Stress has us stressed out. A recent poll from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that nearly half the American public said they had had a stressful experience in the last year. Another 43 percent reported that their most stressful events were health related. Those with chronic health conditions were more than twice as likely as the general public to report a “great deal” of stress in the last 30 days.
“Stress touches everyone. Unfortunately, many of those feeling the most stress get trapped in cycles that can be very unhealthy,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., president emerita and former CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Stress wreaks major havoc, with 1 in 5 Americans saying they experience stress so extreme it causes heart palpitations and depression. Stress is so unhealthy, in fact, that it can have a significant impact on emotional well-being, sleep patterns, decision making and critical thinking, and it is the source of about 75 percent of doctor’s visits.
“If we are going to build a culture of health in America, one big step we can take is recognizing the causes and effects not just of our own stress and the stress of those closest to us, but of others we encounter in our day-to-day lives,” Lavizzo-Mourey said. “That recognition can go a long way in helping us create healthier environments in our homes, workplaces and communities.”
Part of a healthier, stress-free environment includes ways to manage stress. The experts recommend regular exercise and a full night’s sleep to reduce stress. Poll participants who experienced the highest stress levels over the past month managed that stress by:
- Spending time outdoors
- Practicing a hobby
- Hanging with family and friends
- Praying or meditating
- Eating healthy foods