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Americans are most stressed about finances, war and COVID-19 anniversary, poll finds

The stress levels experienced by Americans are the highest they've been in the 15-year history of polls conducted for the American Psychological Association.

The war in Ukraine and financial worries amid the highest inflation in 40 years have driven Americans to their highest stress level in the 15-year history of a poll conducted for the American Psychological Association.

This year's Stress in America polls found that 87% of respondents said the rise in the price of everyday items from gas to groceries due to inflation was a significant source of stress. Eighty percent of respondents said the Russian invasion of Ukraine and potential retaliation by Russia on the U.S. in the former of cyberattacks or nuclear threats are a significant source of stress.

Nearly two-thirds of adults also said their life has been forever changed by the pandemic, and 87% said there has been a constant stream of crises over the last two years.

The stress about money is the highest it has been in the poll since 2015, with 82% of adults 18 to 25 and 81% of adults 26 to 43 reporting money as a significant source of stress, compared to 43% of adults 58 to 76.

The poll was conducted online from Feb. 7-14 and March 1-3 with 3,012 Americans 18 and over, according to the APA.

Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, shared some tips with TODAY on how Americans can take care of their minds, bodies and spirits at a time when stress feels like it's coming from all angles.

"I think one of the underlying themes of this study was not just social isolation, but emotional isolation, and the feeling that people don't understand us," Varma said. "And what's so interesting is that even though our losses are individual, the study shows that our grief is actually collective."

Varma shared six actions to take if you're feeling stressed, whether it's mentally, physically or spiritually.

  • Keep a "worry journal." Take 10 or 15 minutes every day to write down what you are worried about. Try to make the list early in the day so that you can go to sleep at night after having spilled out your worries on paper hours before you hit the pillow. "Eighty-five percent of the time, the things that you worry about never happen, and 15% of the time they do," Varma said. "You're more in control than you know."
  • Make a list of actionable items. If you have money concerns, make a budget and get your worries out of your head and into concrete action.
  • Exercise, even if it's only in 10 to 15 minutes a day to lift your mood and boost your purpose and concentration.
  • Make time for a quick meditation. Even if it's only closing your eyes and letting your shoulders drop for a minute, just breathe into your nose for a count of five and breathe out your mouth for a count of five. Do that 10 times.
  • Volunteer in your community or be proactive in catching up with friends and family. Feeling like a part of a bigger community can be crucial after the pandemic created so much isolation.

Connect to an "awe practice." Something as simple as taking a walk in nature, looking at art in a museum or admiring a sunset can help alleviate anxiety and recreate hope. "Seek the extraordinary in the ordinary," Varma said.