A look at good stress, bad stress and a few of our favorite stress relieving tools.
April is the 30th Anniversary of Stress Awareness Month. Looking at the magnitude of those suffering, it’s clear ‘stress’ needs its own month to help inform people about the dangers of stress and successful coping strategies.
The latest “The Stress in America” survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) with support of The Harris Poll was published on March 11th of this year. The purpose of the survey is to measure attitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public and identify leading sources of stress. The recent poll was originally conducted mid-February and supplemented by a late-breaking poll, fielded March 1-3rd, due to current national and global events. According to the APA, currently, the “top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation (87%), followed by supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia (80%).
“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we are now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”
As demonstrated by the surveys conducted only weeks apart, stress is fluid and episodic; it fluctuates based on what we are doing, what’s happening to us, and what’s going on around us. While short-lived stress can be good for you, chronic stress can have devastating consequences on our health. Since stress is here to stay, it is imperative that we talk about stress and how to celebrate the good, manage the everyday and mitigate the bad… for ourselves, our families, our friends and our colleagues.
Is all stress bad? Is there such a thing as good stress?
Everyone needs to experience stress. Seriously. This is how we learn to solve challenges, build knowledge and acquire new skills. The right amount of acute stress – short-lived, not chronic – primes the brain for improved performance. “You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not,” says Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
“Stress helps you meet your daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals, ultimately making you a smarter, happier and healthier person,” explains the Summa Health team. Good stress can be present when you’re excited - “your pulse quickens and your hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. You might feel this type of stress when you ride a roller coaster, compete in a game, or go on a first date. Good stress is short-term and it inspires and motivates you, focuses your energy and enhances performance”. That’s right. Good stress is essential for a healthy life. This is true for children too. It can help kids rise to challenges, solve problems, and build confidence.
Stress is also needed for survival. When a threat is present, nature gives us the ability to spot danger and respond to it. When faced with dangerous situations, our bodies and brains kick into fight-or-flight mode. We like to deal with danger quickly so we can feel safe again. Our body’s ability to deal with stress helps us do just that.
Good short term stress keeps us alive and teaches us how to thrive.
Why is managing chronic stress important?
It could save your life. Managing long-term stress can lower your risk of colds and flus and more serious conditions like heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure; which left unmanaged can increase your risk for a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Additionally, unmanaged stress can lead to chronic anxiety and depression. “Chronic stressful life situations can increase the risk of developing depression if you aren't coping with the stress well.” Mayo Clinic
Compounding the stressors of day-to-day life, research shows 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. Stress and its burnout byproduct are real. At the end of last year, Microsoft released their Work Trend Index. The findings are fascinating (more on that here), but the clear message is that our increased productivity from our work-from-home and hybrid-work model is masking a stressed and exhausted workforce. For example, the number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion”. Yet, despite the email, meeting, zoom, and chat overload, our response time is still averaging five minutes or less. Think about that…
All forms of employment come with expectations, deadlines, and the balance of managing job obligations with those of a personal life. Managed stress in the workplace can decrease burnout, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Let’s face it, finding a low-stress job is hard (if not impossible). A more realistic approach is adopting effective coping strategies to reduce and manage your stress - it could improve your quality of life and save your life.
How digital innovation can play a role in stress management
We all know increased digital noise and distraction can increase our stress levels… Digital innovation can also increase our productivity and our quality of life. We now have creative - anytime, anywhere - tools at our fingertips to support our mental wellbeing and aid in decreasing our stress levels.
As American architect and businessman William McDonough noted, “The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. It ended because it was time for a rethink about how we live.” Curious minds propel us forward to the future, and digital innovation brings us all forward to meet that future together. Helping identify chronic stress at scale - and its unkind playmates, anxiety and depression - through digital innovation is what drives us at Ellipsis Health. We are doing this by leveraging the unique power of the human voice as a biomarker for mental health along with advancements in machine learning and AI to measure the severity of stress, anxiety and depression. Our curious minds imagine a world where motoring your mental wellbeing is as easy as asking your smart speaker for the weather.
As a startup with a global remote workforce, different time zones, and competing priorities, the Ellipsis Health team is not immune to the need for tools to help us stay mentally healthy and in a place of creativity and renewed curiosity… because building a future where we can identify stress, anxiety and depression earlier can be, well, stressful.
Here are a few of the digital tools we enjoy most for managing that stress - hope you'll find them helpful, too!
Cigna StressWaves StressWaves - powered by our (Ellipsis Health) industry-leading health technology - gives you a reading of your current stress level in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee. Because it’s difficult to manage what you cannot see, the reading is delivered with a stunning visual animation using color and movement so you can see the stress affecting your body and mind-making the invisible, visible.
Headspace Through science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools, Headspace helps you create life-changing habits to support your mental health and find a healthier, happier you. Headspace is proven to reduce stress by 14% in just 10 days. It can also help you relax your mind in minutes, improve focus, and get the best sleep ever. We're lucky at Ellipsis Health, we have a company wide membership.
Ginger Coupling data science and virtual delivery, Ginger provides immediate confidential mental healthcare through coaching via text-based chats, self-guided activities, and video-based therapy and psychiatry.
Happify Happify brings you effective tools and programs to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts. They promote the “science of happiness” by allowing you to play relaxing games and do calming activities that are proven to show a positive change in one’s life.
Spiritune Spiritune combines principles of music therapy and neuroscience to help you feel great, focus better, and relax easily. You simply select your current mood and the mood you would like to get too - using music they help you transition to a more energetic or relaxed state.
As laughter can often be the best medicine and has proven to decrease stress hormones, just ask the Mayo Clinic, we wanted to share a few of our favorite and more creative ways to de-stress and hopefully chuckle along the way.
Do Nothing for Two Minutes Brought to you by the team behind Calm, “Do nothing for Two Minutes” is exactly what it sounds like. With relaxing music in the background, this website gives you permission to take a break from the stress you are experiencing and do nothing for two minutes.
Incredibox Pump it up and chill! This website allows you to direct a choir of acapella singers, which can be incredibly relaxing. You can select your preferred singers, and choose how you will direct them.
Make Everything OK Button A favorite to immediately relieve stress. This site simply consists of a button that says “Make Everything Ok." After clicking it, a message will appear, saying that everything is OK. Utilizing the power of positive suggestion, you can do it infinitely until you genuinely feel everything’s OK.
Pixel Thoughts A fan favorite at Ellipsis Health, this 60-second meditation tool aims to help clear your mind by putting a thought in a star and watching it get smaller and smaller. It’s a subconscious meditation as you begin to see how insignificant and tiny our thoughts are in the universe…and that life goes on.
Sometimes excessive noise can cause stress, whether it’s office noise, traffic, neighbors, or dogs barking. Simply Noise offers “pink, white and brown noise” along with soundscapes and signature noise - all to help you mute and tune out negative stress inducing noise factors.
~The Ellipsis Health Team