Stress: Facts, Figures, and Coping Strategies

nail bitingBy Carol Josel –

Seems there’s an awful lot of nail biting going on out there, confirmed by the American Psychological Association finding that nearly 75% of survey respondents experience unhealthy levels of stress.

That discovery was underscored by TeleVox’s “A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance” which found that 52% of us say stress is negatively impacting our health, and 65% of healthcare providers say that about their patients.

The end result:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension/pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems

It also leaves us anxious, restless, unmotivated and unfocused. And, as if that’s not enough, some of us end up feeling irritable, even angry, sad, and/or depressed. Meanwhile, we often end up dealing with such stress symptoms in unhealthy ways that include:

  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

Put another way: a vicious circle.

To this, Scott Zimmerman, president of TeleVox, says, “Healthcare providers across America need to step up and help patients better manage their levels of stress. By leveraging technology to stay engaged with patients between office visits, doctors can provide patients with the support necessary to implement changes that will result in a less stressed lifestyle.”

And 65% of such providers agree that emails, text messages, or phone calls with tips between visits would help their patients improve their health and stress levels. That doesn’t mean they’re doing it, however, since many are already overscheduled and pressed for time.

But even if no such personalized messaging comes your way, there are things you can do for yourself-especially now when we’re well into the most stressful time of the year-the holidays. Start with exercise, something 88% of doctors said they’d recommend as a stress reliever. Hop on a treadmill, take a walk, jump rope, Zumba, jog… You get the idea, but don’t stop there. Consider adding:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

And, of course, consult with your physician before doing any exercise.

Meanwhile, during this rush-around, gift-buying, food-filled, partying time of year, here are a few more stress-relieving tips:

  1. Plan ahead and be a list maker, organizing purchases by store, groceries by supermarket aisle.
  2. Set up a realistic spending budget and stick to it.
  3. Take cooking shortcuts, such as buying pre-cut fruit and frozen hors d’oeuvres.
  4. Eat healthfully, limiting artery-clogging fats and blood pressure raising sodium.
  5. Get plenty of sleep, aiming for 7 to 8 hours a night. (Helps avoid weight gain, too.)
  6. Don’t overindulge when it comes to food and alcohol.
  7. Say “no” once in a while; no need to show up at every get-together and celebration.
  8. Stick to your budget, thus avoiding “sticker shock” when the credit card bill arrives.

Bottom line: To keep stress at bay, exercise regularly, don’t overdo, get plenty of zzz’s, and shop smartly, as well. Will surely make for a merrier Christmas and a happier, healthier 2014, too.

Carol Josel is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at both Gwynedd Mercy College and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles, she has also authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for examiner.com; you can find her articles at http://www.examiner.com/wise-parenting-in-philadelphia/carol-josel. For more information, go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com or contact Carol at carol@schoolwisebooks.com.

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