“How are you today?”
“Stressed like you would not believe.”
“Oh, I believe it. You think you’re stressed? Let me tell you what I’m up against…”
We all know how this conversation goes, right? Because we’ve all had a million of them. Saying you’re “busy” or “stressed” is now a normal part of the ritual greeting in America, a perfectly acceptable answer to the customary, “How are you?”
In fact, if you were to respond by saying, “I’m doing great, feeling totally relaxed and loving life!” people would probably look at you like you’re crazy. (I dare you to try it, just to see what kind of responses you get.)
Yeah, we’re all pretty stressed out.
One survey found that 80 percent of American workers experienced work stress at the time of the questionnaire. But let’s be real here: Everyone feels stressed out at least some of the time. So really that number could be 100 percent. For some people, stress comes in temporary bouts. But for others, the stress never seems to stop.
What’s All the Stress About?
At work, stress is due to factors such as:
- High workloads
- Long hours
- Low pay (We all know pay hasn’t been keeping up with inflation.)
- Long commutes
- Difficult bosses
- Annoying co-workers
All that stress at work leads to poor work-life balance. And to make it even worse, many Americans are:
- Not taking vacations
- Bringing work home
- Spending less time with family
Workplace stress isn’t just affecting people with dangerous, high-stakes jobs like first responders and military personnel. Everyone experiences varying levels of stress in their jobs.
Moms aren’t immune. In fact, women are particularly likely to be over-stressed due to being paid less than men, more likely to be a single parent, and often having to shoulder the duties of both parent and full-time employee.
How Stress in the Workplace – and at Home – Can Lead to Addiction
So we’ve all learned from personal experience that stress is unavoidable, at least some of the time. The key to survival is learning how to manage stress.
But most people aren’t trained in managing stress.
As a result, more Americans than ever are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with stress. Drugs in the workplace are becoming increasingly common as overworked employees turn to prescription drugs like Adderall to work longer hours or Xanax to relax.
It starts out innocently enough…“I’ll just have a few drinks with friends to let off some steam.” But when the stress doesn’t let up, neither does the substance use, and addiction isn’t far behind.
Drug and alcohol rehab centers across the country are overflowing with patients, and not just in the so-perceived bad parts of town. In New York, a rehabilitation center in exclusive East Hampton caters to professionals in high-end careers, such as executives and investment bankers. While this luxury rehab hosts the occasional celebrity, most of its posh beds go to corporate professionals who relied on substances to cope with their high-stress, high-paying jobs.
10 Ways to Reduce Stress Without Alcohol or Drugs
If you’ve got a lot of stress in your life, you may be feeling a bit scared right now, and you should be. But don’t worry: There are plenty of ways to learn to manage stress and keep the need for substances at bay.
Here’s what you can do to reduce stress naturally:
- Meditate daily: Carve out a few minutes in your hectic routine to enjoy the bliss of doing nothing and even thinking about nothing! Twenty minutes is ideal, but even five minutes will do. Anything is better than nothing.
- Stop and play with your family: Got kids constantly vying for you’re attention, but you’re too busy going, going, going? Stop for five minutes and play with them. You will be amazed at how much this soothes them (and they may even leave you alone for 20 minutes afterward!).
- Fun exercise: Exercise isn’t just for losing weight. It also helps relieve stress and gives you a natural “runner’s high.” Pick something fun and go with it.
- Get plenty of sleep and healthy food: Your body needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night as well as sufficient nutrients to stay energized and focused. Think of it this way: You’ll be able to get more work done in less time!
- Ask for a raise or a lighter workload: You know you deserve it. But you have to ask. Don’t think your boss is going to suddenly go, “Hey, you’ve been doing the work of three people. You deserve a raise!”
- Take vacations: Kids go to school for 180 days of the year. That means as a kid you got half a year off! As an adult, you get one, two, maybe three weeks a year? Use it, for crying out loud! Your inner child is begging you to.
- Use your extra sick days for “mental health” breaks: Got some extra sick days that you didn’t use? Take a day off here and there just because you need and deserve a break! You can use the day off to focus on your favorite recreational activity, which can do wonders for relieving stress.
- Don’t go into work when you’re sick: If you have several sick days left because you were sick but forced yourself to go into work anyway, shame on you! Just kidding, no shame. But seriously, that’s what sick days are for. The company won’t stop running if you’re out for a day or two. And if it does, that’ll teach the boss to hire an adequate number of employees!
- Ask to work from home: Even a day or two a week will reduce the time you spend commuting and putting up with stressful office drama.
- Think about going hourly: Sure, salaried jobs are considered more prestigious. But when you think about how many hours salaried folks are putting in, without any increase in pay, suddenly hourly work looks a lot more attractive. Then they’d at least have to pay you for all that overtime.
Stress is bad. Drugs are bad. Avoid both.
Practice managing your stress and take back control of your life!