The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has put itself firmly on record as being deeply concerned about our national epidemic of stress at the individual, organizational and societal levels. NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) broadcast on September 7th its annual Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary Therapies. The lecture was titled A Nation Under Pressure: The Public Health Consequences of Stress in America.
The American Psychological Association (APA) recently documented a worrisome increase in stress in the U.S. population (Stress in America https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress). Uncontrolled stress can cause or worsen anxiety, depression, PTSD and a wide range of clinical conditions affecting every organ system. Medical students, residents and practicing physicians experience higher levels of stress than their age-
Of all the sciences, medicine uniquely combines all domains of the human condition-
Medicine has always attracted the best and the brightest. Most applicants to medical school are also inspired by a desire to be of genuine service and express their deepest human values through their professional lives. This ethic of altruism, compassion, meaning and service distinguishes medical students from most other professional students.
This new patient was a desperate, mid-
Modern life is taking its toll on our nation’s mental and physical health. Physicians and their patients both suffer from stress-
Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy MD has sounded the alarm regarding our country’s epidemic of stress.(1) He calls for a serious national effort to mitigate the corrosive effect of chronic stress on every organ system. He calls for a nationwide campaign to spread a preventive, behavioral lifestyle prescription of healthy eating, physical activity and genuine social support (other than social media). Based on solid peer-
Behavioral medicine research confirms the value of mind-
Relationships are at the very heart of medicine. I recently saw one of my favorite patients whom I had not seen in 10 years. I have thought of her often since the hospital took over my Estill County practice in Irvine and I moved to Lexington. Wanda always lifted my spirits. She always asked me how I was doing because she cared about me. We joked and laughed while managing her chronic medical conditions. She was good medicine for me.
Defining resilience: The American Psychological Association (APA) describes resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress, such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” APA further describes resilience as “ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience.
Wayne Jonas MD is clinical professor of family medicine, Georgetown University, retired Lt. Colonel United States Army Medical Corps and a complementary medicine researcher. He previously served as Director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at NIH, which is now called the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. He has recently proposed the HOPE note (Healing Oriented Practices and Environments) as a clinical tool to help physicians….
Anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide are increasing-
US public health officials are alarmed by a growing mental health epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide. Britain has created a Minister of Loneliness to tackle this ‘sad reality of modern life’ and its $3.5 billion annual drain on UK employers. Vivek Murthy MD is the 21st US Surgeon General. He was also the 19th Surgeon General under president Obama.
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patients…A change in culture is needed. Health professional training must emphasize the importance of self-
Importance of physical exercise
Murthy explained that regular physical exercise has been shown to relieve stress and have an anti-
Emotional well being
Murthy began his tenure as Surgeon General with a ‘listening tour,’ traveling extensively to U.S. cities and small towns and was struck by a common theme. He saw people in pain everywhere—pain from medical conditions, financial uncertainty, violence, stress of daily life and work—and the pain and grief of losing family to the opioid crisis. Regardless of geography, urban or rural residence, race, age, beliefs, background or political party, there was universal recognition that stress was overwhelming Americans’ ability to cope. Among lawmakers and citizens alike, the desire for emotional well-
Murthy passionately argues for a societal, public health perspective on stress and emotional well-
Brown University School of Public Health recently created a Mindfulness Center to apply evidence-
Psychotropic medications are an essential, and sometimes life-
Meditation can be practiced alone, with a meditation buddy or a group. Dr Patterson offers a free weekly group class as well as an 8 week intensive mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR). Let’s help ourselves and each other manage this epidemic of stress and loneliness. In the process, we can gain confidence prescribing lifestyle recommendations for our family, friends, colleagues, patients, communities, society and planet.
US public health officials are alarmed by a growing mental health epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide. Britain has created a Minister of Loneliness to tackle this ‘sad reality of modern life’ and its $3.5 billion annual drain on UK employers. Vivek Murthy MD is the 21st US Surgeon General. He was also the 19th Surgeon General under president Obama. He is focused on loneliness and stress as public health priorities, saying ‘loneliness is associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.’ In early 2020, before the COVID pandemic, he presciently published a book titled Together-
Authentic social connections
Despite widespread electronic social media, many people feel isolated. This was happening before the COVID pandemic and has gotten worse. Murthy says “a quarter say they do not have anyone in whom to confide about a personal problem.” Clearly, online social networks can be helpful but are not the kind of support required to combat emotional isolation and its adverse health effects. However, though in-
grow, connect and serve those in need.
Serious psychological distress and loneliness can be caused by social isolation, fear of contracting COVID-
Murthy says: “Stress is not evidence of weakness or a personal failure but a reality of life and we have to collectively figure out how to address it… Supportive relationships, exercise, sleep and meditation can benefit children, adults, workplaces, homes, schools, public health and medical providers and their
Dr Patterson chairs the Lexington Medical
Senator Alvarado earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Loma Linda University (California) in 1990, and then went on to receive his Doctorate in Medicine in 1994. He completed his medical residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky in 1998. Society's Physician Wellness Commission and is certified in Physician Coaching. He is on the family practice faculty UK College of Medicine and teaches nationally for Saybrook School of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). After 30 years in private family practice in Irvine KY, he now operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative mind-