A recent study, published in Psychiatric Services, has shown that more Americans are stressed, anxious, and depressed than previous years. According to data analyzed from the U.S. Center for Diseases Control, as many as 8.4 million Americans, or 3.4% of the population, suffer from psychological distress, an umbrella term that covers a range of conditions, from common stress and nervousness to diagnosable depression and anxiety. This estimate has increased from previous estimates, which were less than 3%.
While factors for this rise are varied, health experts are citing the long lasting effects of the 2007 economic recession and the decreasing accessibility of mental health care services as some primary reasons. Whether it be a shortage in mental healthcare providers or gaps in insurance coverage as it relates to mental health, distressed Americans are having a harder time addressing these issues.
At VNA, we are passionate about promoting health and wellness not just among our patients, but among our staff and volunteers as well. We are proud to provide holistic care throughout the continuum of one’s lifespan and mental wellbeing is an important facet in that mission.
As such, we encourage all of our patients, staff, and volunteers to embrace healthier and less stressed lifestyles. While we know these are not substitutes for official mental health care services, we have found the following activities, which were put out by Harvard Health Publications, to be great ‘at-home’ de-stressing activities:
Laughing: According to Harvard, “laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase "good" HDL cholesterol.” Whether it be coffee with a joyful friend, a favorite light-hearted TV show, or a comedian sure to be a hit, laughing will help the process of de-stressing.
Meditating: One of the benefits of meditation is that it encourages slowness and deep breathing, both of which has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors. Yoga and prayer are also wonderful forms of meditation. Taking time to intentionally slow down with controlled, slow breathing is a simple way to live a less stressed life.
Exercising: It is not secret that exercise produces endorphins, a mood-boosting chemical. But it’s much more than that. “Exercising not only melts away stress, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.” Walking, biking, playing tennis - there are many ways to exercise and what’s more, it’s now shown to be contagious!
Unplugging: It's can be very hard to escape stress when it is able to permeate everyday life through TVs, smartphones, and the Internet. Unplugging is often a crucial step in the path to a less stressed life. Even just 10-15 minutes of time away from electronics a day is proven to be helpful.
Other ways: There are many other ways to help live a stress-free life. From taking warm baths, listening to music, or participating in a hobby, we encourage all of our staff, volunteers, and patients to be creative about how best to de-stress their lifestyles.
Taking small, concrete steps to live a less stressed lifestyle is crucial in your mental wellbeing. We encourage you to explore this list to find what works for you; remember, what might work for others may not be the best approach for you.