The American Psychological Association publishes an annual “Stress in America” report detailing stress statistics in the United States. Findings for the 2017 survey are troubling—it seems we’re seeing the first major rise in stress levels since the financial crisis of 10 years ago. In talking about this important report, Psychology Today states, “The psychological and physical toll of stress in America will undoubtedly continue to snowball if something doesn’t change.”
Work stress is a big deal
One of the toughest areas of life in which we deal with stress is in the workplace. Many of us spend as much time (or more) at work as we do at home, where a multitude of priorities and demands converge to push our stress levels to their limits. The 2017 “Stress in America” report reveals some fascinating (and scary) stats regarding work-related stress in this country:
- 58% of Americans name work as a major stressor
- 1 in 5 Americans say work-related tech is a stressor; 43% class themselves as “constant checkers” of technology
- Work stress costs an estimated $300 billion annually from absenteeism, illness, and lost productivity
- Interestingly, according to two different studies (one from 2013 by Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, and one from 2017 by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) millennials seem to experience more work-related anxiety and depression than any other generation
There’s no real formula to categorize or classify work stress, either—it’s a highly individual thing. According to the American Institute of Stress, this is “a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. One survey showed that having to complete paper work was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals. The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them.”
Constant stress will wreck your health
It almost goes without saying that chronic stress is very clearly linked to all manner of health problems. Regardless of your type of job, if you’re stressed out all the time, chances are your cortisol levels are constantly elevated and your body is responding accordingly. This “fight-or-flight hormone” prepares your body for immediate “battle” while de-emphasizing physiological functions that are less mission critical, like digestion. Your body is wired to do this to get you out of danger. But it is not wired to do this constantly.
Chronic stress is closely associated with high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It also correlates to weight gain. Stress lowers your immune response as well—a study in the Journal of Health Psychology reported that work-related stress lasting longer than a month tripled the risk of catching a cold, and stress lasting over three months increased the likelihood of getting sick fivefold. Stress seems to create digestive issues, headaches, asthma symptoms, and emotional problems, too. Not to mention the fact that it can derail your productivity if you end up taking more sick days, etc.
So what can we do to avoid getting burned out at work? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but most sources agree that the best measures are the preventative ones—knock out burnout before it gets to you first. There are many roads one can take to do this, and it’s a responsibility to be shared by employees and employers alike. An interesting Forbes piece compiling Forbes Agency Council members’ opinions on beating burnout emphasizes doing more non-work-related activities. Exercising, engaging in an activity that scares you, treating yourself to a nice dinner or a movie, disconnecting from technology for a set period—even doing nothing (which is harder than it sounds)—are all ways in which you can help to reset your biochemistry and restore your balance. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and other relaxing activities can all be valuable forms of self-care. For some, counseling or psychotherapy can provide some relief as well.
CBD and the cortisol connection
We’re going to add CBD to this list, because we think it’s a no-brainer that it can help to combat those frayed work nerves. Why? Because CBD has been shown to take down those jacked cortisol levels that make your body think it’s being chased by a hungry tiger 24/7. According to one study, “decrease in cortisol levels was significantly attenuated after CBD.” This reduction in cortisol is great news for your endocrine system, and particularly for your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which coordinates stress response. Your HPA axis is probably dysregulated to some degree if stress is a chronic problem for you. CBD also can control your blood pressure, thereby protecting your heart. (If you’d like to get into CBD and stress more, you might also read “Anxiety and Stress” or “A Secret Weapon for Stage Fright?”)
Back to “Stress in America”—the report also tells us about how companies in the FTSE 100 that prioritize their employees’ well-being outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%. Hmm, maybe it’s time for employers to offer a little less coffee and a little more CBD? If you’re feeling overworked and are interested in trying CBD as a stress management supplement, check out “What to Look for in a CBD Product.”