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Are You Showing Signs of Stress?

Irritability, anger, fatigue, and problems sleeping can occur.

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It is 3:23 a.m. and you are suddenly awake. You are not sure what has awoken you, because the room is eerily quiet. Nothing appears wrong in the near dark, but you are suddenly and completely awake. Whatever you were dreaming about is gone, replaced by a vague sense of alarm. Your body is aching to go back to sleep, but your mind has switched into full-blown stress mode.

Your thoughts are racing, as all you can think about are all the things you haven’t done. You try to force yourself back to sleep, because you know you’ll pay the price tomorrow. So much to do, so little time, and, now, so little sleep! How will you ever get it all done?

The numbers on the alarm clock mock you as you lay awake and watch the night slip away. Now you are not only thinking about the things you have got to do, you are also reliving the conflict with your coworker, the tense conversation with your teenager, and the mistake you made at work.

All is quiet in your bedroom, but your mind is in bedlam. Every barely concealed fear and anxiety has a feeding frenzy on all those should-haves, what-ifs, and must-dos that pop into your head. The pressure to do it all, find it all, and fix it all feels like a crushing weight. You feel pressure not only to get it all done, but to do it all well, because if you don’t, disaster awaits. And then what will you do? How will you cope? With all of this stress, how is anyone supposed to get a good night’s sleep?

If you feel stressed out, you are not alone. According to a recent report by the American Psychological Association, “75 percent of Americans report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month.”[i] In 2014, the number of adults in the United States, per the US Census Bureau, was around 242 million.[ii] If you’re feeling stressed, this means you’ve joined almost 182 million Americans this month who feel the same way.

Does that number surprise you? Are you surprised that three-fourths of the adults in this country struggle with stress at some level? You probably aren’t surprised, if you’ve admitted your own stress to others. News sites are full of stories about our stress. But what are we stressing about? According to the American Psychological Association report:

  • A majority of us are stressed out about money (64 percent).
  • Many of us feel stressed about our jobs (60 percent).
  • Almost half of us are stressed about the economy in general (49 percent).
  • We are also stressed about family responsibilities (47 percent).
  • And we experience stress over personal health concerns (46 percent).

We’re stressed out, and that negatively affects our health, which contributes to even more stress. This spiral is not headed in a good direction. What does stress do to us?

We struggle to get, and stay, asleep. Stress can cause us to eat unhealthy foods, and lash out in anger at our spouse or coworkers. We are irritable, and we can be nervous and anxious. At times, we even have a lack of interest or motivation. Finally, we have feelings of fatigue, depression, and sadness.

Does that sound like you? Angry yet apathetic; anxious yet depressed; keyed-up yet tired; overwhelmed and sad. Each of us has probably felt this way at times. But, what do you do if "at times" is becoming all the time? Consider an implementation plan for these six steps to reducing stress:

  1. Live Simply - To simplify your life, you need to go through your agendas, priorities, and responsibilities, and determine which things are truly necessary.
  2. Live Organized - Knowing what your priorities are and the goals you want to work to achieve allows you to take control of your time.
  3. Live Healthy - Develop a plan to maintain a healthy diet and increase your activity level with consistent exercise.
  4. Live Present - Understand your past and how it is affecting you in the present. Acknowledge the ghosts from your past and work to let them go.
  5. Live Grace-Full - Practice forgiveness and work to achieve peace within yourself.
  6. Live Grateful - Recognize the blessings you have, and gratitude will well up inside you with such force.

Instead of living a "stress-full" life, learn to live one in which you are "stress-less."

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[i] American Psychological Association, Stress in America: Paying with our Health (February 4, 2015), 10. (accessed October 7, 2015).

[ii] Computed using numbers from the United States Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts. (accessed October 7, 2015).

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