I tend to write fairly often about the subjects of stress and anxiety. Why? Statistics show that about 40 million people or 18% of the adult population of the USare affected by this disorder each year. That would make it the #1 issue facing the mental health community.
How is stress different from anxiety?
Stress is your response to a change in your environment, be it positive or negative. Anxiety is an emotion that’s characterized by a feeling of apprehension, nervousness, or fear. Acute anxiety is temporary, like a roller coaster ride, and can be positive, whereas chronic anxiety is pervasive and long term and likely to cause very negative results.
Chronic stress is long-term stress, such as that caused by traumatic events or miserable living conditions. Untreated chronic stress can contribute to major depressive disorder, a form of intense depression that lasts for long periods and can prevent someone from living a normal life. Chronic stress also can contribute to physical illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and obesity.
Money, work, and the economy continues to be the most cited (75%) causes of stress for Americans.
I see stress separate from distress. Whenever I visit a brand new place, particularly when it is very unfamiliar, I tend to feel stress. But I am not distressed, just excited. Distress comes when I cannot maintain a degree of control in the new environment.
Here are some truths about stress and some myth-busters.
- Stress does not cause your hair to turn grey.
- Cuddling your pet, significant other, child or listening to music lowers your stress.
- Stress does not cause ulcers, it just makes them worse.
- There is no link between stress and infertility.
- According to the American Cancer Society, no definite link between stress and cancer has been found.
- Stress can cause erectile dysfunction and loss of libido.
- Women are twice as likely as men to be affected by generalized anxiety disorder.
- Daily exercise greatly helps to reduce the effects of stress.
- Anger or hostility releases stress hormones into the blood and can cause heart problems.
- Smoking cigarettes does not reduce stress.
Focusing on the positive (gratitude), speaking soothing words to yourself, praying and practicing deep breathing can be very helpful. The combination of medications and psychotherapy is highly effective with anxiety issues. 70-90% of people experience an improvement.
Learn to set realistic goals for yourself at home and at work, and have good boundaries with people. If it is hard for you to say “no”, then you need to enlist some help. Prepare for change as far in advance as you can, and lower your expectations. You will likely lead a much calmer life.