What I learnt this week: Noise from stress or stress from noise? #WILTW

This is the 55th #WILTW

Most mornings I have a cycle-train-cycle journey to work. The train is generally busy, as it’s on a commuter line to London. I am constantly bemused, and sometimes irritated, by the desire of my fellow commuters to get off the train as soon as possible. It is actually quite frustrating if you are sitting by the train door to have a whole line of people ready to disembark 10 minutes before you arrive. There is some unconscious sense that you should be getting ready to get off as well. Even with my fold-up bike it takes me less than 15s to stand up and put my bag on. Why would I chose to stand up far in advance of needing to?

The ‘hurry’ of life is an ever present force and I am often victim to it sweeping me away. I suppose my train stance is one way of avoiding this. I am not so great in others. I admit to being dreadful at turning off e-mail alerts – an instant fix to unnecessary stress and interruption. I am also bad at working ‘to‘ deadlines rather than ‘for‘ them i.e if it doesn’t have to be done until that date, I won’t do it until that date. This works well unless you have mis-categorised your Eisenhower box or the task takes much longer than you think it should.

eisenhower_box(The Eisenhower box via JulienRio.com)

But the ‘hurry’ of life can also be outside your control. A nice little abstract in this months Emergency Medicine Journal describes the affect of  noise on performance. In this study from South Africa it was found that loud ambient noise didn’t affect performance but it did impact on reported stress. Your environment affects your senses and your perceptions. Generally a busy Emergency Department is a noisy one but a noisy Emergency Department isn’t necessarily a busy one. On some shifts I’ve found myself thinking: Why do I feel so stressed there are hardly an patients? It’s because noise levels increase your stress directly or remind you of previous associations between noise and stress.

Conversely a silent Emergency Department, or any place of work, feels like a controlled one. Unfortunately silence isn’t always in our control.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW



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