Stressed? Super busy? Join the club. Earlier this month the American Psychological Association (APA) released its annual Stress in America report and, as a nation, we’re pretty frazzled. In the past year alone, 35 percent of Americans said their stress levels have gone up.
The survey shows that women in particular have higher stress levels than men, and that Millenials (ages 18-33) win the title of “most stressed out generation.” Taken together, these findings mean that young women are the hardest hit demographic.
So, what’s driving our culture of stress and busyness?
Stress is a status symbol.
While the belief that “hard-work-equals-reward” has always been firmly lodged in the American psyche, we’ve now reached a point where being stressed has become synonymous with being successful. Working stressed is not the same as working smart, yet we assume that the more hours we put in, the more accomplished we are. This creates an environment where being busy makes us feel important and a long to-do list is a valuable assurance that we are contributing to our families, offices, communities… As a result, we wear our busyness like a badge of honor and measure daily accomplishments by how much got checked off The List. To some extent, taking downtime is considered lazy. It seems that stress has become America’s newest status symbol.
Everyone else is doing it.
When we’re not busy being stressed, we’re busy talking about how stressed we are. As women, we often bond by swapping stories about how unbelievably hectic our lives are. TV, movies, and Facebook bragging further amplify discussions of stress, generally reinforcing the cultural norm that all the cool kids are doing it. Trading tales of crazy schedules has become so normal that it’s easy to engage without noticing, but these types of conversations can be more competitive than cathartic. No matter how much we did in a day, it can still feel like we’re not keeping up with other superwomen.
How do we stop?
So, how to we slow down and de-stress before we crash? Psychologist Stephanie Smith recommends the following:
- Minimize the use of unhealthy coping strategies. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes or mindlessly munching potato chips and gummy bears, unhealthy coping strategies don’t do anything to decrease stress over the long-term. And they may very leave you with some bad habits to overcome. Identify whether you have unhealthy coping mechanisms and put in the work to minimize or eliminate them.
- Find something that works for you. Give yourself a healthy coping mechanism to de-stress. Leave your desk for a 15 minute walk, do yoga, run or set up a weekly call with a girlfriend—whatever works for you.
- Contact your health provider. The APA report shows that while “32 percent of Americans say it is very/extremely important to talk with their health care providers about stress management, only 17 percent report that these conversations are happening often or always.” Talk to your primary care physician before you hit a wall.
Do have any successful coping strategies for de-stressing? Share them with us in the comments!