Stress Management

Medical training and practice are high demand, stressful positions that put medical students, residents, fellows, graduate students, faculty, and staff under significant stress.  Stress can be defined as demands placed on an individual by the environment. Although stress itself is not bad or negative, excessive stress or feeling that one's resources are overly taxed by environmental stressors can lead to the experience of "stress," anxiety, burnout, and negative health consequences.

Below, please find multiple strategies to help manage stress.


Stress can affect people physically both on a chronic or acute level. Acutely, stress can activate a physical response often referred to as the fight or flight response, which is the body's alarm and readiness system. When this occurs, one's hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to release a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, prompting:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Blood flow away from extremities
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Tunnel vision
  • Shaking

Although this response is adaptive for short-term responses to stress (i.e., if one were about to be hit by a car this response would activate an individual to run), it can be maladaptive when this response becomes dysregulated or fires to often.

Health Consequences Associated with Stress

Several health consequences are related to excessive stress including:

  • Suppression of immune function
  • Heart disease
  • Psychological disorders (i.e., depression, anxiety)
  • Obesity
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive concerns

Strategies to Cope with Stress

Multiple strategies exist to help cope with stress including relaxation strategies, assertiveness, and prioritization.

Relaxation Strategies

Relax with yogaRelaxation strategies allow individuals to gain a greater sense of control over their physiological arousal by evoking a parasympathetic (or calming) response in the body. There are many different strategies one can use for relaxation, ranging from short-term breathing exercises to more involved imagery exercises. Please see the links below for downloadable relaxation Podcasts.

2014 Wisconsin Athletic Club (WAC) Fall Yoga Class Schedule (DOCX)


Prioritization and Assertiveness

Stress is often times challenging due to having too many obligations to effectively accommodate one's resources. As such, when an individual feels that his or her resources are being overly taxed, one will experience more stress. In order to cope with this, we can engage in prioritization, which is when we "kill the close snake first" and assertiveness, which is when we learn to say no in situations where we can say no.

Please see the links below for specific information on prioritization and assertiveness.

For individuals under high stress situations, stress can create psychological concerns such as anxiety or mood disorders. Should you experience the following signs, it may be beneficial to meet with a psychological health professional for consultation and/or treatment.

  • Sleep problems (i.e., difficulty going to sleep, waking up too early, multiple middle of the night awakenings) lasting more than two weeks
  • Difficulty controlling stress or anxiety
  • Difficulty getting work done
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Isolation
  • Decreased interest in joyful activities

Contact Us

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Resident and Student Mental Health Program

1155 N. Mayfair Road
Tosa Center, Third Floor
Milwaukee, WI  53226

 

Clinic Hours
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
** Scheduled appointments outside of normal business hours are also available.

General Contact Information
General: (414) 955-8950
Intake: (414) 955-8933

Emergency Contact Information
During Business Hours
(414) 955-8933

After Business Hours
(414) 805-6700

Clinical Director

Heidi F. Christianson, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

Clinical Director,
Resident and Student Mental Health Program

Heidi F. Christianson, PhD

Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 955-8296
Directions & Maps
© 2014

Page Updated 11/13/2014
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