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America's stress levels are as high as ever, according to a new survey.
The annual “Stress in America” survey of more than 3,000 adults finds that many Americans are worried about the future of the country, with 59 percent saying this is the lowest point in U.S. history that they can remember. Nearly half said they lie awake at night worrying in the past month. We’re most stressed about health care and the economy. It doesn’t matter where we live, all regions of the country are basically equally stressed. The online survey, released Wednesday, was conducted by Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association.
Too much stress can leave us feeling anxious, angry and blah. Fortunately, we're not taking all this stress lying down — we’re also finding healthy ways to relieve it: 53 percent say they are exercising, with 12 percent doing yoga or meditating, up from 9 percent in 2016.
Is today going to be another day filled with little annoyances and worry? Not if we can help. Here are some expert-approved tips to decompress.
1. Take a walk
“I take a walk in the Botanical Gardens,” said Robert Bilder, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute and director of the Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity in the Semel Institute at UCLA. “One of the most important tips is to ‘unplug’ and get away from the constant tyranny of email, messaging, Twitter feeds, and the other ubiquitous stimuli that tend to take over our plans for action.”
2. Treat yo' self
“I try to go out to lunch everyday to get myself out of my office and let someone take care of me (food is cooked for me, cleaned up for me, etc.). It's a break from taking care of others,” said Ann Kearney-Cooke, a psychologist at the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute.
3. Try a rub down
“I find it easy and convenient to self-massage acupressure points classically used to ease stress and promote relaxation. These are easy to reach on my hands and my wrists,” said Dr. Lawrence Taw, assistant clinical professor UCLA Center for East-West Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
4. Send out good vibes
“I pause and think of a few people who love me and trust my intentions,” said Dr. Amit Sood, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “I send silent good wishes to the person in front of me.”
5. Bend over
“Stop, drop and do yoga! Even just a pose or two can help to calm the mind and recharge your batteries. Try Tree Pose standing by your desk, or a twist sitting in your chair,” said Rachel Brathen, aka "Yoga Girl" and author of the new book Yoga Girl.
6. Eat dark chocolate
“I use mood food to turn my mood around in the very short time,” said Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University.
7. Listen to music
“I listen to Mozart (elegant, beautifully structured, relaxing),” said William Fullard, professor emeritus of psychology at Temple University.
“I meditate,” said Sood. “I cultivate habits that relax the mind — for example, when I wake up, I think about five people I am grateful for before I start my day.”
9. Ground yourself
“Know that life is not as serious as your mind makes it out to be. There are a lot of beautiful things around you. When you feel stress creeping up, focus on them,” said Brathen.
10. Create fun habits
“When I get home from work I have created my own ritual of transition,” said Kearney-Cooke. “As soon as I get home I change into more comfortable clothes, turn on jazz or classical music and after eating dinner, engage in some type of movement (exercising, dancing, etc) or connecting with others in a casual way.”
11. Watch YouTube or Netflix
“TV and some online activities can often be very relaxing,” said Farley.
12. Be social
“I connect each day with my adult children and husband and close friends and the closeness with them is fulfilling and often shifts my energy after a tough day,” said Kearney-Cook.
13. Take a break
“When things get super busy and you feel like you have a hard time keeping up — stop. Close your eyes. Take five, very slow, very deep breaths. Focus where you are in this moment. Then get back to work,” said Brathen.
14. Have good friends
“Surround yourself with role models who inspire you by their words and actions,” said Sood.
15. Think of others
“I ‘reboot’ on a weekly basis by volunteering at my church where I serve as a children’s Sunday school teacher. This is a way to take the focus off myself and direct it towards others,” said Taw.
16. Be kind
“Commit to finding happiness through kindness,” said Sood.
17. Bust a move
“Take a dance break (yes!), go for a walk outside, hug your dogs. Come back to light and love,” said "Yoga Girl" Brathen.
This updated post was first published in May 2015. The 2017 "Stress in America" survey was released Nov. 1