Stress is on the rise in America as people try to exist in a country that seems torn apart. The pandemic and the inequities it has further exposed, coupled with political upheaval and unrest, has many Americans feeling more stressed than usual.
This can play a significant role in your mental health, but it can also impact your physical health. Particularly your heart.
A new American Psychological Association (APA) survey shows the average American is reporting a stress level of 5.6 out of 10 on a 10-point scale (1 is the lowest; 10 highest). Those numbers are up from the last survey in April and are likely to continue.
Experts suggest the mental and physical health are currently at the forefront of American life and will hang around long after the pandemic.
According to the APA’s chief executive officer, Arthur Evans Jr., the mental health fallout from this era will last for years to come.
Respondents identified the country’s future, the pandemic, political unrest, and the recent insurgency at the Capitol as the major causes of stress. People reported feeling emotions like anxiety, sadness, and anger.
All of this can make more work for your heart. Stress may promote acute periods of increased heart rate and blood pressure, and staying in a stressful state for regular or extended periods may lead to long-term health risks.
Finding ways to manage stress is the best way to protect your heart and mind. A few ways to do it include:
- Take breaks from social media, the news, and even certain friends. Constant exposure to negative messaging keeps stress high.
- Practice some self-care in 15- or 30-minute sessions throughout the day. It could involve watching a funny or light-hearted TV show, going for a short walk, or calling a friend who you know keeps things light.
- Consider “three good things” to reflect on at the end of each day. These can be big or small things that happened that can provide some joy and send you to bed in a positive state. Ask friends and family to do the same.
- Keep things in perspective.
These are stressful times, and they can take a long-term toll on your heart and mind. Finding ways to reduce and manage stress may contribute to better health and longevity.