Stress happens when you feel overloaded or find it difficult to handle demands, which can be related to work, relationships, work, and other situations, explained Adam Felman of health and medical information platform Medical News Today. Anything that poses a real perceived challenge or threat to your wellbeing can result in stress.
But it can also be a source of motivation since stress can be critical to one’s survival. Your “fight-or-flight” mechanism can tell you when and how to respond to danger. However, when there are too many stressors or if this mechanism is triggered too easily, it can compromise your physical and mental health. The more stressors you experience, the more you feel stressed out.
Global Stress Statistics
Management consulting company Gallup gauged stress levels in 143 countries, finding that stress levels remained high in Greece with 59% of Greeks reporting they were under a lot of stress, cited Niall McCarthy of German statistics platform Statista. The Philippines and Tanzania reported the second-highest stress levels at 58 and 57% respectively. 55% of people in the US, Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka said they were stressed.
A Snapshot of Stress In America
The Stress In America Survey has studied how stress affects the health and well-being of adults in the US since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), a scientific and professional organization. In 2015, overall stress levels rose slightly due to greater percentages of adults reporting extreme levels in the year prior. Adults said stress negatively affected their mental and physical health.
With regard to the root causes of their stress, adults are more likely to find family responsibilities more stressful than they have in the past. Since 2007, the Stress in America survey has found that money and work are the top two sources of very or somewhat significant stress, amounting to 67% and 65% respectively. However, the survey revealed that family responsibilities were the third most common stressor in 2015 (54%), followed by personal health concerns (51%) and health problems affecting the family (50%), and the economy (50%).
On a 10-point scale, women (5.3) experienced a higher level of stress than men (4.9 stress level) in 2015, up from 5.2 for women and 4.5 for men in 2014. 67% of men and 66% of women rated money as significant sources of stress. Both women and men engaged in stress management activities like exercising or walking (42% for women and 43% for men), going online (40% versus 41%), and watching TV or movies for over two hours a day (40% versus 38%).
Younger generations and women consistently struggled with stress over the years. Hence, they were more likely to say that their stress has increased in the past year than their counterparts. 82% of millennials and 73% of Gen Xers were more likely to cite money as a significant source of stress than Boomers (58%) or Matures (41%). 79% of Millennials were more likely to say that work is a significant source of stress than Gen Xers (67%), Boomers (48%), and Matures (37%).
Adults who are part of the LGBT community reported higher stress levels (6.0) than adults who are non-LGBT (5.0). LGBT adults (39%) were more likely to report extreme levels than their counterparts (23%). Among LGBT adults, 57% mentioned job stability as a somewhat or very significant source for stress and 36% of non-LGBT adults cited this concern.
Adults with disabilities reported an average stress level of 5.5 while those without disabilities reported an average of 4.8. Adults with disabilities said money (75%) and work (73%) were somewhat or very significant sources of stress, while adults without disabilities mentioned money (75%) and work (73%) as sources of stress, albeit much less than their counterparts.
4 Tips On How to Manage Your Stress
1. Use A Safety Signal
Heidi C. Meyer and colleagues of journal portal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) suggested using a safety signal when excessive fear is triggered, cited John Anderer of career news and job search platform The Ladders and Bill Hathaway of Yale News, a university news source. Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Yale and co-first author Paola Odriozola stated, “A safety signal could be a musical piece, a person, or even an item like a stuffed animal that represents the absence of threat.”
In Meyer and colleagues’ research, the subjects were conditioned to associate one shape with a threatening outcome while a different shape was used with a non-threatening outcome. In mice, tones were used instead of shapes. They found that the non-threatening shape or the safety signal negated the subjects’ fear compared to the threat-related shape. Prescription medication and therapy may help subdue stress, but using a safety signal may be useful for people who have found therapy unhelpful.
2. Get up and Get Moving
J. Carson Smith and colleagues of online journal platform Frontiers instructed one group of students to participate in three separate 30-minute rest and sessions and another to engage in three bouts of moderate exercise, cited Brittany Smith of lifestyle magazine Men’s Journal. The groups then viewed 90 photos, which were composed of neutral and highly arousing pleasant and unpleasant photographs. They viewed them again after 20 minutes.
Those who exercised experienced less anxiety after viewing unpleasant photos, concluding that exercise can aid in managing stressful situations. In the long run, exercise can act as a buffer when you’re experiencing the negative impacts of any circumstance.
3. Get In Touch With Nature
Gregory N. Bratman and colleagues of PNAS found that participants who went on a 90-minute walk through a natural environment had lower levels of rumination that those who walked through an urban landscape. This showed that natural areas may be vital in improving your mental health amid the rapidly urbanizing society we live in. Hence, it’s best to dedicate a part of your time for hiking or biking in a natural environment.
Ari Novick, Ph.D., a therapist specializing in stress management, noted, “If you like the activity, then you’ll be more inclined to do it more frequently, which will help ward off stress.”
4. Establish A Support Network
The APA recommended developing networks of social support by talking to your neighbors and other people in the local community. You can also opt to join a club, charity, or religious organization.
Even if you are not stressed, being part of a group can prevent stress from arising and help provide you with support and practical help when you experience hardship. You can consult a professional if you think that stress is affecting your daily life.
Hopefully, the above-mentioned tips will help you manage stress and its impacts better. Stress is an inevitable part of life and we have to find ways to deal with it— both in the short and long term.