According to the American Psychological Association (APA), we are stressed out.
The latest Stress in America report from the APA, published in 2018, found that over half of millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and members of Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2015) feel stressed out, with just under half of baby boomers and older adults feeling the same.
Money, work, and health concerns are America’s main stressors, and mental health crises are prevalent outcomes of high stress.
The report clearly states one thing—stress is a certainty, and you’re going to get your turn with it sooner or later. Here’s a list of 10 things to avoid when stress rears its ugly head:
1. Drinking, smoking, and substance abuse
Many Americans look to drinking, smoking, and recreational or prescription drugs to ease the effects stress has on the body. Substance abuse can cause addiction, which over the long term can cause a whole host of inevitable, stressful health problems—cancer, stroke, heart disease, and mental illness among them.
2. Oversleeping or undersleeping
The more you sleep, the more tired you feel, and the more tired you feel, the less likely you are to be productive. The same is true if you don’t get enough sleep. Set a regular sleep schedule—you need seven to nine hours each night.
3. Overeating or Undereating
Many of us binge on snacks when stressed. Overeating can lead to unwelcome weight gain or obesity if left unchecked. Obesity increases your risk of chronic health issues, even cancer. And while some of us binge, others lose their appetites. Those who don’t eat enough report feeling chronically fatigued, ill, and depressed, among other things.
Shopping can be an effective stress reliever—and an expensive one. It’s easy to fall into debt if you shop to relieve stress. You may already be a stress shopper, if:
- You self-justify those indulgent purchases.
- You feel guilty after you shop.
- You shop by yourself to avoid justifying purchases.
If work is the cause of your stress, try to work less, not more, if you can. Your brain needs some time to rest and reset. The less stress you have, the more focused you are, and the more focused you are, the higher the quality of your work.
7. Escaping the issue
Don’t ignore the reason why you’re stressed. If you distract yourself to escape stress momentarily, your stress will remain when your distraction ends. Identify the causes of your stress, and come up with a plan to address them. It’s OK to ask for help.
8. Withdrawing from social activities
Don’t seclude yourself. Take some time to hang around friends and family—people who make you laugh. You need to look forward to something other than your stressors.
9. Dwelling on the negative
“Belief is like the binding glue . . . that holds together an interpretation with an event,” writes Sepi Tajima, a psychotherapist, counselor, and life coach. “The repetition of a believed-in event and interpretation shapes your reality, your mindset, and eventually builds your character.” In other words, the more you think about stress, the more stressed you’ll feel.
An extreme example, but some cope with stress through self-harming. Individuals who injure themselves report temporary alleviation from emotional distress, especially when they can’t put their distress into words. Aside from self-inflicted injury, self-harm can take the forms of binge drinking, reckless driving, and unsafe sex.
The bottom line
As crappy as it is, you will feel stressed out from time to time. How you deal with your stress largely defines your stress experience.