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Stressed? You're not alone.

Understand what stress is, what causes it and how to cope with stressors for better mental and physical health.

April 09, 2024

Stressed? You're not alone.

What do these physical reactions have in common? Sleeplessness, stomach pain, jaw clenching, dizziness and headaches. If you answered, “they’re all stress-related symptoms,” you’re right. Chances are you’ve experienced one or two of them in the last few years — if not the last few days or hours..

According to the “Stress in America” study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), Americans continue to experience high levels of stress and are still recovering from the psychological impact of the last several years. Results from the APA poll show that individuals of all ages and lifestyles experience stress and are feeling the effects on their mental and physical health.

  • 58% of younger adults said most days their stress is completely overwhelming
  • 62% of adults ages 45 to 64 report health-related concerns as their top stressor
  • 63% report that money is a significant source of stress
  • 62% said they do not talk about their stress because they don’t want to burden others
  • 57% of single adult households report housing costs as a major source of stress

Given the widespread stress levels in American adults and children right now, it’s important to understand what stress is, what causes it and how to cope with it before it becomes a larger problem.

Three types of stress

First, know that stress is a natural, biological response to situations that might be risky or dangerous. We all experience stress from time to time, and it’s not always a bad thing. Stress can sharpen your focus, give you the drive you need to meet a goal and keep you in the moment when you’re playing sports or giving a big presentation. But when stress takes over your mental and physical state and bouts of stress become more regular or even constant, you may have a problem.

  1. Acute stress – The most common type of stress. It comes on quickly, is short-lived and is usually related to a traumatic event or incident like an accident or sudden death of a loved one.
  2. Episodic acute stress – This type of stress occurs when someone experiences frequent incidents of acute stress. People suffering from episodic acute stress often seem to be living in crisis and chaos.
  3. Chronic Stress – The most serious level of stress. Chronic stress is the sense of being overwhelmed over a long period of time. It can have serious mental and physical impacts if left untreated.

What’s got us so stressed?

We all experience stress differently. What’s stressful for one person can be motivating for another. But there are common situations that cause stress in most people:

  • Financial concerns
  • Family responsibilities
  • Lacking work-life balance
  • Being a victim of a crime
  • Caretaking for a loved one
  • Living with a chronic illness
  • Going through a divorce
  • Dealing with family disputes
  • Surviving a man-made or natural disaster

Common effects of stress

When stress becomes long term and is left untreated, our physical and mental well-being can be negatively affected. Ongoing stress can cause:

  • Inflammation
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increased risk of stroke, heart disease and autoimmune diseases

If you or a loved one is experiencing stress, there is help and hope. The first step is to recognize the condition. Most people can acknowledge mild or moderate stress and take measures to reduce stress on their own. Incorporating healthy practices into your daily routine can help boost your mood and combat stress more successfully. But if stress is serious and persistent, seeking help from a behavioral health specialist is wise.

Try these stressbusters

You can manage low-level stress and even prevent it by using these stress-busting strategies:

  • Make time for fun and hobbies
  • Talk to a friend or family member
  • Maintain your social connections
  • Start a meditation practice
  • Enjoy your favorite meal
  • Unplug from digital devices for a little time each day
  • Take a walk in nature

Don’t forget the fundamentals. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are all important for managing stress.

Mom's Meals® can help

Take the stress out of meal prep for yourself or a loved one. Mom’s Meals makes it easy and convenient with ready-to-heat-and-eat meals delivered direct to your home.

For people living with chronic illness — a major life stressor — Mom’s Meals offers nine medically tailored menus including meals for people living with diabetes, chronic kidney disease and heart conditions. Choose from 60+ meal options designed by registered dietitians and crafted by professional chefs in a USDA-inspected kitchen.