By Dr. Jessica Warnecke, PT, DPT, OCS
Tired of over-stressing about everyday struggles? It's important to learn how to manage your stress levels, not only for productivity, but also for your health and well-being! According to the American Psychological Association’s annual survey and research, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. More than 75 percent of all physician office visits each year are stress-related ailments and complaints (Hartz-Seeley, 2018).
Chronic stress is becoming a bigger and bigger issue, especially in our country today. In the 1960s, the U.S. ranked as one of the highest in life expectancy in the world; however, today it is near the bottom of all major developed nations. While Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other country, we are experiencing a decreased life expectancy, and much of this is due to our increased levels of stress (One Nation Under Stress, 2019). These increased stress levels are especially notable among young adults aged fifteen to twenty-one.
High school and college can already be a very stressful time in people’s lives, but with increased external factors from our society today, these levels of stress are escalating even more. The most common stress factors in young adults’ lives involve income, debt, housing stability, and even hunger. Other prominent factors involve being depressed and lacking energy or motivation. These are common factors that any regular American might stress over, no matter their age. However, with less strategies and resources to cope, overcoming these emotions is especially difficult for young adults (Plante, 2018).
Even with growth and maturity, however, stress can still be a major factor in anyone’s life. Workers at each and every level of a job experience increased tension and uncertainty in their workplace. Whether it be fear of a layoff, feeling over-worked and unfulfilled, adjusting to a new boss or position, or wondering about health and retirement benefits, there are countless life factors that can lead to everyday work stress. According to a 2016 report, stressed employees spend an estimated 46 percent more on health care (Reynolds, 2016). Taking a minute to breathe and relax at work will not only help your productivity, it will benefit your health and ultimately save you money.
Even though stress is an everyday part of life, it is important to manage and control these levels. The body does a good job of handling acute stress triggers such as a traffic accident or a sudden fright by activating a “fight or flight” response through the sympathetic nervous system. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can play a role in many health ailments such as blood sugar imbalances, high blood pressure, decrease in bone density and muscle tissue, and lead to bad cholesterol or even heart attacks (Hartz-Seeley, 2014). Not only this, but excessive stress can also lead to binge eating or eating poorly. Often times when faced with a stressful situation, humans turn to junk food or dense foods high in calories, sugar, and fat, in order to combat their loss of energy from stress and to try to "feel better". Not only do these foods contribute to weight gain, they can actually increase stress further. While these food cravings might temporarily distract you and provide comfort, they don’t solve the underlying stress-causing problems. This habit can then progress to developing diabetes or even obesity.
Finding ways that help you personally control your stress levels can help you avoid these issues in your future. There are plenty of ways to reduce stress such as going for a jog, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, doing yoga, taking a bath, or reading a book. Find what works best for you and stick with it! It’ll help you add years to your life AND life to your years!
We discuss stress management options with almost every client we see. An important aspect of the complete rehab process is learning how to find your breath, feel in control, and stay calm. Here are some tips to help you breathe better that you can start applying to your daily life now!
Have questions about your particular stress management? We are more than happy to help! Send in a request below, and we'll have a doctor contact you.
1. Hartz-Seeley, D. S. (2014, March 21). Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.miamiherald.com/living/article1961770.html
2. One Nation Under Stress - About. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/one-nation-under-stress/about
3. Plante, T. G., Ph.D. (2018, December 3). Americans Are Stressed Out, and It Is Getting Worse. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201812/americans-are-stressed-out-and-it-is-getting-worse
4. Reynolds, J. (2016, June 28). 11 Shocking Stats About Stress at Work and How to Remedy Them. Retrieved July 18, 2019, from https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/stats-stress-in-the-workplace-how-to-remedy-them
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.