July 9, 2014

It’s amazing how some things you hear stay with you over the years.  My grandfather, W.L., died about forty (40) years ago but I still remember him saying there are three problems that will significant and deleterious stress:  1.) Problems at home, 2.) Problems with health, and 3.) Financial problems. His comments were based upon experience for the most part. He and his wife Elizabeth raised four children during the Great Depression so scraping by was the norm and not the exception.  There were many times, according to him, their food came by virtue of fishing and hunting.  They would barter and bargain with neighbors for many things needed on a daily basis.  As it turns out, his opinion has been confirmed by a study entitled: “The Burden of Stress in America” published by NPR/ Robert Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health.  This study called “The Burden of Stress in America Survey “was conducted from March 5 to April 8, 2014 with 2,505 respondents. The survey examines the role stress plays in different aspects of Americans’ lives, including the public’s personal experiences of stress in the past month and year, the perceived effects of their stress and causes of that stress, their methods of stress management and their general attitudes about effects of stress in people’s lives.   The methodology is as follows:   From March 3 through April 8, 2014, a nationally representative sample of 2,505 adults age 18 and older were interviewed.  The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 2.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Of the total sample, 633 said they have experienced a great deal of stress in the past month. The margin of error for this group is +/- 4.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.  The results are not surprising but certainly telling. The charts given by this post come from that study.  The text and explanation of the charts is mine.


I can certainly understand why the number one stress in a person’s life is the absence of health, even if those health problems are temporary.  I have been there, done that, got the “T” shirt.  You never forget your time in intensive care.  It’s a game-changer.   As you can see from the bar chart below, problems with health are approximately twice the next most mentioned item on the list.  I have recently experienced the loss of my mother due to Alzheimer’s and even though you know what’s coming, it is a tough pill to swallow.  It is also very interesting to me that finances are NOT on this list even though financial matters can and will exacerbate issues with health and other areas of stress.


In looking at the chart below, the first three (3) items are definitely health related.  It is also apparent those individuals or individual households in the under $20,000 income group have significant reasons for stress related problems.  There also can be made a case for low income fostering poor health conditions.

Groups Experiencing High Stress Levels Last Month

I was somewhat surprised that being the parent of a teen would engender such stress and that stress made the list.  My wife and I have three boys and five grandchildren.  I can relate although we felt this was just a part of parenting.  We did not have issues with alcohol, drugs, sex, etc etc.  Single moms and dads deserve great respect due to the burden they carry in raising a teenager.  It’s “yeoman” work.   Now I know we were lucky.

There are certainly experiences on a daily basis that lend themselves to over-the-top stress.  Several may be seen as follows:


The top three on this list come as no real surprise.  With cutbacks at work more and more individuals are asked to take on additional responsibilities which mean more time at work and less time with the family.  Fewer vacations.  The “average” full-time employee works 1,700 hours per year and it is estimated that many employees refuse to take all of the vacation time coming to them due to work load and related work environment.   The big surprise is the last on the list. Twenty-eight percent say they are unhappy with their looks.   I would love to know how many people within that 28% are overweight.  (Just a thought.)


It’s very obvious from the chart above that people are very disturbed with political “types” and watching, reading or listening to the news is a great contributor to the stress we experience.    You have heard the phrase, “If it bleeds—it leads”.  Maybe we should have one day devoted to nothing but good news or even better, maybe we should have a “no-TV” night at least once during every week. How about this—let’s FIX our national problems by voting them all out and starting over.  How about that?

The chart below would indicate we sometimes do not have control over the problems, consequently the stress we experience.  Dealing with aging parents and their health, as well as our own, can apply great stress to an everyday life.


All of this is well and good but how do we deal with stress?  How do we cope?   What are the responses to the stress we feel?  The next two charts will show these responses.



We all would love to avoid as much stress as possible under most circumstances.  In our day, unemployment, health, finances, inter-personal relationships and work life all must be dealt with daily. What we can control—we must control.  In my life, simple organization on a daily basis, then a monthly basis helps tremendously. The following very items are things I have found to be great aids to removing as much stress as possible.

  • Keep a daily and monthly planner.  In that planner, put notifications dealing with bills due with specific due dates.
  • Keep a daily telephone log.  Phone calls received and made.  This greatly helps memory and can save the day relative to dates and times when calls are made. I don’t necessarily mean personal calls to family.  All business calls—absolutely.
  • DE-CLUTTER.  Keep a clean desk.
  • FILE or have someone file for you. Get organized. Know where things are.
  • (OK, this one may seem trivial but here it is.)  Have all work materials; i.e. scissors, tape, copy paper, pencils, erasers, staples, file folders, etc. needed on a daily basis in your office. Do not do the “step and fetch-it” day after day.
  • Have a specific time to answer e-mail and return phone calls.  Don’t jump every time you receive an e-mail thinking you have to answer it right away.
  • Refuse to attend meeting you do not feel will produce results relating to your goals, company and personal.  (This is a tough one but get in the habit.)
  • As best you can, save the weekends for yourself.  If you have to work 80 hours a week, put those hour in between Monday and Friday. Most of us have families and they deserve your time as much as your supervisor.  (If you are the boss, realize the boss needs time off for good behavior.)
  • Exercise in a vigorous fashion at least three times per week.
  • Watch what you eat and the portions. DON’T DO FAST FOOD. Eat properly.
  • SLEEP at least eight (8) hours per night.
  • READ. Give up television one or two nights per week and possibly on the weekends.
  • The Internet is a “black hole”. Do NOT waste time on Face Book, Twitter, etc etc.  Your time is valuable.
  • IF YOU LIKE THEM CALL THEM. Forget e-mail to loved ones, friends and family.  Listen to their voice. (NOTE: If you don’t like them forget it.)
  • Remove yourself from toxic people. People who have nothing good to say about anything.

These are just a very few recommendations but I do feel moving towards a condition in which we negotiate the controllable is a great place to be.

I welcome your comments.


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