Today we revisit a familiar topic — stress. Stress is one of the key experiences that involve both physical and mental components. It also is part of everyday life. Although the degree of stress will vary, managing it requires an important set of tools in our emotional wellness toolbox.
Stress is experienced when an emotional or physical strain occurs that is beyond what we typically experience. It has both physical and mental components such as headaches, nausea, tension or irritability. Stress can affect our sleep, as well as our eating. It can be experienced as a secondary reaction to a severe physical illness such as a stroke or heart attack. Traumatic stress is an even more extreme experience. Runners and bystanders who were at the Boston Marathon finish line when the bombs exploded experienced traumatic stress. Some stressors are acute and relatively short-term, while others are chronic and long lasting.
Each year the American Psychological Association conducts a national survey of stress in America. The survey focuses on a variety of issues related to stress. The most recent survey completed this past August questioned respondents about their stress management and where they sought assistance.
Results from this survey indicate that most people want their health providers to give them help in managing their stress. Health care providers are usually physicians, physician’s assistants, or nurses.
Americans believe that behavioral intervention should be a part of health care. About one-third of adults who participated in the survey said it was very or extremely important to talk to their health care providers about stress. However, only 17 percent said such conversations happen often or always.
American Psychological Association Chief Operating Officer Norman Anderson, Ph.D. notes that, “when people receive professional help to manage stress and make healthy behavioral changes, they do better at achieving their health goals.”
Achieving health goals saves money, which is important for our economy. Additionally, people who meet their health goals — for example, maintain a healthy weight — feel better, function more effectively and generally enjoy their life.
When health care providers provide stress management counseling, their patients experience less stress. Those who did not receive stress management advice reported increases in stress. A surprising finding in this survey showed that Millennials (ages 18-33) report higher stress levels than the national average. People in this age group feel they are not doing enough to manage their stress. They feel that their health care providers are not assisting them in managing their stress.
The survey also showed that Americans with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, health disease or asthma report that they do not receive adequate assistance from their health care providers to cope with the stress of the disease and other life stresses. Not surprising, respondents who reported that their health care provider helped them with stress management lived healthier lives.
A major finding from the survey clearly indicates that individuals experiencing stress need to be proactive in getting help to manage it. They need to request help from their health care provider or from a behavioral health specialist such as a psychologist. Help with stress management can lead to a longer and more satisfying life.
Martin Manosevitz, Ph.D., ABPP is a clinical psychologist and practices in Aspen. He provides services to adults, adolescents, couples and families. He is board certified in clinical psychology and in psychoanalysis. To contact Dr. Manosevitz call 925-2552 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.