“Do psychologists practice what they preach when it comes to dealing with stress?” What about leaders, pastors, coaches? This is the theme of a cover story in Monitor on Psychology, January 2011. Recent research concludes that “chronic stress—stress that interferes with your ability to function normally over extended periods of time—is becoming a public health crisis.” The crisis extends to young people including teenagers and is prevalent, as well, in professional caregivers and leaders.
The APA 2010 Stress in America survey found that almost half the respondents reported an increase in stress levels over the past five years. The most cited causes of stress were concerns about money, job stability, the economy and family responsibilities. Sixty-nine percent said that their stress had little or no impact on their children but only 14 percent of the young respondents agreed. Most people know the symptoms of stress (irritability, anger, fatigue, lack of energy, anxiety or depression were most common) but healthy stress-management and self-care are not priorities.
Some of the research focused on care-givers and people-builders perhaps like those who are reading these words. For nearly three-quarters of these respondents the greatest stress and source of exhaustion was balancing their demanding work schedules with the rest of their lives, including their families. Among the research-based recommendations for reducing conflict:
- Know your style. One approach to stress-management and life/work balance does not fit all. For example, some people are “integrators” who mix work and family life all the time. Others are”separators” who erect rigid boundaries between the different areas of life. It may take time and experimenting to discover what works best.
- Practice self-care. Work/family conflict is associated with lowered productivity, interpersonal tensions, depression, anxiety, emotional strain, and physical issues like high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. Greater resilience and lower stress comes with good nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, focused reflection times and proactive efforts to avoid stress-producing situations in the first place. Every therapist and every knowledgeable Christian knows that stress rises when self-care is ignored.
- Consider watching the following 3 minute video from leading stress researcher Robert Sapolsky.
What are other effective stress management tools have you used? Please comment.