The Stress Epidemic
We currently live in a society that causes us to have incredibly stressful lives. I will get into the statistics and science behind stress later, but I am sure you don’t need to be a social scientist to see what is happening today. From the domination of social media in our lives to the 24/7 workloads, our lives have become more hectic than our bodies and minds are equipped to handle. When was the last time you got on an elevator and someone was not on their phone? When was the last time you didn’t feel the need to check your work email while away from the office? Have you gone on social media and felt some type of stress related to something you weren’t accomplishing in your life as compared to your friends?
The American Psychological Association and the American Institute of stress conducted a study in 2014 and the results paint a grand picture of a stressed-out society.
The Top Causes of Stress
1. Job Pressure
5. Poor Nutrition
6. Media Overload
7. Sleep Deprivation
You are probably not surprised that job pressure is the number one cause of stress. In fact, you’re probably not even surprised that money is number two on the list. I found it interesting, but not surprising, that media overload made the list, due to the social media driven nature of our society today.
Social Media and Stress
Social media is a fantastic development for our globally connected world. It has enabled me to build personal relationships with fantastic people all over the world. My non-profit mental health advocacy platform ConquerWorry.org™ and our podcast, “The ConquerWorry™ Show” would not have come into existence without the leverage created by social media.
According to Dr. Ethan Kross, founder of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory at the University of Michigan, there is a direct connection between heavy social media usage and happiness. Professor Margaret Duffy of The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism reports that “Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives. However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship — things that cause envy among users — use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.” The BBC reports that social media can even lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As with most things in life, there are positives and negatives to social media. Personally, I am a big fan of building relationships through the power of social media. But it is absolutely imperative to make sure you use social media correctly in order to maintain your stress levels.
A Closer Look At The Numbers
The aforementioned study from The American Psychological Association and the American Institute of stress produced some interesting and telling statistics. The physical symptoms of stress are felt by 77% of us, while 73% of us experience the psychological symptoms of stress. Do you feel tired all the time? You are not alone! It is reported that 51% of us experience fatigue due to stress, and 30% carry muscle tension as well.
People who regularly experience the physical symptoms of stress: 77%
Upset stomach: 34%
Muscle tension: 30%
People who experience the psychological symptoms caused by stress: 73%
Irritability or anger: 50%
Feeling nervous: 45%
Lack of energy: 45%
Feeling as though you could cry: 35%
People who feel their stress has increased of the past five years: 48%
People who cite money and work as their leading cause of stress: 76%
How Stress Effects Your Body
There are six systems in your body that are affected by stress according to Stress.org. If any of these systems came under duress, life would be difficult. But as anyone who has struggled with extreme stress can attest, typically more than one system is affected during periods of extreme stress.
1. Nervous System: When physically or psychologically stressed, your body moves into “fight or flight” mode. It shifts all resources to fight the perceived threat. Your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make your heart beat faster, increase your blood pressure, digestion slows down, and glucose levels in your blood rise.
2. Musculoskeletal System: When stressed, your muscles tense up. When this happens for extended periods of time, it could result in headaches, migraines, and nerve damage. I have personally lost feeling in my hands due to excessive muscle tension caused by stress.
3. Respiratory System: When stressed, you may experience heavier breathing, which can lead to hyperventilation or to a panic attack. If you have not experienced a panic attack, it feels like there is an elephant sitting on your chest and you can’t get it off! I hope you have never experienced this sensation.
4. Cardiovascular System: When stressed repeatedly, episodes of extreme stress can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries and this is thought to potentially lead to heart attacks.
5. Endocrine System: When stressed, your brain triggers the release of cortisol and epinephrine, which are know as the “stress hormones.” As a result, your liver produces extra glucose that can be damaging.
6. Gastrointestinal System: When stressed, your body may crave more food, digest less nutrients, cause diarrhea, constipation, or even vomiting.
While you may not experience all of these symptoms, we know from statistical research that 77% of the population has experienced at least one of these challenging effects of stress. A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems. Dr. Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D of the American Heart Association said that “When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure…to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome” My research says we also need to include:
Abnormal heart rhythms
Mental health issues
To learn how to build your own customized daily system to reduce stress, visit www.ConquerWorry.com .
 University of Michigan Insititue for Social Research, Last modified September of 2013, http://home.isr.umich.edu/isrinnews/ethan-kross-2/
 “If Facebook Use Causes Envy, Depression Could Follow,” Last modified February 2015, http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2015/0203-if-facebook-use-causes-envy-depression-could-follow/
 “Ways the Body Reacts to Stress,” Last modified 2011, http://www.stress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/GR2007012200620.jpg.
 “Stress and Heart Health,” Last modified 2014, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp?appName%3DMobileApp&sa=D&ust=1460995209781000&usg=AFQjCNGMmUQTV8MMQ4xjLCycOjtRUoQmUQ