Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has produced an annual Stress in America™ report as part of its MindBodyHealth campaign to better understand the current climate of stress along with its overall impact on our functioning. The most recent 2013 edition published in March highlights a high degree of overall stress, not just for adults, but for adolescents as well. Furthermore, the report contains significant findings that although we are aware of our overall high stress levels, we are doing relatively little to manage our stress effectively. The survey looked specifically at how lifestyle factors of sleep, diet, and exercise are impacted by stress. The lead in statement from the report:
“While no one can avoid all stressful situations, Stress in America™ portrays a picture of high stress and ineffective coping mechanisms that appear to be ingrained in our culture, perpetuating unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors for future generations.“
Yikes. But it gets worse. Numbers from the study:
- 78% of adults say stress has gotten worse over the last 5 years
- 30% believe stress has a major impact on their physical health
- 33% believe stress has a major impact on their mental health
- 5.1. The average adult stress level on a 10 point scale
- 3.6. The reported level adults believe can be adequately managed on the same 10 point scale
- 62% of adults who exercise regularly report it is “extremely effective” for stress management
- But only 17% of adults reporting exercising daily
- 44% report not doing enough to manage stress
- 19% report doing NOTHING at all to manage stress
- 68% who sought stress management from a psychologist reported it to be “extremely effective”
While the report is certainly alarming in the scope of stress impacting our lives, it does relatively little to offer suggestions for proactive stress management techniques, other than the following:
The APA’s takeaway: “For a healthy mind and body, talk to a psychologist.”
Well, that’s certainly why we are here 🙂 We need more, however. While talking to a psychologist and learning proactive stress management techniques is valuable, it’s simply not feasible for some. Here are some simple, yet effective strategies for stress management.
- First and foremost, stress management needs to be a daily, weekly, and overall lifestyle commitment. This is likely a major culprit to why we know we are stressed but not doing anything about it.
- Movement helps. 30 minutes of walking or brisk movement to elevate the heart rate several times per week is crucial (The World Health Organization recommends a total of 150 minutes per week for adults).
- Breathe. We are breathing constantly, but often without awareness. Proactive breathing has been demonstrated to reduce the stress response.
- Gratitude. At the end of each day remind yourself of 3 things you were grateful for that day. This helps maintain a positive focus and switches you away from negative rumination.
- Turn off electronic devices. We are tethered to our phones, tablets, computers etc. We are constantly dialed into every email, text, and facebook posting. Taking time each and every day away from the barrage of daily banter allows us to reset.
- And, as the APA recommends, “For a healthy mind and body, talk to a psychologist.” That’s why we are here 🙂