What to Know About Stress

Why It Matters:

• Financial stress is a common source of worry.

• Though not all stress will hurt you, bad stress can affect your work productivity.

• Anxiety can cause symptoms including headaches, faster heartbeat, forgetfulness, and even colds, but there are steps you can take to relieve stress.

Catherine Tsai tkc.profilePicture Written by: Catherine Tsai | Transamerica
May 19, 2017

5 Min readClock Icon

If your finances are stressing you out, you’re not alone.

While polls show the results of the last presidential election are weighing on people’s minds, money, work, and the economy are the top sources of stress in the U.S. the American Psychological Association reports in results of its latest Stress in America™ survey. Money led the way, with 6 in 10 people saying it’s a “very” or “somewhat significant” source of stress.

Stress infographic 61Anxiety over finances, relationships, illness, injury, or other challenges is enough to cause symptoms including headaches, an upset stomach, a faster heartbeat, forgetfulness, and even colds.

But not all stress is bad.

There’s such a thing as good stress

Some level of anxiety can boost performance on the job by raising an employee’s interest and attention in the task at hand, research suggests. It’s when an employee feels too much stress that performance can start to suffer.

So how stressed do you think you and your friends are? Harvard Business Review has an interactive test adapted from the Perceived Stress Scale created by Sheldon Cohen, Tom Kamarck, and Robin Mermelstein. From this link, you can scroll down to answer 10 questions and see your score to gauge your stress level. Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino notes a score of 13 is considered average (I scored 25, yikes) and that you’re probably close to hitting peak performance. Good job.

The costs of bad stress

In a 2016 workplace survey by the American Psychological Association, 33% said they typically feel tense or stressed out during the work day. Reasons include everything from heavy workloads to low salaries.Stress infographic 33

That can eventually affect productivity and lead to higher costs for both employers and employees.

Although it’s natural for everyone to feel worried from time to time, chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

Someone with diabetes spends on average more than $13,000 on health care, with diabetes-related costs responsible for more than half the total, according to the most recent data available from the American Diabetes Association.

And the average extra annual cost of short-term disability for an obese employee versus a worker of normal weight is about $349, according to the American College of Occupational and Educational Medicine.

Fight the tension

Just 30 minutes of walking per day - or playing hoops, hula hooping, or hula dancing - can help you relieve tension and feel a little better, experts say. Plus, it will help you meet the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of activity per week to stay heart healthy.

Brice Chidester, an associate director of technology, said he makes time for exercise before days that he expects to be especially stressful.

“If I know that I’m heading for a busier-than-normal day, I make sure I exercise in the morning, as it seems to balance my brain a bit,” said Chidester, of Columbus, Ohio. “After exercising, I almost invariably feel more alert and relaxed.”

Denver journalist Joe Nguyen, who deals with daily deadline pressure, said he also will go to the gym to let off steam if he has time or “crank up something angry” on his headphones.

Laughter also can be good medicine. No joke. Researchers have found that the muscles you use to laugh trigger a boost in endorphins that make you feel better.

Nancy Shah, of New York, said that when she was a consultant, her teams would take a minute to share funny quotes or watch funny videos to take the tension down a notch.

Yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, and meditation also can help you cope.

When competing priorities at work and home stress you out, take a step back and set reasonable goals of what you’ll tackle first. No one can do everything at once. Focus on what you can do right now, and work your way down the list.

If you feel overwhelmed by stress and are worried you might hurt yourself, there’s no shame in asking for help. Reach out. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Things to Consider:

• Do some physical exercise to help relieve tension. 

• Laugh with friends, and boost your endorphins. 

• Take a deep breath, and give yourself a break. You deserve it.

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