The kids won't stop screaming, your boss has been hounding you because you turned a report in late, and you owe the IRS thousands of dollars you don't have. You're seriously stressed out.
Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work, or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don't get a handle on your stress and it becomes long term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it.
By Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Many years ago I had a falling-out with a girlfriend that proved so painful, I can hardly talk about it today. My friend (let's call her Mary) was a colorful television personality and had the world at her feet. She was engaged to a handsome European, and her face was plastered across the newspapers. I was working for 60 Minutes at the time, and we often met for lunch. Then one day her show was canceled and she asked me - casually, as though it didn't really matter...
Read on to learn why you get stressed out, and how that stress might be affecting your health.
Causes of Stress
Everyone has different stress triggers. Work stress tops the list, according to surveys. Forty percent of U.S. workers admit to experiencing office stress, and one-quarter say work is the biggest source of stress in their lives.
Causes of work stress include:
Being unhappy in your job
Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility
Working long hours
Having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process
Working under dangerous conditions
Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination
Having to give speeches in front of colleagues
Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn't supportive
Life stresses can also have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are:
Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one.
Sometimes the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:
Fear and uncertainty. When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks, global warming, and toxic chemicals on the news, it can cause you to be stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events. Fears can also hit closer to home, such as being worried that you won't finish a project at work or won't have enough money to pay your bills this month.
Attitudes and perceptions. How you view the world or a particular situation can determine whether it causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the attitude, "It's OK, my insurance company will pay for a new one," you'll be far less stressed than if you think, "My TV is gone and I'll never get it back! What if the thieves come back to my house to steal again?" Similarly, people who feel like they're doing a good job at work will be less stressed out by a big upcoming project than those who worry that they are incompetent.
Unrealistic expectations. No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you're destined to feel stressed when things don't go as expected.
Change. Any major life change can be stressful -- even a happy event like a wedding. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.
Your stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations. Some people let everything roll off their back. To them, work stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally worry themselves sick.