Stress: Experts say it’s an epidemic

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Has stress reached epidemic proportions

The month of April marks National Stress Awareness Month in the USA. It’s quite ironic as it will also now mark the day that Boston was bombed. Who would of thought that stress, whether it be workplace, financial, relational, physical, mental or emotional would ever reach the heights that it is today. Experts are now reporting that stress has reached epidemic levels with reports indicating those people with obesity and or depression to be at severe health risks.

How stressed are Australians?

On average Australians report experiencing levels of stress and distress that is 

comparable to that of other western countries such as the United Kingdom and the 

US, with some population groups scoring much higher on some of the measures of 

stress and wellbeing than other groups in the community. However, a substantial 

percent of Australians (12%) reported experiencing a level of distress considered to 

be in the severe range.

www.psychology.org.au 

How stressed are Americans?

The annual Stress in America survey, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of APA among 1,226 U.S. residents in August and September 2011, showed that many Americans consistently report high levels of stress (22 percent reported extreme stress, an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress). While reported average stress levels have dipped slightly since the last survey (5.2 on a 10-point scale vs. 5.4 in 2010) many Americans continue to report that their stress has actually increased over time (39 percent report their stress has increased over the past year and 44 percent say their stress has increased over the past 5 years). Yet stress levels exceed people’s own definition of what is healthy, with the mean rating for stress of 5.2 on a 10-point scale—1.6 points higher than the stress level Americans reported as healthy.

www.apa.org 

So what does stress do to your body:

More like what doesn’t stress do to your body!

Here’s an article on 10 scary things that stress can cause that will make you want to jump for the next green grassy field and take up meditation quicker than you can blink.

Stress Health Effects

Basically, stress can be the single handed cause of just about any condition, ailment or disease that circulates each and every one of our bodies. It can be the cause behind inflammation, a trigger for many modern day illnesses and it certainly contributes to gastrointestinal problems and related conditions.

Now this isn’t the level of stress that’s caused from isolated incidences that involve the flight-fight response that raises our adrenaline/cortisol levels, gets our heart racing, raises our blood pressure and forces us to take on a protective stance and then when it’s all over, the body returns to normal.

No – the level of stress that occurs in order to produce major health risks and the inability to work or function normally in daily life is when those flight-fight responses never switch off. It’s when your day to day living is piled high with urgent to do lists, constant demands of physical, mental or emotional responses far outweigh the times of relaxation, fun or pleasure.

Can we learn to de-stress?

Learning to de-stress or finding ways to cope with stress can be good and it can be bad. By that I mean that sometimes what we think is a way of de-stressing is actually only a bandaid that covers up or ignores the issues that are causing the stress in the first place.

Things like –

1.Entertainment – Turning to the T.V., X-box, PS3, Nintendo, Ipod, Iphone, computer, movie screens etc etc will offer a great escape for the period that you’re watching, playing, listening etc but come to the end of the show, movie or game and you’ve achieved only 1 thing and that is to add more stress to your already stressed out mind. Research shows that the rising epidemic of stress is due largely to the increase of internet and technology.
In a new world of work where connectivity in real time rules the roost, it’s no wonder that work stress is on the radar. Expanding technology in our 24/7 global marketplace only fuels the challenges of a changing multi-generational workforce, which depending on which survey you look at, is a tad overworked and stressed. Work in Progress

Plus add to that, the stimulation to the brain that is caused from watching to many images late into the night and you have just lowered your hit rate of getting a restful night’s sleep to almost 0%.
2.Too hard basket – Sometimes this approach to stress works, that is if the basket can be thrown into the very large combustion burner or giant shredding machine and destroyed forever never to return. Oh but wait, that only happens in the movies. The too hard basket is a bandaid, an escape plan for when you really need a breather. But if the breather doesn’t include a plan as to how to deal with the stress that you’re having a breather from then it’s probably not much point in having a breather for that reason anyway. I know that sounds really mean, and yes I have definitely had my fair share of stress that I’ve taken plenty of breathers from. By all means we need those times of taking in deep breaths and smelling the roses or daisies, as long as we don’t keep using them to put off the inevitable.
 3.Blaming someone or something else – This definitely feels good at the time but is futile in the end. If you have bought a lie that somehow things that cause us stress can’t be our fault then you need to slap yourself across the face and say “wakeup………..”. Whether you find yourself in circumstances or relationship dramas that seem beyond your control you still have choices. Choices can get us into stress but they can get us out as well. 
4.Retail therapy – same problem as listed above. Feels great for the time you’re doing it, but at the end of the spree you’re left with not much money and that pile of stress is waiting for you, greeting you at the door.
This list could go on forever – and it’s not that anyone of those things are particularly bad on their own. But if they are used to avoid the real issues than that’s all they will do. They won’t get rid of the problem as many of us would hope they would.

Here’s a list of tried and rated old fashioned remedies for stress that might help.

Stress relief tools

Personally I like the one about crying as I had no idea that stress hormones were released through your tears!

Here’s what a bunch of stress experts and researchers are not going to stress about this year.

Don’t stress health and wellness experts 

IMO – and you all know that I’m no expert, doctor, psychologist or counsellor but just a girl who’s dealt with an extreme amount of stress in life, I believe in the following:

Exercise – With this one thing you can achieve a number of the things that were on the avoidance list above, but gain some beneficial hormone injection that can fuel your brain with food to think straight. Here’s what you can hit with 1 x 30 minute exercise/workout. Cardio intervals or tabata’s are one of the best forms of exercise as it produces more of the growth hormone then you’ll achieve from doing an arduous 5 km run or 1 long, enduring hour on a treadmill.

Exercise outside – fresh air, watch the clouds, smell the roses, and breath in deeply.

Exercise on your own – head space, a place for thoughts to download and perhaps become a little clearer with what you are dealing with and some peace and quiet.

Exercise with a good friend – download to someone who’s a good listener while you are exercising. Get another perspective. Or listen to their problems so you don’t have to think about yours.

Exercise – first thing in the morning and get full of the much needed hormones that will boost you through the day.

Exercise – at late afternoon/early evening (as long as it doesn’t keep you from not sleeping). This way you can avoid a) watching too much evening television, b) drinking coffee or other pump-me-up liquids. Great for a come- down after a hard days work.

Scheduling – While this won’t solve your problems, it will manage your thoughts and headspace that so often can make matters worse if you are constantly dealing with overwhelm.

I don’t make my scheduling difficult, otherwise I wouldn’t do it or it would just add to my stress. I simply use an A4 exercise book and each night before I go to bed, I jot down all the things that I either need to, want to or have to get done in the next 24 hours. Sometimes I prioritize in time slots so the very important stuff is out of the way first. Most times I break up my computer time with other more physical tasks like housework, running errands, taxing kids around, schooling etc so that I’m not spending long sessions in front of the computer. Scheduling has been one of the best solutions for me to wade through stuff, that would otherwise be put in the too-hard-basket.

Recognising personal stressors – Everyone is different. Trust me on this one. I used to think that there was something seriously wrong with me when I would get overwhelmed at say – going out at night. I had myself convinced that I was either making excuses for being lazy, avoiding the people who invited me or being just plain selfish. Crazy I know, but I’ve come to realize that you have to work with where you are in life and the type of personality that you are. While you can work on areas of your personality by tweaking some habits here and there, you often can’t change things that are fundamentally who God made you to be, and if you are already stressed, don’t add to it by stressing about who you are. Currently I am doing an Online Bible Study with Proverbs 31 about…..stress! One of the exercises was to write down very specifically the problem, how you feel about it and can you change anything about it. Put it down in 4 columns. The last column is left for what you have to give to God because the problem is beyond your control. I found this really helpful as it gets you to think specifically about the problem and then looking at alternatives to addressing it. Often when we are faced with problems or stresses (relationship issues are a good example), we react more than we respond. Reactions come straight from our emotions, where as responses come from thinking and planning a response prior to the interaction or confrontation.

Eating a healthy diet – Stress can come from all angles. It can come when we lose mindfulness of eating well. It can come from overeating to compensate for other stresses in our life. If you are someone who has gastrointestinal problems, then you’ll know that excessive stress will flare up symptoms in a flash. Because of the flight-fight response and the production of serotonin during that process it’s easy that in an extreme stress situation you may experience diarrhea, bloating, and a weakening of your digestion, which if it goes on for too long can alter the delicate balance of the gut and it’s lining. It’s important to remember that while these symptoms flare up, they can be managed with:

  • Not eating foods that your system will react to – gluten, dairy, sugars (fructose, lactose, sucrose).
  • Eating a good dose of fermented foods – veggies, smoothies, cream fraiche.
  • Eating a good dose of saturated fats – butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocado and olive oil.
  • Getting a good nights sleep – at least a minimum of 7 hours.
  • Exercise of any kind.

Identifying the problem and making a decision. – Often resolving stress is about decisions we make. Sometimes it only takes courage to change how you are doing something or relating to someone. Maybe it’s that you can let go of some of what you are doing, instead of being busy all the time. Maybe it’s about finding a new perspective on an old problem. Sometimes it’s learning to let go. I couldn’t finish this without mentioning that often decisions are beyond ourselves. We often need professional counseling and above that a faith in a much higher being than ourselves.

How about you? How do you deal with stress? Do you have any suggestions that have been tried and tested? Leave a comment it would be great to hear from you.