stress in AmericaAre you one of the two thirds of Americans who, according to a 2004 APA Survey, are likely to seek help for stress?  Not only are Americans already stressed, but according to a 2008 APA study, stress is on the rise.

The APA Study found that people are experiencing more irritability and anger.  Physical and emotional symptoms due to stress have increased and more than half of Americans are lying awake at night or experiencing insomnia as a result of stress.

Is this You?  If it is, how do you manage all this stress?

Stress is a reaction to both physical threats – a car careening out of control—and psychological threats – a co-worker taking credit for your work.  Daily hassles, such as a washer that overflows, a sick cat needing a trip to the vet, work overload and traffic, are often responsible for stress.  In a troubled economy, financial problems can be a significant source of stress for many.

Some stressors can be avoided by making changes in your lifestyle.  Finding a better balance between work and home life or reining in out-of-control spending can reduce stress.  But, some stress is inevitable.  None of us live in a perfect world where washers never break or cats never get sick.

When you’re faced with the inevitable stresses in life, do you tend to deal with them and move on, or do you tend to get stuck, worrying and ruminating?  Although you can’t avoid stress altogether, how you respond to it and cope with it has a significant impact on how long it lasts.  Worry and rumination are key culprits in stress that lingers for hours, days and even weeks.

To make matters worse, many people are engaging in problematic behaviors in attempts to manage their stress.  Over and under eating, skipping meals, drinking and smoking are a few of the problem behaviors that people turn to in times of stress.  Unfortunately, over time, these behaviors make you more vulnerable to additional stress.

Rising levels of stress and inadequate coping skills are affecting our home lives, work, and health.  According to APA, extreme emotional and health consequences are most severe when people ignore symptoms and fail to manage their stress well.

In my next few posts I will discuss strategies for coping with stress, surviving holiday stress, the impact of dance on stress, changing stress by acting opposite to how you feel, reducing vulnerability to stress and increasing awareness of problematic thinking that contributes to stress.  If you are stressed, I’d be interested to hear, in the comments section, about what is stressing you out and how you are coping.