Stress: The 21st Century Epidemic
Stress. It’s a word that’s synonymous with modern living. No matter where you are, it’s likely you experience some level of stress most of the time. Because we like to go big, Americans seem to welcome massive amounts of stress into our lives. Just how stressed are we? Enough to have an HBO documentary, One Nation Under Stress, hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that explores the connection between our increasingly stressed-out nation and the fall in U.S. life expectancy.
According to a 2017 report from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, life expectancy is the lowest it had been in a decade and has been linked to an increase in what researches have called the “deaths of despair” – opioid overdose, alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, and suicide. It begs the question, “What is stress and what can we do about it?”
“Stress is the body’s reaction to change”
What is Stress?
Technically speaking, stress is the body's reaction to change. We respond to stress in a series of ways, whether they be physical, mental, or emotional. Stress also varies; it can be very minor or on a full-scale, Armageddon-esque level. Good stuff produces stress just like the bad. For instance, a promotion at work can be a positive life change, but it does carry a lot of change and pressure with it, making it stressful. While we’re on that topic, not all stress is negative, some is actually quite good for us. We just have to learn how to harness the good stress and relieve the destructive kind.
Stress “At Work”
Stress touches every part of our lives, but perhaps the place we most associate it with is at work. Stress has been dubbed the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year (Fink, J. 2016). The effect of stress on our emotional and physical health can be devastating. In a recent study, over 50 percent of individuals felt stress negatively impacted work productivity, and between 1983 and 2009, stress levels increased by 10 to 30 percent among all demographic groups in the USA (Fink, J. 2016). But it does more than just affect your productivity and output. Countless studies show that job stress is by far the major source of stress for American adults, and it’s escalated progressively over the past few decades. Increased levels of job stress have shown an increased risk of heart attack, hypertension, obesity, addiction, anxiety, depression, and other serious medical disorders. The relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so strongly recognized that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is automatically assumed to have a work-related injury and is compensated accordingly in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon. It’s experienced differently by every person and is based on things such as individual vulnerability and resilience. It’s also impacted by the types of tasks a person has to perform. For example, let’s go back to those police officers; one survey found that having to complete paperwork was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals. Who would’ve thought that, right? In a nutshell, the severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands being made and an individual’s sense of control or decision-making freedom for dealing with that stress.
“Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing, all it takes is the right mindset.”
How Do We Cope with Stress?
We, as individuals, cope with stress in many different ways. Honestly, sometimes we deal with it in healthy ways, and other times, in not so good for us ways. Drinking, recreational drugs, sleeping too much, and getting lost in a Netflix binge are all ways we give in to stress that don’t benefit us. However, there are many positive ways to deal with stress too. Lots of people burn stress by channeling that extra energy into a workout. More than half of Americans (53 percent) exercise or take part in physical activity to cope with stress; this demonstrates a significant increase compared to each of the past three years. One specific healthy coping method is on the rise -- yoga! Twelve percent of people surveyed use yoga or meditation to manage their stress as compared to nine percent in 2016. Add to that other positive physical practices like communing with nature, meditation, and getting a massage.
We also deal with stress on a non-physical plane. Many Americans understand that emotional support can be crucial to dealing with the stress in their lives. What do the number say? Nearly three in four Americans (74 percent) feel they have someone they can rely on for emotional support, an increase of 8 percentage points since 2014. However, more than half of Americans (56 percent) still feel they could have used more support during the previous year. They also see psychologists as one source of support, with more than four in 10 (42 percent) saying they believe psychologists can significantly help manage stress, a notable increase from 38 percent in 2016.
Adopting a “Stress Mindset”
Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing, all it takes is the right mindset. According to research out of Stanford University, this is approaching stress with two factors in mind. The first is to evaluate the degree of stress you’re feeling (perceived demand). The second factor is to determine if you have the adequate tools to deal with it (perceived resources). Researchers contend, “that the balance of perceived resources (eg., knowledge, skills) and the perceived demands (eg., danger, uncertainty) and have identified physiological concomitants of these challenge and threat evaluations. Basically, a person feels stress when their originating incident, such an approaching deadline or argument, outweighs their ability to fix it. So how do you adopt a stress mindset? It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can evolve with some work. First, every time you feel stress hit, step back and do an honest evaluation of the issue at hand. Instead of being reactive to the stress, diagnose it. Can you easily fix this issue? For instance, if you’re getting stressed about an approaching deadline you may have procrastinated (we’ve all done it), what can you do to make the deadline? You may be able to call in another person to help. Your potential resources may be to hunker down and schedule blocks of time to finish it by breaking it into smaller tasks and attacking them one by one. Sometimes, that little bit of stress can motivate you to now only finish your project but feel excited about it. See, sometimes stress can be beneficial if we approach it the right way.
Stress and Supplementation: It’s Time to R3SET
Another way to deal with stress is by supplementation. R3SET is a brand dedicated to helping anyone and everyone master their own stress. Our supplements lessen the effects stress has on the three body systems stress invades, the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. In addition to our non-addictive supplements, we also give our clients scientifically-proven, personalized tips to help the hack stress and achieve allostasis, a lasting peace that anyone can master. Learn more at www.R3SET.com.
Fink, J. 2016. Stress: Concepts, Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior: Handbook of Stress Series, Volume 1 (Handbook in Stress). Academic Press; 1st Ed.
APA Stress in America: The state of our Nation.
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