Mortgage, Terror Woes Figure Big Into Stress

Worries Keep Many Awake at Night

Regardless of the cause, it seems that for many Americans, stress makes a nasty bedfellow. Nearly half -- 48 percent -- of respondents reported that their stress kept them awake at night sometimes during the past month, and on average they reported losing 21 hours of sleep per month.

"We know sleep is such an important component of our overall health," Thorn said. "When it is interfered with, it really takes a toll on our brain chemistry and, as a result, our mood."

Johnson added that this toll is not only psychological, but biological as well.

"When the body reacts to stress, it secretes stress hormones that make it difficult for us to sleep," he said.

Less sleep leads to the secretion of more of this stress hormone, which in turn leads to even more difficulty sleeping. Such a vicious cycle can lead to burnout, a condition in which Johnson said our bodies can no longer respond to normal stressors in an effective way.

And the impacts of added stress don't just show up in the form of lost sleep. Half of respondents to the survey say that their stress manifests itself as irritability or anger, and half also reported fatigue and headaches. This despite the fact that 82 percent of those who participated in the survey said they felt like they manage their stress well.

How to Shake Off the Stress

So what can people do to deal with their stress, even if they are under the weight of increased housing costs? Thorn suggests that people take stock of the things that are causing them stress and determine which ones they have at least some control over.

"Making plans to cope increases the sense of control," she said.

She adds that recent reports citing preliminary signs of a turnaround in the housing market may help some who are feeling stressed out over their mortgages, even if relief is a while in coming.

But Thorn said one of the most worrying findings of the survey is that even though people say they are stressed and agree that psychological counseling might be able to help with this stress, only about 7 percent of respondents said they had sought such help in the past year.

"Who knows what the barriers are?" Thorn said, adding that anything from insurance and financial considerations to time constraints could be the reasons why people don't seek counseling.

"It is important to know that there is not just one thing that is causing stress in our lives, but it is a number of things," she said. "The key is building in a sense of controlability in small ways."

And if it feels like the weight of your house is starting to cave in on you, Thorn has another suggestion -- step out the front door and take a few laps around the block.

"Physical activity is a great anti-stress and anti-depression measure. It's a great means of dealing with stress. It elevates the same chemical in the brain that is elevated by antidepressants."

"Instead of reaching for the third glass of wine or the 12th cigarette of the day, they should put on their walking shoes and go around the block three or four times."

The APA also offers the following tips on how to manage stress:

Since everyone experiences stress differently, it is important to understand how you experience stress. Knowing this, you can better tailor your strategy to avoid certain sources of stress or eliminate them altogether.

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