Stress is a condition that seems nearly unavoidable in our society. And it also seems that it’s become even more prevalent the past 10 years – I’d like to think its simply tied to having more “grown up” responsibilities such as kids, home mortgage, etc. but I think its more than that.
Certainly the past two years have been extremely stressful for many who have faced job layoffs and ongoing economic uncertainty. Those lucky enough to have and keep jobs during this time have felt increased pressure – because we’re constantly reminded (and told) how lucky we are to have jobs and income in the first place. Also, many who have kept their jobs have had to assume more responsibility and tasks to take up the slack for those who were laid off. I have many friends whose jobs and workload have expanded dramatically – while their compensation has not.
But going beyond the recent economic downturn, the stress meter seemed to rise dramatically for Americans during the first decade of the new Century. No doubt the reverberations from 9/11 played a huge role – especially since many politicians (and media partners) have been intent on reminding Americans as often (and at times as brutally) as possible about the events of that day. And technically, America has also been at war for the past 8 years (although this seems to be often overlooked for some reason).
In the meantime, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in serious childhood health issues such as Autism, Asthma/Allergies, and Obesity (to name only a few) that create additional stress for parents. And these come at a time when many of us have been conditioned to think that the advanced American health care system means we should be seeing a drop in serious health issues among children (not an increase).
In my life, I can point to a number of areas that can (and sometimes do) create stress. Certainly there is the ongoing pressure to produce financially. Not only do we have home mortgage(s) to manage but also additional childcare costs tied to working with Stone’s Autism issues. Most parents can relate to this at some level. As an entrepreneur, I’m also constantly thinking and worrying about business issues. Finding and landing new clients – and then keeping existing clients happy – is an ongoing challenge. Of course parenting itself can be stressful. Whether its dealing with bedtime issues or speech therapy, there is always something related to the twins on my mind that I want to address and/or fix.
So the question is: how do you manage stress? We all have it and have to deal with it somehow. I’m a firm believer that people essentially deal with stress in one of two ways: they either find healthy ways to manage it or they find unhealthy ways to try to escape from it. I think that all of us at one time or another have probably fallen into both camps.
But my goal for myself is to try to constantly manage it in a productive and healthy manner. Of course this is easier said than done at times. I think the biggest stress release for me is running. Even if it’s a short 2-3 mile run, I always feel better afterwards and I literally feel like I’ve left most (if not all) of the stress on the road. As with others, I often struggle with finding time to squeeze in the runs, but whenever I do so (or force myself out) I’m always glad I did.
In addition to running, being a sports fan has also been a big emotional release for me. Watching sports provides an escape and allows me to break away from daily stress issues.
Connecting with other people is also hugely important to me. This is where social media has been a huge boon in my life – especially since I spend so much time working from home. Having the ability to connect/communicate with people via Facebook, Twitter, text messages and email helps keep me from feeling isolated. I can also share ideas, brainstorm and collaborate virtually – which has been great. Of course, being the people person that I am, I will always prefer face-to-face communication and connection, but it’s not always an option.
Finally, I’ve learned (again) that writing is a great way for me to relieve stress. Those who have known me for a long time know that I’ve always enjoyed writing – many in high school were convinced I would become a sports writer. As I dove into my work and career (and life) though, I found myself writing less and less (other than press releases). But about a year or so ago I began writing about some of my experiences with Stone and discovered that it felt great to release my thoughts and feelings – and was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I received from those who read my posts.
So those are a few of my tools to deal with stress – I know that everyone is different though. How do you handle stress? And do you agree that you feel more stressed now than in years past? I look forward to your comments.