Health & Wellness

The Top 5 Everyday Stressors Impacting Your Health

If you’re like most Americans, it probably seems like the next big problem is just waiting around the corner for you. Whether it’s your job, partner, aging parents, kids, financial trouble, health concerns, or something else, these common everyday stressors eventually add up to take a big toll on your health.

So, in honor of April being National Stress Awareness Month, let’s do a quick review of how long-term stress impacts your health, take a closer look at the top everyday stressors, and discuss ways you can help support your body’s stress response. Not only will you have better health, but you’ll also have greater peace of mind!

 

How Long-Term Stress Affects Your Health

As I’ve mentioned before, we are a chronically stressed nation. And you’re likely so used to feeling stress each day that you’ve become accustomed to the feeling—thinking you’re just busy or “have a lot going on.”

But here’s a shocking stat to consider: According to The American Institute of Stress, two-thirds of American workers report regularly engaging in behaviors such as drinking and/or crying in an effort to deal with their everyday stressors. [1] Does that sound normal or healthy to you?

Here’s the problem: Your body simply wasn’t built to handle constant stress over long periods of time. Instead, your adrenal glands (your body’s “control center) were designed to handle short-term bouts of stress. Once that short burst of stress is dealt with, your adrenal glands need to relax and repair so they can react to the next stressor. But, these days, that no longer happens.

Today, you’re surrounded by active stressors in your life. And when these stressors are constantly coming at you, your body is put under chronic stress—meaning your adrenal glands are constantly active. What does this mean? Well, when your adrenal glands don’t get a chance to “power down,” they go into overdrive to try to help your body adapt to the stress so that it can keep functioning.

The problem with this is that, eventually, they’re are no longer able to keep up and end up fatigued. And that’s when the real problems begin, because adrenal fatigue is linked to a variety of health issues.

That’s why it’s so important to stay aware of how everyday stressors impact your health. But in order to become aware and proactive, you must first learn what the top everyday stressors are and how to deal with them in a way that protects your health.

5 Everyday Stressors

Here are the top five sources of stress for Americans, according to The American Institute of Stress.

1. Money

According to the American Psychological Association, concerns about money rank as the No. 1 source of stress for Americans. Approximately 65 percent of those surveyed stated that money is a “somewhat or very significant” source of stress. [2]

After the release of this data, scientists took a closer look at how financial stress impacts health, and the findings were quite interesting. In a 2017 study on 680 participants, researchers found significant relationships among financial stress, psychological distress, and inflammatory markers. Basically, they discovered that because financial stress causes psychological distress, it ultimately causes increased inflammation in the body. [3] And as you likely know, inflammation has been linked to a myriad of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more.

Given what we know about the link between stress and inflammation, is it any wonder why we’re seeing a rise in inflammation-induced chronic illnesses when the majority of our nation is stressed about money?

2. Work

The second greatest everyday stressor for Americans should come as no surprise—our jobs. In a survey conducted by Northwestern National Life, 40 percent of workers rated their jobs as “very or extremely stressful.” [4]

Sadly, workplace related stress is only getting worse over time, with workload accounting for most of the job-related stress people are experiencing. [5] In fact, I often find that people who report job-related stress feel completely exhausted, overwhelmed, and burned out. [6]

As you would suspect, feelings of work-related stress and overwhelm have long-term impacts on your health. In fact, a 2014 study of 201 participants revealed that high amounts of work-related stress were associated with poorer overall health and a higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Moreover, lack of workplace support was associated with higher depression levels. [7]

3. Family

It makes sense that family would logically follow work as the third highest ranking everyday stressor, right? After all, if you’re under a large amount of stress at work, that’s going to impact how you interact with your family. Whether it limits the time you can spend with your kids or how you can adequately care for aging parents, the two are definitely linked.

Approximately 73 percent of parents report family responsibilities as a significant source of stress. But what you may not realize is that this stress trickles down to the children in the family as well. In fact, numerous studies have shown that there’s a direct link between parents who are under high stress and an increased likelihood of parent depression, poorer family physical health, ineffective parenting, and even behavioral problems and even developmental delays in children. [8]

Additionally, studies have shown that caring for older family members is a significant source of stress and is likely to result in symptoms of depression, leading to further health concerns. [9]

The takeaway here? As a middle-aged adult, it can be hard to manage all of your familial roles, which can easily lead to the same feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm that you experience with work. And when you’re on that constant hamster wheel of stress, your body’s stress response never shuts off—leaving you at increased risk of further health complications.

4. Relationships

While relationships of all types, whether romantic, friendship, or even familial, are a great source of joy and support, they can easily suffer as a result of other everyday stressors.

As a result, this can actually cause those very relationships that we love and hold dear to become yet another everyday stressor that’s added to our lists. In fact, surveys have shown that more than 25 percent of Americans tend to feel alienated from a friend or family member due to stress. [10] It’s unfortunate, right?

Interestingly, scientists are studying how stress impacts our daily relationships, and their findings are insightful. A study on 41 couples revealed that couples’ stress and coping processes impacted the couple’s relationships. Specifically, it impacted their language choices and their perceived interaction quality. [11]

And another study published in 2015 revealed that external sources of stress such as concerns about money, work, and other relationships negatively impacted the romantic relationships of over 100 couples. In fact, the more stress the participants experienced outside of their homes, the more stress they experienced within their relationships. And as you can imagine, that increased relationship stress resulted in a decrease in satisfaction with their partners. [12]

5. Economic outlook

Perhaps one of the biggest everyday stressors for many Americans, especially now, is related to the uncertain economic outlook. While this source of stress is certainly tied to money, which ranks as the No. 1 everyday stressor, it really goes beyond that.

You see, uncertain economic times can not only impact your finances, but your relationships (if people are counting on you to be a provider), your workload (due to layoffs), and even your mental health. In fact, economic crises have been linked to an increase in anxiety, depression, and even suicide. [13]

Additionally, studies have found that unemployment caused by economic depression actually resulted in a deterioration of both physical and mental health. Interestingly, the researchers found that women were more negatively impacted than men. [14] Given women’s typical roles as primary caregivers, this finding is easy to understand.

As you can see, as a nation, we experience very common everyday stressors that can easily turn into chronic stress that impacts our physical and mental health that opens us up to greater health impacts. But there are things you can do to help mitigate the effects of these everyday stressors! Keep reading for some of my top suggestions to protect both your overall health and wellbeing.

What You Can Do About Everyday Stressors

Live is full of stress—there’s no debating that. But you can do something about it! While everyday stressors can’t be avoided, how you respond to it—and its impact on your health—is completely in your control.

Now that you know what the most common everyday stressors are, you can become more mindful to the circumstances that cause you to feel more stressed and anxious. In those moments, I want to encourage you to find ways to engage in the mind-body connection, which will help calm you down.

You can start by doing some deep breathing exercises, which have been show to support your body’s stress response and also reduce anxiety. If you find that helpful, you can take it to the next level by engaging in daily meditation.

Conversely, if you find that you’re too wound up to try meditation, you can try fun ways to reduce your stress, such as dancing, watching a funny movie, or even snuggling with a pet.

Finally, I have some more tips here to help you better manage stress and facilitate a healthy mind-body connection. They key is to find what works for you so you can get in front of the situation at hand and minimize its impact on your health and wellbeing.

 

Everyday stressors - Dr. Pingel

 

Key Takeaways

  • We are a chronically stressed nation. And according to The American Institute of Stress, two-thirds of American workers report regularly engaging in health-harming behaviors an effort to deal with their everyday stressors.
  • When you’re chronically stressed, your adrenal glands become unable to keep up with the constant demand to manage stress, and they end up fatigued. This leads to various disease processes.
  • The top five everyday stressors contributing to our epidemic of chronic stress include: money, work, family, relationships, and economic outlook.
  • Luckily, you can help mitigate the impact stress has on your body by engaging in certain practices shown to help calm both your mind and body.

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