*By complete coincidence, this post is going live on National Stress Awareness Day (April 16th, 2017). Weird timing, huh?
I’m just going to say it: The way we (especially Americans) live and work, is NOT working.
If I asked 100 people to raise their hand if they are currently, or have in the past, been on some kind of medication for insomnia, anxiety, or depression, I’ll bet at least 90 people would raise their hand.
But let’s get a little more scientific. According to this study by Medco, “The number of Americans on medications used to treat psychological and behavioral disorders has substantially increased since 2001; more than one‐in‐five adults was on at least one of these medications in 2010, up 22 percent from ten years earlier.”
The study continues to say, “Women are far more likely to take a drug to treat a mental health condition than men, with more than a quarter of the adult female population on these drugs in 2010 as compared to 15 percent of men.”
Why? Biology? Women trying to do it all? It’s partly both, according to this article in the Huffington Post, “Women are bearing the brunt of the emotional stressors around us: they’re working, raising the kids, trying to juggle all these issues, getting all these things done, and they’re more likely to reach out and ask for help.”
But what if there wasn’t a need for so much help in the first place?
Aside from biology as a factor, what are we doing wrong, or more importantly, what can we change, because being stressed, lonely, anxious, burned out, not only comes at an emotional or physical (think side effects) cost, but a financial one as well.
In a survey I posted on social media, work is by far the biggest source of stress, coming in at a whopping 50%.
Here are some of the respondent’s comments regarding work stress:
- “I have over committed to a high-stress job.”
- “High pressure role/workload.”
- “Unorganized boss who has too many priorities – Feeling like I need to deliver on anything and everything – Trying to hold the team together.”
- “I have a lot of work responsibility but don’t have complete control over the results/outcome of many peoples work.”
- “Work load, expectations, hours.”
- “Work is all consuming.”
- “Not enough or not steady enough.”
- “Too many different tasks to do, not enough assistance.”
- and my favorite one- word answer, “boss.”
Second only to work stress is financial stress, coming in at just over 41%.
Here are some of the respondent’s comments regarding financial stress:
- “Debt, I’m a saver married to a spender, spouse is in a toxic workplace.”
- “Industry shift. Working on adding additional income streams to diversify and focus on retirement more.”
- “High cost of living, (and) a recent move.”
- “I feel like I don’t bring in enough money for certain things – savings, retirement, taxes.”
- “Start up businesses take lots of time and money. It’s feast or famine! Got to budget each week to make sure you have enough money at the end of month.”
Relationship & Kids
Rounding out the top 4 in life stressors is relationships and kids. Here are my favorite responses to that category:
- “…because my spouse is a tool.”
- “teenagers suck.”
Exercise is by far the most used technique for stress reduction, coming in at just over 76%, followed by:
- Other (drinking tea, reading, spending time with friends, sleeping, eating, reframing, baking, and wine): 53%
- Meditation: 36%
- Travel: 24%
What did surprise me about the results, which is at odds with the findings on prescription drugs, is that only 3% of the respondents said they used prescription medication. I suspect two things: One is that I only asked if people are taking prescription medication for stress specifically, and two, that people might feel vulnerable answering that question. I know many, many people who have told me they are taking medication for some kind of mood disorder.
Related Reading: Breaking Down My Core Values: Health
People on average are spending about $76 per month on stress-reducing activities. The lowest was $0, and the highest was $500 per month. It should also be noted that while exercise does a great job reducing stress, it also has other benefits, so it’s not like people might be paying a gym membership ONLY for stress reduction.
First, I think I need work on my survey-giving techniques to get more accurate data.
Second, what do we compare this to? Is this on par with what other countries are feeling? Probably not, if you consider how many countries rank over the U.S. on happiness levels. The U.S. ranked 14th.
And even if you don’t analyze the data and just talk to your friends, family, or co-workers, you’ll find that the answer a lot of times to the question, “how are you?” is usually answered with, “fine,” “busy,” “tired,” or “stressed.”
You’ll find many people doing things like spending a lot of money on massages, alcohol, eating out, concerts, travel, or any other, “I deserve it” activity to offset how they are feeling Monday-Friday. And I didn’t even include talk therapy as an option (my bad) in the survey, which can be quite costly, even with insurance.
Is there any wonder that there is so much correlation between work stress and financial stress?
Related Reading: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living
I wonder just how many people would not feel the need to spend as much if they didn’t feel so much stress? Perhaps another blog for another time…
Do you think we are overly stressed in the U.S.? Do you think the way we are living and working is not quite working?
Stay tuned for a part two, where I will talk about my favorite, low-cost ways to reduce stress!
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