Jul 11, 2014 11:30 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Are you stressed out? You’re not alone.

More than one in four Americans reported feeling very stressed in the last month, and 50 percent of adults, or 115 million people, have experienced a major stressful event in the past year, according to a national poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. And some experts estimate that this number is low, considering it only accounts for stress we are consciously aware of and can report.

The poll reveals that the major sources of stress for Americans are illness, low income, hazardous occupation and being parents. The result: Americans’ health, sleep habits, relationships and ability to concentrate are being adversely affected.

Stress is hard to measure or even define, notes Mary Talboys, a licensed clinical social worker at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

“What causes stress is an individual thing. Something that is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another,” she says. Still, Talboys believes the modern person is stressed, in large part, because there’s no off switch. 

“Think about the caveman days, when a person would feel adrenaline from hunting and gathering, then come ‘home’ and relax. Now, we live in a technological world and have no break from what stresses us out,” she says.

Indeed, we bring our smartphones with us into bed at night, and we perpetually check for emails, texts and tweets.

“This lifestyle keeps all systems on high alert. We don’t get to recharge.”

This lack of relief translates into a startling statistic. According to Talboys, during 90 percent of doctor visits, a patient will say, “I’m really stressed.”

Talboys offers these tips for managing and reducing stress:

  • Look at how you are managing your life. Do you live urgent phone call to urgent phone call? If so, think about who is placing these expectations on you. Most stress is actually self-imposed.
  • Be mindful of how you respond to expectations or demands. You don’t always have to say “yes.” It’s OK to say “no” sometimes.
  • Look at your choices from a rationale standpoint. Take the example of having to provide cupcakes for a child’s classroom party. You don’t have to make homemade. You can buy cupcakes at a store.
  • Make time for yourself regularly.
  • Work to achieve a balanced life. For instance, striving to be healthy is important, but you do not have to be perfect.
  • Read a book about mindfulness and stress reduction.

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