Just in Time for Halloween: Scary Facts About Stress

It’s that time of year again - time for jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, ghosts, goblins, and… stress. Yes, stress. According to new research by the American Psychological Association, more Americans are feeling stressed than ever before. The survey found that 84% of adults said they experienced at least one emotion tied to prolonged stress in the prior 2 weeks1. Does this sound like your experience?

Since it's Halloween, we thought we’d dive into the scary side of stress, with some startling statistics, and end with some hopeful thoughts about ways we can address stress. So, settle in with that pumpkin latte and prepare to be frightened.

Scary facts about stress

  • The pandemic has taken a toll. More than half of U.S. adults agreed they are struggling with the ups and downs of the pandemic. 50% say that sometimes they are so stressed about the pandemic that they struggle to make even basic decisions2.

(But wait, it gets worse.)

  • Everyday problems cause stress. Surveys show that the top 3 causes of stress include job pressure, money issues, and health issues3

  • Stress can wreak havoc on health. Too much bad stress (there’s good stress too - see our article) can cause premature aging, weight gain, physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, and body aches, increased risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s Disease, decreased fertility, lost sleep4, and may even shrink our brain5.

  • Stress has a negative impact on work. Workplace stress not only affects workers, it also has adverse effects on company performance. It reduces employee productivity and increases absenteeism, turnover, the number of days taken off for doctor visits, and healthcare costs incurred by employers. Even worse, job stress is linked to higher accident and injury rates6.

  • Stress can damage relationships. Stress spills into our personal lives in many ways, affecting the quality of our close relationships with friends and loved ones. Withdrawing, evading, and limiting communication are common side effects of stress which can harm relationships. According to the American Institute of Stress, 25% of us feel alienated from a friend or family member because of stress, and over half have fought with people close to them because of stress7.

  • People with chronic stress try to manage it with unhealthy behaviors. Over 50% of us say we've tried to manage stress at one time or another by drinking too much alcohol, gambling, overeating, smoking, using drugs, or participating in compulsive behaviors like shopping or web browsing8.

Is there an upside?

Like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup found at the very bottom of a trick-or-treat bag, there is an upside. There are ways to mitigate stress if you work at it a bit.

Experts say strategies to lessen the negative impacts of stress on your life include:

  • Maintaining a healthy social support network

  • Engaging in regular physical exercise

  • Getting an adequate amount of sleep 

  • Eating a well-balanced diet lower in sugar and higher in plants and protein

  • Learning in-the-moment, self-calming techniques such as meditation and breathing

  • Reaching out to a licensed mental health counselor for additional help when your own strategies are not working

These strategies can help identify the challenges and stressors that affect your daily life, find ways to help you best cope for improving your overall physical and mental well-being, and ultimately avoid the scary side of stress.

Optivio is an enterprise-level stress management and performance optimization platform that can help your workforce better manage stress. Learn more about it here: http://www.optivio.com/technology 

References

1. American Psychological Association, Stress in America 2021.
2. American Psychological Association, Stress in America 2021.
3. Ibid.
4. American Psychological Association, Stress Effects on the Body.
5.
Yale University, Even in the healthy, stress causes the brain to shrink, Yale study shows
6. Corporate Wellness Magazine, Workplace Stress: A Silent Killer of Employee Health and Productivity
7. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Stress From Daily Hassles in Couples: Its Effects on Intra Dyadic Stress, Relationship Satisfaction, and Physical and Psychological Well-Being
8. Cleveland Clinic, Stress: Signs, Symptoms, and Management.

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