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Though the Stress in America survey reveals that stress levels have consistently been dropping since 2007, a whopping 22 percent of US residents still reports that they suffer from extreme stress. Major sources of stress include personal health problems, financial worries, work-related pressure, relationships, family responsibilities and worries over the health of loved-ones.
We all know what stress can do to us. On an emotional level, 42 percent of highly stressed people experience anger, 37 percent fatigue, and 35 percent reduced energy levels and demotivation. Headaches, upset stomachs, changes in libido and appetite alterations are also fairly common, though more people react to stress by binge eating than by skipping meals. A whopping 44 percent of Americans also report that stress sometimes keeps them awake at night.
How are we handling that stress? We could yell at others to relieve pressure, turn to alcohol, binge the night away on greasy foods, starve ourselves, do drugs, or just pretend the stress isn't there at all. If you were to take that road, you certainly wouldn't be the first. There are, of course, healthier coping mechanisms. Frankly, they're so boring that you've already heard them spoken of a thousand times before — exercise, talk to a friend, keep a stress journal, get therapy, change your job, get a divorce, you get the general drift. At the core of the most effective stress-relief tips lies the idea that we need to change unsustainable situations, and learn to cope with those things we cannot change in a better way.
First Things First: Identify Your Stress
Is your stress caused by something short-term and unchangeable, such as a high-stakes presentation at work or an unexpected bill that just came in? All you can do is deal the best you can. In these situations, you will benefit from facing your fears head on, and using coping mechanisms to distract yourself. Is your stress caused by something short-term but changeable? Examining what it would take to make change come about and then making it happen is your best bet here.
Long-term stress caused by existential problems such as chronic illness, a poor work-life balance, an unhappy marriage, or a looming bankruptcy, is much harder to deal with. In some cases, real change is the ultimate answer — but that change will come at a cost, in a manner that will inevitably induce more stress. In others, there isn't much we can do to eliminate the cause of stress, but coping mechanisms may make our life much better.