Land of the Free, Home of the Stressed?
Americans are stressed. So much so that they have even topped a 2018 Gallup survey for the amount of stress experienced daily. 55% of Americans reported experiencing stress during a large portion of their days, which is drastically high compared to the worldwide average of 35%. We hear so much about stress and it can interfere with nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Stress from our jobs, relationships, finances and so many other real-life situations impedes upon our well-being. However, despite its all encompassing existence in our lives, many of us go through life without actually learning how to manage it.
We know the feeling of stress, but what is it exactly? Stress is a physical chain reaction that our body uses as a way of handling uncomfortable, dangerous or challenging situations. This is the “fight-or-flight” response and when it occurs, it fills the body with hormones that enable you to literally “think on your toes” and act quickly. Whether you stay and confront the danger or you flee the scene, this stress response ensures you’re ready for it. When experiencing stress, the body kicks into gear producing adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals cause your heart rate to quicken activating your muscles, and increasing your overall level of focus.
While it’s incredibly useful in terms of survival and handling extremely difficult events, in everyday stressful situations we aren’t typically faced with life-or-death scenarios. Therefore, the fight-or-flight physical reaction wreaks havoc on our bodies. When a situation arises causing the body to respond with stress, it slows down normal functioning, most notably in areas such as the digestive and immune systems so resources can be allocated to survival.
What makes a huge difference in how our bodies handle stress is how well we can cope with it. For instance, individuals who have a difficult time managing stress will be more likely to have negative reactions and may face stress-related health issues as a result. However, those who are better equipped to adapt during times of stress face less difficulty when experiencing it.
According to the annual stress survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), average stress levels in the United States (U.S.) rose from 4.9 to 5.1 on a scale from 1 to 10 in 2015. The main reasons given are employment and money….a 2012 study suggested that the stressors experienced by parents, such as financial troubles or managing a single-parent household, can lead to obesity in their children.
These examples demonstrate how stress is not confined to individuals. Stress within families is often shared and it can affect the whole household negatively. The bottom line here is that Americans need to learn to manage stress better. For our physical and mental health, it is of utmost importance to live a better quality life. 55% of our population experiencing constant stress is indicative of change being necessary. The human body has evolved to survive and stress has been a major component of ensuring our bodies and minds can withstand life’s many pressures. While we are designed to either come out swinging or run for the hills, living in a constant state of fight-or-flight can have truly detrimental results.
Read more at MedicalNewsToday.com.
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