Feeling Stressed? De-stressing in a Stressed-out Nation
Stress is a part of everyday life, but it has become overwhelming for many Americans. If you seem more stressed out today than you have in the past, it may be because you are.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America survey reports that Americans are experiencing high levels of stress, and financial stress is at its highest level since 2015. These findings are not surprising given the current state of the economy, as many people are struggling to make ends meet and are concerned about the future.
Stress in America
Considering 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits in the U.S. are due to stress-related complaints, this is clearly a significant issue. Chronic stress has long been linked to health problems and steadily declining well-being.
The APA’s survey broke down our stressors, and when it seems that most Americans are perpetually stressed—the reasons for causing it doesn’t seem to be letting up.
80% of Americans cited the war in Ukraine
81% expressed concern about supply chain issues
87% worried about inflated costs
Financial constraints are also a significant factor, as is the lingering pandemic. In fact, 87% reported that they feel there’s been a steady stream of crises over the last two years. And 64% of U.S. adults are grieving the experiences and time they can’t get back.
The fact that Americans are incredibly stressed and have felt stressor after stressor can lead to more than simply worry. It can lead to health conditions, burnout, mental health issues, and more. When the body is in a constant state of stress without reprieve, something has to give—and that something may be our mental or physical health (or both).
Were We Always This Way?
Life has been moving at tremendous speeds since the adoption of mobile and electronic communications. Prior to this technology, if someone needed to contact you, they had to call your home phone (plugged into a wall) or send you a letter (with an actual stamp).
While technology is very helpful, it’s also ushered in 24-7 communication pathways, interruptions, and blurred lines between work and personal time. Even though we can constantly send and receive messages doesn’t mean we should, nor does it make for a healthy way to live.
We can’t find ways to disconnect—we’re always “on.”
With 24/7 access to work, social media, and the latest news, it’s only natural to feel like we’re always on the go. But are we really any more stressed than we were 50 years ago? The data says yes. And currently, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages.
Technology, the Double-Edged Sword
While we may have more demands on our time, some say we also have more opportunities to relax and unwind. We can take a yoga class after work, order takeout when we don’t feel like cooking, and stream our favorite TV shows when we need a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. And although this may be true, one thing is sure: we’re all dealing with our fair share of challenges in today’s fast-paced world. It would be unfair to say that times haven’t changed when they certainly have.
How Stress Affects the Body
When we think of stress, we often associate it with negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger. However, stress is our body’s response to any demand or threat.
When we perceive a threat, our body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase our heart rate and blood pressure and affect our immune system. In the short term, this response can be helpful, as it can help us to deal with difficult situations. However, if we’re constantly feeling stressed, it can negatively impact our health. Over time, chronic stress can lead to anxiety disorders, addiction, depression, heart disease, and obesity. It’s crucial to find ways to manage the stress in our lives that work for us. Because what works for one person may not work for another.
What Can We Do to Manage Our Stress?
The past few years have seen pandemic fatigue, nursing shortages, burnout, and exhaustion running rampant not only through hospital corridors but throughout every corner of the industry. 93% of healthcare workers reported experiencing stress.
Anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by stress knows that it can take a toll on both your mind and body. Fortunately, there are several things you may be able to do to manage stress effectively. First, it’s important to admit there’s a problem and identify the source of your stress. Once you know what is causing your stress, you can develop a plan to address the issue. If we can remove the stressor in our life, we can begin handling stress at the root cause. But sometimes, we cannot remove the stressor.
Even if we can’t remove the stressors, we can take steps to manage stress levels effectively, starting with:
- Regular exercise and healthy eating
- Quality sleep
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Therapy, stress-management counseling
- Recognizing that overcoming chronic stress requires time
- Learning a new skill
- Paying attention to your needs
- Taking breaks throughout the day
- Making changes in your life
Stress and burnout are issues that can seriously affect our health, happiness, and productivity. And just because stress is prevalent in America doesn’t mean we can’t try to lessen it in our own lives. We hope you will consider some of these ideas and begin making small changes that will have a big impact on your health and happiness.