Stress Mushrooms in the United States



27 October 2007: The media won't tell you this -- but your stressful life is your own damn fault.

The American Psychological Association asked 1,800 people to estimate the level of stress in their lives recently. Half of those asked believed that stress had increased in the past five years to unmanageable levels. Seventy percent blamed work and trying to keep financially afloat for adding a higher level of stress. The most stressful month of the year (December) is still weeks away, but one author, discussed ahead, offered some advice on coping better with the Christmas season too.

Additional angst, only in the United States as measured by the Psychological Association, was being blamed for increased levels of binge eating and drinking, and smoking.

"We see stress as being an increasing problem," said Russ Newman, executive director for professional practice at American Psychological Association.

Drastically increased costs of living since 2001 in the United States, along with stagnate salaries, the elimination of professional jobs at home, and child care issues all negatively impacted three quarters of those who participated in the survey.

A similar number of people claimed that this added stress of late contributed to headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, insomnia, rage, and anxiety. The medical profession determined those factors are leading causes of stroke and heart attacks, which have also increased during the past five years, although the study wasn't meant to scientifically conclude that comparison.

"While stress may be unavoidable, particularly in this day and age as we are seeing, I think the good news is that it is manageable," Newman said.

Newman suggested those with stress should pinpoint exact cause in order to cope and move on.

To help with financial stress, Barbara Stanny, author of Overcoming Underearning, offered some advice, especially if one is beaten down by co-workers or faces job loss.

She concluded that under-earners are likely seeking emotionally pleasing rewards at work against a society that seeks financial rewards instead. Under-earners devalue their time and skill set by giving away services for free or at a bargain price. They often low-ball themselves in job interviews too.

The author suggested comparing your work with others and if the deliverables are on par or better, increase your demanded wage to market value.

The more difficult part for under-earners --and thus this becomes a stress enhancer-- is that they are less likely to take risks. Don't shy away from challenges that could boost earnings and career opportunities she advised. "We think when we get scared that we're on the wrong track, but that's usually a sign that we're on track for the next level," Stanny said.

Self-sabotage plays into the life of an under-earner too. "They unconsciously do things that make achievement impossible, such as procrastinating, job hopping, taking on too much, becoming scattered and distracted," she said. Organize your priorities and daily routine and stick with it to create discipline.

If upcoming Christmas bills already have you down, there are alternative ways in which you can gift a relative or friend that won't impact your checkbook wrote author Mary Hunt in Debt-Proof the Holidays: How to Have an All-Cash Christmas.

Use your computer to create a lovely invitation to "a dinner a month at our place." Wrap up gift certificates you make for "a movie date" at home too and invite loved ones to watch that rental DVD with fresh made popcorn. These gifts, Hunt said, not only are affordable but more importantly offer quality time with loved ones that store-bought items can't match.

Other suggestions Hunt offered included:
--Skip offering dinner to friends and invite them for coffee and cookies.
--Say no to retailers who offer 15 percent off products when applying for their own brand of credit card.
--Instead of shopping, order up a special gift in the name of your loved one to an organization s/he admires.

Another option may be to encourage your employer to seek outside services of a masseur.

In the United Kingdom this week, the Welsh Assembly Government approved massages and reflexology to help employees through stressful times. The government agreed to a three year contract with Solistherapies for the sessions, which employees pay out-of-pocket about $15 a rub.


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