The encyclopedic meaning of stress is “real or interpreted threat to the physiological or psychological integrity of an individual that result in physiological and/or behavioral responses”. Stress usually occurs during the times when demands exceed the personal and social resources. When a person feels that the task is too heavy and that the time is too short, stress becomes apparent. Stress reduces one’s capacity to deal with load of information. When the brain is overloaded, concentration suffers and focus narrows. It becomes too hard to make decisions and become creative with the overload of information.
It is true to anxious type of people that they perform best during the times when stress is less, and on the other hand, calm people tend to do their best during the times of pressure. Health problems, poor relationship and less productivity at work are observed when stress is felt. There are several classes of stress. One is the acute stress, which is the most common. It stems from demands and pressure of past event, current situations and pressure of future. Another class is the episodic acute stress wherein people suffering from this type of stress take too much. They are always on the go.
They are believed to be prone to heart diseases. They are also always very anxious. The last class is the chronic stress. Stress is prolonged but subtle. It is there but it is not obvious. It is linked to larger issues like tending to elderly, jobs that one cannot manage, meager salary, coping with chronic disease, trapped in bad marriage or other issues that one cannot take over easily and immediately. Stress in America is very high in number. One-third of Americans are living with extreme stress and nearly half believed that their stress increased over the past five years.
The top stressors of Americans are money and work. As compared from 2006, same stressor reported to have increased by 59%. Other leading stressors are housing crisis and mortgage cost or rent. Nearly half of the Americans cannot juggle professional and personal lives. It was reported that employed adults find it hard to manage work and family responsibilities. This leads to having fights with family members. One in four Americans reported to have alienated with their family members due to stress and 8% of that connected stress to divorce which eventually lead to more stress.
Stress in America continues to escalate and is affecting every aspect of people’s lives from work to personal relationships to sleep patterns and eating habits, as well as their health”. (Newman, R. ) As to gender, men and women experience stress differently. 51% of women are affected by stress against the 43% affected men. Women are affected by stress more than men do. They are more likely to report health problems like hypertension, anxiety, depression and obesity. Women are more stressed at home because they are the basic caregivers to their children and/or elderly.
They are also more affected by stressors like money, 28% reported than 19% men (www. apa. org). According to National Consumers League (NCL), leading cause of stress is work among adults’ ages 18-54 years old. Metropolitan workers are also more stressed that those working in suburbs. Women are also more susceptible to headache and back pain due to stress than most men do. College degree holders are more stressed than those high school graduates concerning money but equal when it comes to family matters and work. Also, adults with higher income exercise regularly than those on households with lesser income.
Stress affects health more than anything else. There is a very large numbers of Americans that are currently feeling physical strain or psychological symptoms caused by stress. The top and common symptoms of stress are as follows: fatigue, headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, change in appetite, teeth grinding, change in sex drive, feeling dizzy, irritable, feeling nervous or sad, lack of energy or motivation, can easily cry and inability to sleep or sleeping to much. There are so many other signs and symptoms that a person can possibly suffer from stress.
Illnesses that are directly linked to stress are as follows: high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, diabetes, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, and of course depression and anxiety. Causes and symptoms of stress vary depending upon the person since stress is subjective. A particular situation can be acceptable to some individuals but dreadful to others. More common stressors are as follows: money, work, health problems affecting family members, health concerns, state of the world, health of family members, and children.
Sleep is a good booster of energy. After a good night sleep, a person should feel energized and refreshed. The Better Sleep Council (BSC) conducted a stress and sleep survey. Result shows that 26% of women have trouble sleeping at least once a week compared to 16% men and 19% of ages 45-64 lose sleep due to stress. 27% of women said that sleep is very important to their overall well being. 31% of suburban moms said that sleep is their priority. 50% of women with children said they were recharged after a good night sleep.
Americans are keeping awake and bothered because of 2% worry about current events, 16% personal finances and 23% family issues (www. bettersleep. org). Americans are not managing stress the right way. They are attempting to reduce stress; however, they are turning on comfort foods and smoking. They are not realizing that instead of reducing it, the more they will get stressed on the long run due to increased risk on their health. Four out of ten Americans reported to overeat or eat unhealthy food while others skip meals.
Drinkers and smokers are likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during state of high stress. Playing video games, surfing the net or watching television for more than two hours are said to be symptoms of stress. 39% of Americans indulge in that kind of activities. According to survey, 49% of single fathers and 31% of single mothers smoke three or more times a week. And more Americans exercise less if they are more concerned with their stress. Even though Americans are stressed they are not fully motivated to do something about it.
They lack motivation to change their lifestyle and behavior. Motivators that are recognized are as follows: desire to feel better, desire to reduce amount of stress and desire to improve self-esteem. Those people who can manage their stress well engage in activities or strategies like exercising, listening to good music, reading, spending time with their family, taking a break, escaping for a while, sleeping, taking showers, lightening workload, relaxation, massage, prescription medicine, dietary supplement, and/or praying.
As to workplace, stress is causing trouble to the employers since they are losing so much of their business due to employees’ accidents, absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and others. Businesses in America are losing much due to stress in the workplace. American Psychological Association (APA) recommends to employers to boost their employees well being by giving incentives like flexible schedules, assistance with child care, assistance to financial issues and giving leeway on leave options.
According to APA, leading causes of stress in workplace are as follows: low salary, heavy workload, lack of career growth, uncertain job expectations, and long hours of work (www. healthcareforus. blogspot. com). With the technology that American has, superiors can easily contact their subordinates even after office hours. They are expected to respond to their superiors call because they are provided with gadgets that may shorten or hinder their relaxing time or time with their family and friends.
As compared to Europeans, Americans are more stressed on work due to longer hours and value on productivity. Europeans required by the law to have a maximum of 35 hours of work per week and five weeks of vacation per year. They give more value on leisure than on working. They have much lower pace in dealing with their daily lives than Americans do. People presume that stress is always a negative experience. It always contributes negative effect especially to people’s health and entire well being. However, stress has its positive impact to people.
Stress is positive when it becomes a motivation or adrenaline or cortisol rush. It is explained in pressure and performance theory (inverted U), that when there is less pressure to carry out task, there is also lesser incentive to focus on it. When there is much pressure, area of best performance is observed (www. mindtools. com). When a person is on the area of performance, concentration and attention are apparent. When in this state, efforts, resources and abilities are all focused on the task at hand. Therefore, best outcome and best performance are at its peak.
There is where the mind is at its creative, efficient and satisfied state. Conclusion Stress is the leading cause of various health problems, less productivity and poor relationship. Health problems are on the top list of area in one’s life that is much affected by stress. Illnesses concerning heart diseases, headaches, skin problems, depression and anxiety, and others are all linked to the state of being stressed. There are also symptoms that can be attributed to being stressed like back pain, sweating, frequent colds, rashes, heart burn, etc.
Stress is subjective; therefore, a particular incidence can be good to one person but devastating to the other person. Like a very anxious person can do better with less pressure and a calm person will do better if there is pressure. The inverted U theory explains this situation. It is not always that stress has a negative effect. It also has a positive effect when pressure becomes a motivation and adrenaline or cortisol rush. Americans are believed to be stressed people. They are more stressed concerning work and money and other situations involving owns health and of the family.
American women are more stressed than men. They become stress with situations concerning; money, work; own health and family’s health, taking care of children and of elderly. However, they are more vocal regarding their concern with their health than of men. They also give more time in managing their stress. They also have strategies and activities to alleviate their state of being stressed. In workplace, stress is very much common to almost all American workers. Currently, businesses are losing due to employee’s low productivity, fast turnover, frequent absenteeism and others.
Although productivity is the backbone of a society, Americans should evaluate on what possible steps are to be made in order to alleviate stress. Employers are advised to give enough support to employees like giving enough incentives like flexible working hours, assistance to child care and finances, etc. Preventive care must be given priority to decrease health effects that can lead to a bigger loss on the part of the employers. They should also give their employees opportunity to create work-life balance. The government and employers and the society should take responsibility to have a healthy citizens to continue a productive society.