Stress at a national high in NJ

Featuring Stacy Doumas, M.D.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Jersey Shore University Medical Center

It doesn’t take much in the way of research to know New Jersey is one stressed-out state. Still, a 2008 university study which found NJ to be one of the highest scoring states for anxiety, stress and impulsive behavior, does bring up some interesting concerns.

The examination of regional personality trends in Americans was led by Dr. Jason Rentfrow, a lecturer in social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge (UK), and although the findings were preliminary and are certainly open for discussion, they do serve as a jumping-off point for a broader, more urgent discussion.

The facts don’t lie. New Jersey remains the most densely populated state in the nation, and our cost of living is among the highest as well. Add to that pot-stirrers including the last decade’s rampant and widely publicized corruption and, of course, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and it’s easy to see why so many residents here feel like they’re teetering on the edge.

It’s no secret, to live (and love it) here in New Jersey, you’ve got to be tough.

And while there’s no easy fix, there are a simple and effective ways to help you navigate the grind … Smiling all the way.

Be Prepared

  • Be aware of what stresses you out the most.

  • Know when you're most vulnerable to stress - and prepare yourself.

  • Recognize your stress signals. Once you're aware of your stressors, you'll have a better idea of what you can control and how to control it.

  • Be able to distinguish between everyday anxiety and major stress. Know what you’re up against, and then face it head on.

Take Action

  • Be Optimistic: It’s science. And it works.

  • Confidence is King: You’ve beaten this before, and you’ll beat it again.

  • Get Organized: Plan, prioritize and learn to manage your time. You’ll be amazed at how much less overwhelmed you be when the heat is on.

  • Set Limits: Take the reins. Don't be afraid to say know unnecessary, stressful obligations.

  • Get Physical: You’ve heard it before, but it’s still the best advice. Exercise may just be the single best way to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.

  • Eat Right: Healthy diet = healthy body = healthy mind. It’s a simple equation that will save your life.

  • Get Outside: Fresh air and sunlight, a miracle cure.

  • Socialize: Make time for conversation and maybe a laugh of two. It’ll pull you back from the brink and give you a fresh perspective.

  • Call It A Day: Eight hours of sleep a night may seem unrealistic, but do your best. Getting to bed early will give you a nice head start.

  • Breathe! Relaxation techniques can work wonders; guided imagery, prayer, meditation, yoga, even hypnosis – don’t be afraid to try something new.

If you’ve tried everything and still feel debilitated by stress, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Ask your physician for a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist who can help you deal with your feelings and help you identify ways to manage your personal and professional situations.  Keeping your stress in check will help you stay healthy and prevent serious health problems later on.

And remember, we’re not the only ones impacted by anxiety. Stress can have as much, if not more, of an impact on our kids and teenagers.

In her Momtourage article, “Teens and Coping with Stress,”  Stacy Doumas, M.D., Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center writes:

"Teen stress is inevitable, but taking measures to let your child know you can work through it together is one stress factor they don’t have to worry about. “Talk openly with your teen,” says Dr. Doumas. “Let him or her know you’re there to listen and provide support.”

Doumas also provides some tips on how to deal with stress together:

  • Listen to what is causing your teens stress. Change what you can, for example cut down on part-time work hours.

  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, exercising, and avoiding drugs and alcohol can reduce the effects of stress.

  • Laugh. Laughter provides good feelings so try watching a favorite sitcom or search for funny videos online.

Read more about stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions at the Meridian Health Wellness Center.

What about you fellow New Jersey moms? We’re all stressed, but do feel overwhelmed? What do you do to cope with your stress? Let us know!

Article by Steve Bove