10 Things to understand about stress.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 2.11.32 PM1.  Americans are VERY stressed out.

As a nation, our day-to-day stress levels are shockingly unhealthy. In fact, the majority of people say they feel unhealthy stress levels, and 1 in 5 people quantify their stress level as “extremely high.

Let’s look at some other data on stress:

75% of Americans experience symptoms related to stress in a given month.

33% feel they are living with extreme stress.

48% feel their stress has increased in the past 5 years.

2.  Stress causes physical symptoms.

While stress does cause many psychological discomforts and effects, it also manifests itself through physical symptoms. 77% of people who report symptoms related to stress experience physical symptoms. These can include tight shoulders, back pain, digestive problems, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal pain, lack of energy, a change in sex drive, grinding teeth, fatigue, muscle tension, and especially the inability to sleep. 66% of Americans blame stress for their nighttime tossing and turning.

According to the Center for Disease Control, stress is implicated as a factor in heart, stomach & mental disorders as well as high blood pressure & high cholesterol levels.

Chronic stress can take such a toll that it even affects our genetics and accelerates the aging process. In a comprehensive study, it was found that women with high stress levels experience a shortening in some of their DNA, which was the equivalent of almost a decade of accelerated aging compared to women with less stress.

3.  Feeling stressed is a vicious cycle.

Of course, high levels of stress create a vicious cycle that results in more stress and the inability to function normally, clearly, and healthily. People who experience high stress will have a hard time eating a god diet, getting enough sleep, breathing normally and deeply, exercising enough, and may engage in more frequent use of alcohol, nicotine, or even more harmful drugs. These behaviors exacerbate the effects of stress and may lead to additional health problems like depression, cardiovascular disease and a greater susceptibility to colds or disease.

4.  The common causes of stress.

There are several causes of stress that are most common in our lives. Those include work problems, financial problems, family conflicts or responsibilities, relationship issues, and health concerns. It’s important to understand the exact causes of stress in your life so you can work on healthy and positive solutions, and try to keep the physical and psychological effects spread throughout your entire life.

5.  Stress takes a huge toll on the workplace.

The high levels of stress we feel as Americans spills over into the workforce, exacting a high cost and heavy toll in health and production. According to the American Institute of Stress, it’s estimated that workplace stress costs more than $300 billion per year in health care and missed work. Stressed workers health costs are 46% higher than other employees, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. And stress is directly accountable for:

19% of employee absenteeism

40% of employee turnover

60% of workplace accidents costs

60-90% of doctor visits.

It’s also been found that stress on the job increase the chance of cardiovascular problems, anxiety and depression, substance abuse, some cancer, back pain and higher injury rates.

6.  Doctors and healthcare professionals often mishandle patient stress.

Our healthcare system is failing to properly handle the epidemic of stress in our society. In fact, studies reveal that doctors often overlook stress as the cause for common physical ailments, preferring to over-prescribe medications and drugs. Stress is a factor in 66% of doctor visits and 50% of the deaths to Americans under 65, yet of the patients that walk into doctors’ offices and hospitals with those symptoms, only half are properly diagnosed!

Considering that the CDC found that 90% of all disease is stress related, the medical profession needs to raise their level of awareness and amend their treatment options to combat stress before considering other diagnosis.

 7.  There’s a profound difference between normal everyday stress and deeper psychological disorders.

To clarify, we are talking about the spectrum of stress that most people experience, not the extremes that need more in depth treatment. About 10-20% of patients suffer from severe anxiety or depression indicative of a major psychiatric disorder. But the vast majority of us feel what’s called “everyday psychological stress.”

8. A lot of factors can contribute to stress.

High levels of stress can be caused by other factors in your life, like high use of alcohol, drugs, a sedentary lifestyle, sleep apnea or sleeping disorders, genetics, seasons, exposure to sunlight, environmental factors, and many others. It’s important to understand the cause and effects of stress so you can work towards managing that which is under your control.

9. There are natural and easy ways to help treat your stress.

At the same time our stress levels are through the roof, we’re not doing a good job trying to handle our symptoms and live healthier lives. In fact, only 37 percent of Americans feel they’re able to adequately manage their stress. Going to a doctor or speaking to a mental health professional are great options, but on a daily basis there are so many simple and effective ways we can manage stress in our lives and become healthier. Exercise is one of the best stress fighters, as exercise three times per week or more worked just as well as drugs for anxiety and depression, according to Psychosomatic Medicine. Stretching four times per week led to falling asleep 30% faster and decreased the use of sleep medications by 60%. Yoga, meditation, and relaxation and deep breathing practices have all been found to be extremely effective in reducing stress.

10 .  Help is always available!

If you feel that your stress is overwhelming, unmanageable, or causing unhealthy symptoms in your life, it’s a great idea to talk to someone. Remember that it’s a sign of strength to ask for help, not weakness. You can do some research online into the causes of stress and some of the cures we outlined, or contact a doctor or mental health counselor.

Contact Dr. Lance Casazza any time if you’d like to discuss your stress levels, techniques for better health, and the physical symptoms it may be causing.