Stress is bad for you, mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is a commonly held belief today, within the world of therapists and counselors and in the general public, and there’s plenty of data to back it up. A comprehensive study just released by the American Psychological Association is titled 2010 Stress in America and looks at stress across the whole board. Particularly interesting in this study is how stress plays in family dynamics. The average parent reported a stress level of 6.1 out of 10, and one third of parents were in the 8-10 range. While the majority (69%) said their stress did not impact their children, kids had something else to say. Only 14% reported that their parents’ stress didn’t bother or upset them.
That means that the vast majority notice their parents stress and they are bothered or upset by it. Kids raised in stressful environments are more like to have physical and mental health problems in both the short and long term. So what to do about it? For those whose anxiety is out of proportion to the struggles they face, stress management counseling is certainly a good idea. Therapists can help people understand why they’re reacting to stress in such a strong way, and to develop new, healthier responses and habits.
But many people who are stressed don’t struggle with anxiety: often, life really is that stressful, especially in times of financial instability. We have two choices: change our lives to be less stressful, or change the way we think about stress. That’s exactly what Professor Salvatore R. Maddi believes we can do. Maddi has been studying the psychological and behavioral elements of stress for more than three decades. While many of us are overwhelmed by stress, some people thrive, and Maddi has been working to identify what makes the difference. His answer? Hardiness. Stress is unavoidable, but if we respond to it with hardiness (comprised of commitment, control, and challenge) we can actually use it to our advantage. So maybe it’s not stress itself that’s bad for us, but rather how we deal with it (or don’t deal with it) that affects our physical and mental health.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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