You want to see this happen? You can.
Just ask me, when reporting an unexpected physical symptom to my doctor, if I am under “stress“. My first response would have had that triage nurse checking the box for sure, no matter what I said. Part of me wanted to reach right through the phone and slap her for asking what I deemed to be a foolish question. Thankfully I paused, took a deep breath and replied, “No, just normal life stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
You want to see stress? ASK me if I’m stressed when I come to you with a problem. Then you’ll see stress in spades.
While I understand perfectly well that stress is a dangerous thing, and can be responsible for many physical ailments, I do not appreciate being asked this particular question in this particular way when I’m calling with something potentially stressful in the first place. That’s not a lot to ask, is it?
Perhaps the healthcare community might also try rephrasing this particular question. Instead of, “Are you stressed,” try something like, “Tell me what’s happening in your life.” The answer would give you the same facts, without delivering an insult or raising some hackles.
As a long time stress veteran let me make something perfectly clear, right here, right now.
The absolute worst thing you can do to a person under stress is ASK them if they’re stressed. The second worst is attribute physical complaints to the mythical and therefore unexplored realm of stress. Nobody likes to be dismissed that way, stressed or not.
In truth, a stressed person isn’t hard to spot. The emotion almost vibrates in the air around them. If that isn’t enough to clue you in, here are some very common signs and symptoms of stress overload. What helps most is not asking obvious questions but rather being a calming influence, asking open-ended (but not patronizing) questions to get at what’s going on. Use calming music or laughter when possible. Recognize the stress and do what (if anything) you can to offer reassurance.
And if you can alleviate some of it, so much the better.