Survey Finds Americans Are Stressed About the Future

Stress and strategies for coping.

Posted Feb 24, 2017

For the last 10 years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has released their annual Stress in America survey. The Stress in America survey has focused on numerous topics including finances, children, health, and discrimination. The 2016 survey was recently released, which focused on stress about the future of America (click here for the full report here). 

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According to the results of APA’s January survey, the outcome of the election was very or somewhat stressful for about 69 percent of Blacks compared to other groups (57 percent of Asians, 56 percent of Hispanics of any race, and 42 percent of non-Hispanic Whites). This is not surprising given the stressful events that have occurred the past year. The report mentioned several concerns that influence stress, of note is that the percentage of Americans who reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month rose from 71 percent in August 2016 to 80 percent in January 2017. Respondents endorsed physical and emotional symptoms such as headache (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent), or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent). A major highlight of this recent Stress in America report was the focus on perceptions of police violence. According to the report, all Americans have endorsed more stress over police violence against ethnic minorities. Between August 2016 to January 2017, stress levels has changed from 27 percent to 35 percent among White, while maintaining considerably high among Blacks (increased from 68 percent to 71 percent).

Strategies for Coping with Stress

Research shows that many ethnic minorities, especially Blacks, are reluctant to seek mental health treatment to address stress or other psychological concerns. In a previous blog post, I have noted disparities in the use of treatment. According to APA (helpcenter/stress-political-change), the following tips maybe helpful with managing stress:

  • Stay informed, but know your limits. Consider how much news you take in and
    via American Psychological Association
    Source: via American Psychological Association
    how that information is affecting you. If you are preoccupied by national events and it is interfering with your daily life, this may be a sign to cut back on your news intake and limit social media discussions. For example, some people may find it helpful to schedule a short block of time in the morning and one in the evening to catch up on news without checking for every new update during the day. During “digital breaks,” take time to focus on something enjoyable, such as a hobby, exercising or spending time with family and friends.
  • Find commonalities with others. We come into contact with people every day whose beliefs differ from our own. If the topic of political differences arises, avoid heated discussions and try to identify commonalities within your different views. Sometimes different views can come from a similar underlying principle. Be open to hearing the other person’s story, and maybe even validate how they are feeling. When we frame our thinking this way, it can be easier to tolerate or understand people with different views and even, perhaps, work together toward a common goal. If you find it difficult to discuss political issues in a calm and constructive manner, it may be best to disengage from the conversation.
  • Find meaningful ways to get involved in your community. Identify issues that are important to you, and research organizations that work on those issues. Contact them and see how you can join their efforts. You could also consider getting involved in local politics, where it can be possible to see the direct impact of your efforts. Attend a city council meeting or a town hall meeting to listen to and share your ideas with elected officials. Taking active steps to address your concerns can lessen feelings of stress.
  • Seek solace. Faith-based organizations and other community organizations can provide vital emotional and spiritual support during stressful times. Engaging in soothing activities, such as meditation, progressive relaxation or mindfulness, can also help you connect to the present moment and find some peace.
  • Take care of yourself. Because stress can have a physical and emotional impact on your overall health, find activities you enjoy to help you recharge and reduce your stress, such as exercising, listening to your favorite music or spending time with close family and friends. It’s important to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and avoiding ineffective coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substances use.
via American Psychological Association
Source: via American Psychological Association

Copyright 2017 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.

See Dr. Turner's website for more