Contrary to popular belief, being stressed out doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhappy. However, according to recent statistics, the U.S is one of the highest-ranking nations for levels of stress and anxiety, but why?
Read on to find out more about why, as a nation, we are topping the polls for being consistently more stressed out than any other country in the world.
U.S Citizens Face the Highest Levels of Stress in Over a Decade
Following the annual Global Emotions Poll earlier this year, the number of Americans reporting feelings of anger, worry, and stress have risen dramatically. Over 55% of respondents to the survey indicated they had experienced a lot of stress, compared to a global median of just 35%. Thankfully, the number of people reporting they felt anger on that same day was in line with the worldwide average of just 22%.
When Gallup, the company that conducted the poll, investigated the results in more detail, they found that those respondents who were on a low income, who were under the age of 50, and who didn’t view President Trump’s progress in office favorably, seemed to be affected directly.
So, who is to blame for these figures, and why are Americans so stressed out right now?
Negative Experiences Are High
A negative experience is either stress, anger, sadness, physical pain, or worry. In the latest survey, sadness and worry were two of the most pressing matters, with more people reporting these feelings in the U.S than ever before.
In previous studies of a similar nature, health, politics, finances, and healthcare have all been highlighted as leading stressors for people in American. Technology and Social Media also rank highly and have been frequently cited as major influencers of mental health issues and stress as well.
In one of our previous articles which covers how to transform your evening routine to help you get a better sleep and a more positive start to the day, we talk about the importance of disconnecting from your tech for the 1-2 hours before you go to bed. Figures suggest that those who are constantly on mobile devices directly before going to bed face disruption to their normal sleeping patterns.
The Impact of Politics on Stress
Looking at some of the other countries who had roughly the same levels of stress as the U.S., brought up some intriguing results. The only countries in the world who had higher stress levels than the U.S were Greece, Tanzania, and the Philippines. All of these countries are going through a period of political unrest or enduring a political turmoil, relating specifically to the economy, humanitarian rights, or security-related matters. Those with a similar rate of stress to the U.S. included Iran, Sri Lanka, and Albania.
Research from the American Psychological Association suggests that the recent elections in the U.S. have been detrimental to the mental health of many Americans. With the latest report in 2018, citing that almost 70% of Americans felt the future of the country was a significant source of their stress.
Other Factors Impacting an Over-Stressed Nation
More than ever before, our younger generations are reporting they feel stress, anxious, and depressed too. Millennials have disproportionately higher levels of loneliness and depression; which as we all know are key contributors to stress. Those classified as Generation Z’s, are said to be the most stressed of all age groups. The reasons given for this are again: finances, violence, politics, and health.
Understanding the Mechanics of Stress is Key
We all feel stress in different ways, and we are all ‘stressed out’ for different reasons. What may cause one person to feel anxious might be easily shrugged off by another.
Although we might typically believe that stress as emotional or mental pressure, physical and physiological stress are also important.
Stress of any kind can impact how we think, how we feel, and how we behave; this is because our bodies and our minds are continuously interacting.
What exactly is stress?
When a person is under stress, this results in a surge of hormones in the body. When detected, a very small part of your brain, called the hypothalamus, will respond by making your body produce more hormones; these hormones are cortisol and adrenaline.
Known to many as the ‘fight or flight’ response, these two hormones will enable you to handle any pressure or threats that you might be facing.
- Cortisol is nicknamed the stress hormone. It can increase your energy temporarily by releasing additional glucose into your bloodstream.
- Adrenaline will elevate your heart rate and your blood pressure, and it will also boost your energy.
Usually, your body will regulate itself in terms of its response to any stress. Once your hormone levels subside, your blood pressure and heart rate will also level out too.
Stress is normal, and we all need to feel a little pressure or stress in our lives to stay motivated. However, it becomes a problem for people when there is too much stress. When stress is not managed effectively, it may lead to several physical health issues, the worst of which are stroke and heart attack. Other less severe side effects of stress include high blood pressure, stomach upset, problems with sleeping, headaches, and problems with immunity.
Is There a Solution?
According to Mental Health America, there are a number of practical steps you can take to feel better and reduce the impact that stress is having on your life.
Spending a mere 10-20 minutes a day reflecting on things in a quiet setting can help bring much-needed relief from a hectic lifestyle or environment. The key to meditation is to completely disconnect from everything.
#2 Say No
If you’re one of the many people, who tend to take too much on. Whether this is because you are overburdened by family or by work, or perhaps you simply want to help; you need to be realistic and learn how to push back and say no.
#3 Stop Trying to be Perfect
Nobody is perfect. If you need help with something, then learn to ask for it. There is an age-old saying, ‘it takes a strong person to admit they need help,’ this is a popular term for a good reason.
#4 Take Things One Step at a Time
If your daily workload or responsibilities seem overwhelming, make a list. Focus on getting one thing at a time complete. Checking off your tasks can be a great motivator as you can see the progress you are making.
#5 Talk to Someone
Simply getting things off your chest and talking to someone can help. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can change things or fix your problems, but sometimes simply offloading can bring a much-needed sense of relief.
Getting just 15-30 minutes of exercise a day can help you find relief from even the most stressful of situations. When you work out, this releases endorphins which are known for their uplifting effects that can impact both the body and the mind.
While Americans might be reported as being some of the most stressed out people in the world, the same survey reported that more than 60% of respondents reported they had done something interesting or learned something new within the previous 24-hours of taking the survey; compared to a global average of under 50%, this means things are heading in the right direction.
Life isn’t always going to be easy, and the things that often cause us the most stress are not usually within our control. So, if you’re feeling a little stressed out today, make a plan for tomorrow, and ensure that you have a better tomorrow.