Stress Is on the Rise: Take Action!
Editor’s note: Besides discussing the rise of stress in the U.S., this article provides a few suggestions for not only weathering increasing stress, but also taking action to reduce and prevent it.
Feeling more anxious, frustrated or angry in recent months? You are not alone. Stress among Americans is on the rise, say those who monitor people’s emotional responses to political and other events.
"The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it," said Katherine C. Nordal of the American Psychological Association (APA), which conducts the periodic Stress in America Survey. "We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."
The APA survey, conducted shortly after the start of 2017, found more than half of Americans believed the political climate was a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half (49 percent) said the same about the outcome of the election. Two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of both major political parties, said they were "stressed about the future of our nation." The percentage of the U.S. population that cited personal safety and fear of terrorism as key drivers of increased stress showed significant increases from August 2016 to January.
Ease Stress, Remain Calm Through Challenges
The stressful reactions people have to individuals or events in the news that are generally about instability in our world are often compounded by continuous waves of anxiety from rapid change and uncertainty.
While anxiety is an understandable emotion, we should not obsess over it, as this only amplifies our stress. When you notice yourself becoming anxious, be patient and breathe thru the anxiety until it gradually lessens. It is also important to be self-compassionate and nonjudgmental of yourself as you go through this process.
Advice from Nordal, APA’s executive director for professional practice, runs along similar lines.
"For many, the transition of power and the speed of change can cause uncertainty and feelings of stress, and that stress can have health consequences," she said following the Stress in America poll. If the 24-hour news cycle is causing you stress, limit your media consumption. Read enough to stay informed but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life."
The health consequences from excessive stress can range from mild anxiety to overwhelm, heightened anger, sleep disorders and depression. If you or anyone you know is experiencing these or other symptoms – review HeartMath’s Solutions for Stress pages – as it’s time to take corrective action.
A good place to start is the free HeartMath Stress & Well-Being Survey, where you can identify your primary stressors. After taking the survey – typically 7-10 minutes – you will receive personalized tips for lowering your stress, connecting with your deeper heart and ultimately, taking care of you.
Increasing Resilience by Managing Emotions
We know it’s impractical to try to tune out all that is occurring in the world around us or avoid everyday encounters that may not always be pleasant to us. We can, however, learn to increase our resilience so we flow more smoothly through challenges and sustain our positive creative intentions.
Resilience is often defined as the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or challenge. Increasing our resilience also plays a highly effective role in strengthening our mental capacity, emotional stability and our health. It especially increases the personal energy needed for adjusting to change and uncertainty in the fast-moving scenes of life today.
Having a high level of resilience is important not only for bouncing back but for preventing unnecessary stress accumulation from frustration, impatience, anxiety, decision pressure and such.
HeartMath has verified through its research involving thousands of participants, that increasing and maintaining our resilience is highly dependent on our ability to manage emotions. Emotions are the principal drivers of a number of key physiological processes involved in energy regulation.
Moreover, while not dwelling on negative emotions is important, also learning techniques for replacing stress-producing emotions with positive, supportive ones can be a critical component to improving overall well-being. Practicing the following suggestion often produces immediate results, even the first time and within a few minutes.
A Suggestion for Replacing Stressful Emotions and Feelings
Take a few minutes several times a day to do this simple process.
Identify the emotion or attitude you want to replace.
Think of a positive feeling or emotion to replace the unwanted feeling.
As you breathe, imagine you are breathing in the positive replacement emotion. Imagine you are breathing in through your heart area. Do this for a while to lock in the new feeling or attitude and repeat this later if needed. Being genuine is key for effective results.
With a little practice, you will surprise yourself with your heart’s power to change many unwanted feelings, emotions and attitudes.
If you would like a deeper understanding of these subjects, you might find HeartMath’s new book, Heart Intelligence helpful.