Who Has It?

So, who is affected by all this stress? You? Your partner? Your parents? Your grandparents? Your kids? Your friends? Your enemies? The guy in the next cubicle? The woman in the elevator? The CEO? The people in the mailroom?

Yes.

Almost everyone has experienced some kind of stress, and many people experience chronic stress, or constant, regular stress, every day of their lives. Some people handle stress pretty well, even when it is extreme. Others fall apart under stress that seems negligible to the outside world.

What's the difference? Some may have learned better coping mechanisms, but many researchers believe that people have an inherited level of stress tolerance. Some people can take a lot and still feel great and, in fact, do their best work under stress. Other people require very low-stress lives to function productively.

Nevertheless, we all experience stress some of the time, and these days, more and more people experience stress all of the time. The effects aren't just individualized, either. According to the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York:

  • An estimated 1 million people in the work force are absent on an average workday because of stress-related complaints.

  • Nearly half of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout, or severe job-related stress that impairs or impedes functioning.

  • Job stress costs U.S. industry $300 billion every year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees.

  • Between 60 percent and 80 percent of industrial accidents are probably due to stress.

  • Chronic stress can trick our bodies into thinking they are in equilibrium. Even if something becomes part of your daily routine and you think your body has adjusted to, say, working late, eating junk food, or not getting enough sleep, the stress of not giving your body what it requires will eventually catch up with you.

  • Workers' compensation awards for job stress, once rare, have become common. In California alone, employers paid almost $1 billion for medical and legal fees related to workers' compensation awards.

  • Nine out of ten job stress suits are successful, with an average payout of more than four times the payout for injury claims.

Stress has become a way of life for many, but that doesn't mean we should sit back and accept the insidious effects of stress on our bodies, minds, and spirits. While you probably can't do much about the stress experienced by others (unless you're the cause of the stress), you can certainly tackle the stress in your own life (and that's a good way to stop being stressful to others!).

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