The Health Burden of Stress
What We Can Do About It

Summary

For many of us, stress is an omnipresent and frequently overwhelming factor of day-to-day life. As we begin to better understand its toll on our health, this Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health event – in connection with a new poll by HSPH, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPRshared the story of stress as perceived by many Americans. What are the biggest sources of stress? How can it affect our health? And what can we do in our homes, workplaces and communities to help us manage stress and to live calmer – and healthier – lives?

Do you have resources to share to help manage stress to improve health? Tweet your ideas using hashtag #BurdenofStress.

Part of: .

Presented in Collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR

Background Articles

Image Credit: © gettyimages/Rudi Von Briel

  • Leslie Stockton

    i shall watch this one for sure :)

  • Yousuf Ali

    I think that we need to lower the stress we take but since it seems quite impossible nowadays, we should watch the live webcast on 9th july to know more!

  • Pam Ressler

    Looking forward to joining in for the webcast today on the Burden of Stress. As a clinician, faculty member and mindfulness teacher for many years, I believe we are reaching a tipping point in our society for changing our relationship with stress. Neuroscience is a one of the game changers, finally being able to quantify and visualize for patients and healthcare providers the positive benefits of small changes, such as mindfulness meditation, to brain changes.

    Pamela Ressler, founder and president of Stress Resources
    @pamressler

  • Andrew Trowbridge

    It seems that the most common, primary stressor in many of
    our lives is the imbalance, and over-prioritization of our work life. Some of
    this is self-induced by insecurities, how others perceive us, a constant
    chasing after “success” that has no endpoint (which needs a major redefining in
    our world), and fear/worry of both present and future circumstances and
    securities (finances, shelter, food, ability to take care of family through
    provision and both quantity and quality time), however the other reality is the
    fact that this is not entirely self-induced. Many of us operate this way
    because of the pressure we experience from outside sources, and though we would
    prefer not to operate as such, we do because we feel we have to. Many of us are
    overworked and underpaid. At present, the model is that “we live to work.” Work
    is the dominant centerpiece and we sacrifice our lives, families, hopes, and
    desires for it. How can we combat this? What are ways that we can change the
    current state of the workplace to be more family/person focused? How can we
    reverse the model so that work can be a healthy piece of our lives that enables
    us to “thrive,” living better lives that have our best interest in mind, that
    allow us to provide and be present with our families, focus on our health
    (nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental/emotional)?

  • Maria

    Is there any difference between general anxiety and stress? Is stress in the DSM V? Thanks!

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM TWITTER

    Please address how one’s faith can help cope with #stress. Thanks!

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM TWITTER

    How does stress impact ability to maintain a healthy body weight?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Good Morning

    First of all, congratullations on the Forum and pannellists, all excellent.

    I am a family doctor specialized in Behavioral Medicine, and have been working with stress in my practice as well as in large organizationations. I believe the elements provided by the Mind Body Institute are very well suited for the clinical stress management, treatment and prevention. In my experience, integrating behavior modification thecnics, cognitive reconstruction, resiliency strategies and mind-body relaxation thecnics with peoples skills trainning (including eficient communication and positive relationtships), work satisfaction, and adequate use of technology and connectivity tools enhance the results of stress control, health sustaitability and economical and financial losses related.

    Would you agree that applying these strategies in a more cientific way in companies could be the solution for the ones that are baddly hurt by main causes of productivity loss. like presenteeism due to chronic stress and other neuropsychiatric and psycilogical problems?

    Thank you very much

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Please speak to workplaces addressing the systemic issues in the workplace and how the workplace can address these in addition to the individual stress management techniques.

    Thanks

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Yoga has been the most successful practice to relieve stress, decrease inflammatory response, lower blood pressure, lower weight and increase strength. Not all yoga is created equal, I encourage people to try many different instructors and types of yoga to find the practice that is best for them. The best instructors I have found for yoga practice are both Corinne Baerwald and the world renowned New Zealand resident and yogi specialist – Donna Farhi. Another method to relieve stress is Qi Gong as taught by Murray Cohen, an author, instructor and proponent of the meditative movement practice. Finally the other practice I have found palatable for most all individuals is Tai Chi as taught by Master Peter Shim.

    I’d like to hear feed back from others regarding their yoga experiences with regard to stress. I have located and written best practice evidence papers regarding the efficacy of yoga with regard to healthful practices and advanced practice nursing.

    S. Courtney Burkett, RN, BSN – MSN/FNP Student Angelo State University

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    It is impossible if state will not comply with the law & causes cognitive challenges (falls from-non-accessible streets). Aren’t they responsible for the intentional harm/neglect/abuse/stress & joblessness?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Is there a structure program to implement on an organization wide level to provide a healthy work environment that is free and accessible now?

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    Kristen, The answer to many of your questions is in TRUE Prevention–Optimum Health: Remember Galileo including citations to the new paradigm on weight management with research showing that mood and emotional state affect how our body handles the food we eat. Better mood = better handling by our body. There is also research showing the same for exercise. 5 miles walked while feeling appreciation has a greater benefit than 5 miles walked feeling guilty that we’ve only exercised twice that week when we intended to do it three times.

    Solutions that work in the workplace and in schools are also provided. It addresses the root cause of stress and provides practical techniques for reducing stress.

    I’d be happy to discuss further and can be reached through my website.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Is it possible that for children play could alleviate the damaging impact of stress?

    Best wishes, Cynthia

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    What should employers undertake to encourage and help employees during their work day to take breaks for stress reduction? It seems that most employees are not even taking breaks to eat a healthy lunch. Companies like General Mills, Google, and Apple have “instituted” meditation practices as well as dedicated spaces for meditation and other stress- reduction practices. Should companies have mind-body/stress-reduction facilities and practices much like they have gyms and cafeterias?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    I’ve been blown away by biofeedback. I’m a science person and seeing the numbers on how thoughts affect my body has made me a believer in the impact of stress.

    How long until biofeedback and the like is more mainstream? It seems fringe now, but it’s more scientific than most things we have out there.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Thanks for announcing this Forum.

    I teach STRESS AND RISKS MANAGEMENT CLASS TO VARIOUS GROUPS.

    MAY I ASK FOR YOUR COMMENTS ON WHAT CAN WE DO TO MODIFY IN OUR DAILY CHORES TO MANAGE STRESS AND EUSTRESS FOR HEALTHIER LIVING WITHOUT RESORTING TO PHARMACEUTICAL INTERVENTIONS AND EXPENSIVE SPORTS OR ACTIVITES THAT MOST AMERICANS CANNOT AFFORD TO ENGAGE IN.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Hello!

    I am familiar with Herbert Benson’s work and my question is for Mr. Fricchione.

    I would like to know how you might determine which method of these alternative practices would be more beneficial for a particular patients stress level, and do you focus on the mind as the starting point to reduce and moderate a person’s stress level, or is there generally a whole body approach? What methods outside of meditation are utilized?

    Thank you,

    Nancy Ippolito

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    For July 9 HSPH Panel on Stress.

    I see so many people boasting about how “busy” and “buried with work” they are. It becomes like a competition of “I’m more stressed than others around me.” Do we somehow equate or celebrate stress as (1) being busy (maybe like what Weber wrote about the Protestant work ethic) or (2) more important/inexpendable than others?

    Chuck Leddy

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Questions for consideration on your July 9th webinar:

    1) are we able to determine the relative impact of stress from various sources such as environmental degradation (noise pollution, living in highly industrialized areas, exposure to vehicle traffic, etc.) as compared with personal circumstances (unemployment, job specific stress, etc.)

    2) can you speak to the role of community empowerment in reducing stress? we tend to focus on behavior change at the individual level, for coping with stress. What role is played by being a member of a community that has a sense of control over its quality of life?

    Thank you.

    Rebecca Ruggles

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM EMAIL

    Many parents have thrown up their hands at the level of stress and constant work burden under which many children are drowning. How can we more effectively share best practices with schools, education officials, coaches, and parents so that we can act in the interest of our children and their developing minds and bodies????

    Why do so many well intentioned parents accept an unacceptable level of stress as if it is a “necessary evil” in the pursuit of some pre-defined version of success that doesn’t make sense for every kid and isn’t worth the sacrifice that may be made in its name????

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    Nancy Ippoilito,

    I teach programs that help individuals modify their brain to reduce stress and increase thriving. I am interested in partnering with someone who wants to do research on this subject and quantify the improvements. There are 11 of you on Linkedin. I can be reached on Linkedin or via my website. Jeanine Joy, CFIRS, AIRC, FLMI,CHC

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    Kim,

    It is not built in. It is a habit you developed at a young age and have not changed. It is changeable.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Joanne Scott: Stress often leads to severe lack of sleep. There are many detrimental effects of this lack of sleep. Is there any evidence that it contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Ginnie Thomas: As a health promoter, what is the 1 most important idea/practice that I should tell my clients?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    PlayableArtDC: Is it possible that play is an effective way to alleviate a child’s stress, even for long term stressors such as living in poverty?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Thomas Blackadar: If you are a person who is living with stress a lot- if there was a way of alerting a person of the onset- can it be reversed quickly?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Anthony Zenkus: What can we do to persuede doctors to recommend non-chemical solutions to stress as opposed to prescribing benzos, etc?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    arneis: How much is stress related to the 24/7 news cycle and electronic connections?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Dan Grossman: What do we know about the causal relationship between health and stress? Is it possible that health problems are causing stress rather than the other way around?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Michael Phoenix Bee: How much is stress involved and/or responsible in occupational accidents?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    b__now: Is the data segmented by race, ethnicity, language of preference and gender ID/expression? Was there a Spanish language panel? Can we get the data?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    sabrinaadler: How do you distinguish between the physical symptoms of a health issue that is causing stress and the (very similar) physical symptoms of stress that results from being ill? It can be a vicious cycle.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    HealthyBabies Racine: Please have the panel address chronic stress due to racism and how this plays a role in stress and health.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    SynergyPTYoga: I wonder how the epidemic of stress related illness will impact healthcare? How do people know when to seek stress management techniques (education at doctors offices)? What resources are available for lower income families? Support groups before it turns into a heart attack, anxiety etc.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Ju Mi Lee: perceptional stress level may be different individuals. How can we define cutoff stress level for public population of hazard to heath outcomes?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    lae9q3: Any suggestions on how busy practitioners can help to make a very busy clinic a less stressful environment for our patients as well as ourselves?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Aviva Bock: research on the brain suggests that stress alters many circuits within the body that leads to the breakdown of cellular health that then leads to diagnosis. When will the medical system and the health system stop dealing with body and mind as separate one from the other?

    • http://www.thesiliconvalleystory.com/ The Silicon Valley Story

      When we stop going to them for help they know nothing about and do it ourselves or learn how to from those who do know. If they don’t get patients, they get the message.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    sally50014: Maybe we need to teach these resiliency skills to young people to prepare them for the workforce, family life, what life throws at them in later years?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    b__now: Do we see a future where practitioner writes prescription for meditation, yoga?

    • http://www.thesiliconvalleystory.com/ The Silicon Valley Story

      If they can get paid for it like they get paid every time they say, “Don’t smoke.” of course it is in the future. But we can make sure this doesn’t happen if we bring some sense to the table now.

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    Aviva Bock: When will we attend to the emotional aspects of cancer and work to clear them before we proceed with the medical treatment. there are many cultures that see there way to helaing cancer cells by relieving them of the emotional burden they carry and then see that much of the pathology has disappeared?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    AntwanJonesPhD: Has the panel addressed negative coping mechanisms to stress that are beneficial to mental health but detrimental to physical health?

  • Kristen

    QUESTION FROM ONLINE CHAT

    b__now: Where might we go to find case studies of building resiliency?

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    The peer-reviewed book, Perspectives on Coping and Resilience provides case studies on building resiliency.

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    Ju Mi Lee: The cut-off is defined in TRUE Prevention–Optimum Health. The definition is based on research (including meta-analysis–Boehm 2012). Given a scale of -10 (deep depression) +10 (deep happiness) the greatest health benefits are found between 8 – 10. “The absence of negative emotion ≠ positive emotion .”

    However, that is not to say that any improvement in mood is good for both body and mind. It is. It is helpful to think of stress as one end of a continuum and happiness the other end of the same continuum. It’s not precise but it helps the mind grasp the relationship. It is definitely intertwined.

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    Dan Grossman: RE: What do we know about the causal relationship between health and stress? Is it possible that health problems are causing stress rather than the other way around?

    It goes both ways but stress is causative. There are numerous longitudinal studies that show stressed individuals experience more illness and decreased lifespans. There is also clear evidence that stress decreases immune function. They have been able to test immune function in someone who is relaxed then introduce a stressor and immune function had declined (within minutes). Decreased immune function explains a lot of the difference in morbidity and mortality but it is more complex than that. Our digestive function is also negatively impacted by stress. Our cognitive abilities are also decreased–with results such as poorer decisions about healthy behaviors. This is just the tip–there is far more evidence about the causative element of stress on illness (and even social problems i.e. crime). The lack of skill in managing stress prevalent on this planet diminishes life for everyone. It is a simple matter of learning about how it impacts us, learning & practicing some skills, and making the management of our own stress level a priority in our lives.

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    RE: Joanne Scott: Stress often leads to severe lack of sleep. There are many detrimental effects of this lack of sleep. Is there any evidence that it contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease?

    Joanne, There is evidence that positivity affords some protection against Alzheimer’s Disease. (Which, in my opinion, equates to stressful events + mindset with mindset as the determining factor re: stress level). Stress is the root cause of many illnesses but mindset is the root cause of the level of stress. Two people in like circumstances do not feel the same level of stress–the mindset determines that.

  • http://www.happiness1st.com/Programs Happiness 1st

    RE: the following question: It is impossible if state will not comply with the law & causes cognitive challenges (falls from-non-accessible streets). Aren’t they responsible for the intentional harm/neglect/abuse/stress & joblessness?

    A: Anytime we blame another for our troubles we are giving away our power. If someone else has imposed the trouble on us we are dependent on them to fix it. This is a disempowered perspective that does not serve our best interests–even if the other person/institution has some culpability.

    When we take personal responsibility four ourselves we have the power to change aspects of our life we do not like.