are stressed out, and you think about your list, what I want you to consider is what if you don't need to change any of those things to feel better? What if you would react differently to those things? If you just really believed in yourself and what you were capable of,

how would things change for you? If you believed more in you and you relied less on what everybody else thought in order to convince yourself that you were doing a good job in work and in life in general. All right, my friends, big questions for you to ponder this week. What stresses you out? What opportunities do you have there to discover something different about yourself?

When you take a look at that list of what stresses you out and what is it that you can do about it without changing external circumstances, those are the big three things I want you to ponder. And if you're looking for a little bit of redirection this week, a little bit of inspiration and something that can help lift you up, then I definitely recommend that you join us in the upcoming happiness,

rapid reset challenge, completely free challenge. We're going to be doing it for a whole week. He's got a joyful dvm.com forward slash challenge. And you can join us there for a whole week of inspiration and activities and hope and motivation and community where we're going to build each other up. We're going to work toward resetting us back to happiness. It's been a long couple of years and this compounding effect of stress is impacting all of us and just like anything else,

what we focus on, we create more of. So we have to redirect away from the things that we can't control away from the things that we believe are stressing us out and get back in touch of the truth of our human experience. And that's what we're going to be doing inside of that happiness, rapid reset challenge. And if you happen to catch this podcast episode,

after that challenge is already over, we're going to have the replay of the entire challenge available inside of the joyful DVM membership. So you're going to be welcome to join us there anytime. All right, my friends, that's going to wrap it up for this episode. I hope to see you in the challenge have a great week and I'll see you soon.

Bye for now.