In January, the American Psychological Association released a report on “Stress in America.” They have been conducting annual surveys to examine levels, causes, and perceptions of stress over time. The good news is that average levels of stress dipped slightly from the previous year. Unfortunately, average stress levels still remain higher than what people consider to be healthy.
You may be wondering why being stressed out is such a big deal. The survey also shows that many people are not particularly concerned about their stress and do not prioritize addressing it. Unfortunately, stress can contribute to the development of a number of health problems including heart disease and high blood pressure. It can also damage the functioning of your immune system making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. By not addressing stress early on, we may be increasing the likelihood of health problems that will be costly in the future. The concern is that if we do not shift the way we view stress, we will continue to play catch up – treating health problems after they occur rather than preventing them.
When you are stressed, you may feel too overwhelmed to take care of yourself. Among the many things that you are juggling, it may seem that taking steps to manage your stress would just be another task to add to a load that already feels like too much. Despite these feelings, I urge you to prioritize finding healthy ways to care for yourself. You may find that once you explore ways of coping (such as eating healthy, relaxation exercises, exercise, talking to someone, etc), that it is easier than expected to reduce stress in your life, leaving you free to address the challenges before you with greater energy and good health.
To read a summary of the findings of the APA Stress in America Survey, click here.