Are You Stressed Out in America?

stress in AmericaAre you one of the two thirds of Americans who, according to a 2004 APA Survey, are likely to seek help for stress?  Not only are Americans already stressed, but according to a 2008 APA study, stress is on the rise.

The APA Study found that people are experiencing more irritability and anger.  Physical and emotional symptoms due to stress have increased and more than half of Americans are lying awake at night or experiencing insomnia as a result of stress.

Is this You?  If it is, how do you manage all this stress?

Stress is a reaction to both physical threats – a car careening out of control—and psychological threats – a co-worker taking credit for your work.  Daily hassles, such as a washer that overflows, a sick cat needing a trip to the vet, work overload and traffic, are often responsible for stress.  In a troubled economy, financial problems can be a significant source of stress for many.

Some stressors can be avoided by making changes in your lifestyle.  Finding a better balance between work and home life or reining in out-of-control spending can reduce stress.  But, some stress is inevitable.  None of us live in a perfect world where washers never break or cats never get sick.

When you’re faced with the inevitable stresses in life, do you tend to deal with them and move on, or do you tend to get stuck, worrying and ruminating?  Although you can’t avoid stress altogether, how you respond to it and cope with it has a significant impact on how long it lasts.  Worry and rumination are key culprits in stress that lingers for hours, days and even weeks.

To make matters worse, many people are engaging in problematic behaviors in attempts to manage their stress.  Over and under eating, skipping meals, drinking and smoking are a few of the problem behaviors that people turn to in times of stress.  Unfortunately, over time, these behaviors make you more vulnerable to additional stress.

Rising levels of stress and inadequate coping skills are affecting our home lives, work, and health.  According to APA, extreme emotional and health consequences are most severe when people ignore symptoms and fail to manage their stress well.

In my next few posts I will discuss strategies for coping with stress, surviving holiday stress, the impact of dance on stress, changing stress by acting opposite to how you feel, reducing vulnerability to stress and increasing awareness of problematic thinking that contributes to stress.  If you are stressed, I’d be interested to hear, in the comments section, about what is stressing you out and how you are coping.

11 Replies to “Are You Stressed Out in America?”

  1. I’m so stressed it has affected every aspect of my life. We’re losing our home due to foreclosure & we have done everything to work w/ the bank but I no longer have the energy in me to fight. Let them take it. My poor children are affected which then kicks in guilt and that causes many tears. My husband and I are not getting along; not because of our relationship but because of the events around us. I don’t sleep and really don’t eat much anymore. To make matters worse, I’ve been told I’m perimenopausal so I’m on hormones which is causing me to be on a roller coaster. It would be so nice to just run away for a while but eventually I’d have to return to face it all. I wish life could be better right now!!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I think there are many people out there who are struggling with some of the same issues.

  2. I’ve had three surgeries this year- including a partial mastectomy. Even though I have good insurance and a job that will wait for me when I return from having surgery, it is still stressful. Life in general in America is stressful. We seem to have lost focus on what is good, and things also seem hurried. Stress is part of life, but it doesn’t give people the right to be mean.

  3. I DON’T GET ALONG WITH MY BROTHER AND SISTER AND WE ALWAYS ARGRUE BACK AND FORTH AND I AM GOING THROUGH PERIMENOPAUSE AND I GET MOODY AT TIMES AND I GET MOOD SWINGS AND I GET TIRED ALL THE TIME AND I WAS RAPED AND THE DOCTORS AND THE COUNSLER BOTH DIAGNOSED ME WITH POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND I AM GOING THROUGH SEIZURES AND THE DOCTOR CALLED MY SEIZURES EMOTIONAL AND I WAS WONDERING WHAT I SHOULD DO AND HOW I SHOULD HANDLE MY BROTHER AND SISTER WITH ME GOING THROUGH EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW.

    1. Thank you for sharing your stressors. It sounds like you’ve got many different things going on that are having a significant impact on how you’re feeling. I’m glad to hear that your working with a Doctor and counselor. There are some very helpful treatments for PTSD (DBT is one of the treatments that has strategies that are helpful for people with PTSD). It might be helpful to talk with your counselor about strategies to handle your brother and sister. As I’m sure you’re aware, relationships are complex. It might also be helpful to find a group that teaches relationship strategies. DBT teaches a technique called DEARMAN, in which you describe (non-judgmentally) the situation, express how you feel, ask for what you want or need and reinforce the person for giving you what you are asking for. It also includes strategies to think through your priorities, decide when and how to ask, etc. You might consider reading a book (such as Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life). I’ll include a link to a post I wrote on relationship skills Why Build Relationships

  4. I only recently began subscribing to Psych Central. I appreciate the breadth of topics and contributors. Having battled depression most of my life, I am encouraged by many of the articles and the comments of readers. Many years ago, a Philosophy professor, an Existentialist, told me that while we can affect very little of our stressful circumstances, we have absolute control of our responses to them. I agree, but I really struggle to live that out each day.

  5. High stress is a given in a capitalistic country such as ours. Face it people are in competition for each and every job (and keeping it).

    I have a high feeling that living in a more socialistic country such as Sweden or some European countries where there is a greater safety net their stress is much lower. Wish I could get a visa or something. 🙁 🙁 🙁

  6. Christy,

    Thank you for talking about this serious issue and for mentioning the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey. We’re releasing the 2010 survey findings tomorrow (Nov. 9) at 12:30 EST. We’ll be sharing the results and our panel’s remarks at that time via Twitter (#stressAPA) and also on APA’s Facebook fan page.

    All the reports will be at http://www.stressinamerica.org – where you can also find the reports for 2009 and 2008.

    I look forward to more discussion on your blog as well.

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