Stress in America!

Stress in America

Stress is everywhere. So much so, as a matter of fact, that we no longer even recognize the far reaching impact it is having on our lives!! Each year, the American Psychological Association puts together a study called Stress in America in which they collect information from a large sampling of the populace and analyze the health trends related to topics of health. Check out this strong statement taken directly from that study...

"Researchers have long known that there is a strong link between stress and overall health. Year after year, findings from the Stress in America™ survey have reinforced this research. Participants' responses have revealed high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress - a combination that suggests the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis."

Ummmmm.... re-read that last sentence out loud. Yeah. Let those words roll off your tongue and actually hear them with your ears. Our "nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis." That's bigger than the Ebola everyone was worried about for a second, bigger than the few cases of Zika Viruses that have popped up, bigger even than the Breast Cancer everyone wears pink to recognize. I know that's kind of hard to wrap your mind around, but stress related health issues is effecting more people than any of these flashy things the media throws around in the headlines. The real, true health epidemic is right in your home wreaking havoc daily.

stress cycle But where does all this stress come from? Believe it or not, everywhere. And even worse, the mechanisms many people use to cope with stress are actually adding more stress to their lives! The body's reaction to stress is called the "stress response". Without this finely-tuned process, we would not be able to get through a day. However, our modern day high-tech, fast-paced lifestyles have elevated stress to epidemic levels. Our lives have become littered with psychological, physical, nutritional and environmental stressors, which in turn assault our body with chronic levels of stress hormones. Vanessa Romero puts together this list of stressors in her article "Stress and the Link to Adrenal Fatigue."

  1. Psychological: feelings of anxiety, tension, frustration, anger, sadness, nervousness, perfectionism, excitement, worry, grief, depression, negativity, career/job, over-work, over-scheduling, relationship and marriage issues, divorce, death, financial pressures, emotional abuse
  2. Physical: exercise or lack of it, lack of sleep, illness, surgeries, accidents, overweight/obesity, noise, media, technology, heat, cold, humidity, light/dark exposure
  3. Nutritional: calorie restriction, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, trans fats, sugar, gluten, caffeine, dehydration, alcohol, additives & preservatives, excitotoxins, prescription/over-the-counter medications
  4. Environmental: pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, chemicals, viruses, bacteria, pollens, mold, plastics, pollution

And that's to say nothing of the constant flow of emails and text messages screaming for your attention while your family and home responsibilities tug at you too! The worst part is that so often these stressors listed above win out over the things we actually want to devote our energy to leaving us feeling isolated, alone, sad, frustrated, and generally dissatisfied with life. The Stress in America report goes on to say, "Year after year, the Stress in America survey paints a picture of a nation at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and health. Overall, Americans appear to be caught in a vicious cycle where they manage stress in unhealthy ways, and seemingly insurmountable barriers prevent them from making the lifestyle or behavioral changes necessary for good health." We battle our dissatisfaction with more TV, disappearing into social media, "treating" ourselves with food because we deserve it, having more caffeine, more alcohol, vegging out, skipping our workouts because "we just can't," tuning out our kids, and ignoring the idea that our beds were once a place of active sexuality. Yep, all things that contribute to our overall sense of stress... those are the things we're doing to try to cope with stress. What a mess! So, what can you do? Let's face it. You aren't going to fix it in a day. But you can start to take small steps to make things more manageable. The first step is to recognize what things are your true priorities in life and then focus on devoting energy to those things rather than the millions of other things. If quality time with your family is a top priority, then why are you away three nights a week at social gatherings? If health is a priority, then why are you staying up late watching some stupid TV series that makes you sleep through tomorrow's alarm? You see what I mean? Mark and I had to make some really tough decisions after Colt was born. We knew what we believed, but the execution wasn't easy and it took time. I had to stop working evenings. He gave up cable. I dropped off of the extra board meetings. He dropped out of so many guy's weekends and golf tournaments. By society's standards, we might sound like boring people. But, we hold our family life and our health as top priorities! Now, we do the things associated with that first and then fill our extra time with other stuff. The result? Less commitments we dread, better sleep, less stress, more chances to really engage with each, a better sex life, deeper connection with each other and our son, and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Start taking steps THIS WEEK to reduce the stress in your life! Try some of these: 1. Turn your phone on silent when you leave work for the day and park it in a room rather than wear it on you. This way YOU DECIDE when to check it and whether to respond!

2. Try the 60 second rule. Before you transition form work life to home life, sit in your car for a full sixty seconds in silence. Visualize yourself packing up the work day and putting it away. Then, take some deep breaths and visualize what you are walking into.... good or bad. You can't be in work mode at home. And ladies, you can't be in home mode at work. Take the time to separate the two.

3. Try things to engage your family. A question jar in the middle of the dinner table full of all sorts of questions is a fun one. Each night someone draws a question and everyone answers. A TV free night is a great way to get everyone out for a walk or bike ride after dinner. Board games are another lost art of fun. These sound hokey even to me as I type them. But, you are going to have to take ACTIVE steps to re-engage everybody and re-learn the art of conversation!