What are we so stressed about and how does it impact your mental health?

Stress doesn't discriminate against age, sex, ethnicity or religion. While everyone has a different definition of stress and ways to cope with it, no one is completely immune to its effects. In fact, according to the Mental Health Institute of Stress, 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress and 73 percent say that stress impacts their mental health.

We are living in a time when stress levels are higher than ever, and with that the risk of other mental health conditions like depression and addiction are on the rise. Our most recent Mental Health Index statistics state that depression in men is up 118% and social anxiety is up 162%. Overall, 63% of working Americans were at greater risk of General Anxiety Disorder in December 2021 vs. pre-pandemic. Stress has become a real problem, and it's not going away any time soon. This Mental Health Awareness Month, join us as we explore the impact prolonged stress has on our mental health and the importance of working together to help each other through tough times.

What are we so stressed out about?

It should come as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a huge surge in stress and anxiety among not only Americans but everyone across the world. In the span of a month, work conditions drastically changed, day-to-day activities ceased, and we were isolated to our homes. Over time, many workers completely lost their jobs due to decreased revenue flow and hardships among the business. People were fearful and uncertain of the future, and it was stressful to think about.

Money is one of the most commonly cited reasons for stress. Job stability, medical bills, and housing costs are all high on the list of things that stress us out. Additionally, we worry about our health, both physically and mentally. Our relationships with friends and family were put to the test when we were forced to social distance due to the pandemic. Working from home with kids and other family members often created tension among those in the household, and it eventually caused stress levels to skyrocket.

Are we doing enough to acknowledge stress?

Although many of us acknowledge that our physical health is important, mental health usually isn't a priority. Only 40 percent of Americans rate their health as very good or excellent, and they know they aren't doing enough to take care of themselves. Instead of managing stress in healthy ways, many turn to unhealthy habits such as stress eating, drinking, and smoking. It becomes easier to distance ourselves from others, impossible to sleep, and as events spiral out of control, we become irritable when things don't go our way. These habits can be difficult to break. It not only weighs heavily on how effectively we manage stress, but can negatively impact those around us as well.

Organizations have a duty to give their employees the tools they need to effectively manage their mental health. In the corporate world, 50 percent of workers say their employers aren't doing enough to help their staff manage stress and anxiety, and 86 percent would like to see their employers build a better culture that encourages open dialogue about mental health challenges.

How can we help each other tackle stress?

If you know someone who's struggling to cope with stress or anxiety, gently let them know and ask how you can help. Having a chance to talk openly may allow them to feel calmer, and in many instances, just knowing someone is on their side can give them the motivation they need to push forward. If you feel they may be at risk of self harm, encourage them to seek professional help.

It's important to stay positive around those who are struggling with their mental health. When we're surrounded by negativity, we tend to pick up on those traits and start catastrophizing, assuming the worst case scenario will always happen. In the same way, if we surround ourselves with positivity, we'll begin to change our way of thinking to focus on all the good things around us. Even the simple gesture of a smile or a joyful laugh can put someone in a good mood.

As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, Total Brain wants to encourage everyone to take a moment to think about their mental health. Are you feeling stressed? Do you know someone who could use your help? If you're looking for new ways to tackle stress, open up the Total Brain platform and try a breathing exercise to clear your mind or listen to the brain stimulating music of NeuroTunes to help induce relaxation. We encourage you to share your own tips to manage stress on social by tagging us and using the hashtags #stopstresstogether and #together4MH.

Together, we can help each conquer stress. You are not alone, and you never have to be!

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