It's confirmed: We're stressed.
And we're more stressed than men are.
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2010 Stress in America survey, most Americans are living with moderate or high levels of stress. And women are more stressed than men (28% report a very high level of stress, compared to 20% of men).
What tops our list of stressors? Surprise, surprise: Money. For 76% of Americans, money is the number one source of stress—above relationships, health, and personal safety.
If we could sum it up, we'd say: Mo' money, mo' problems. No money, mo' problems.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
The Stressed Gender?
We're not sure why women are more stressed than men about money, but we can hazard a guess. First, women run 80% of household finances in America. We also tend to worry about problems more than men do (yeah, we have to do something about that).
It's important to learn how to better manage stress, because stress has been linked to a variety of ailments, from mental health issues like anxiety and depression to physical illness, such as coronary disease.
Tackle the Problem
One way to handle money-related stress is to go straight to the underlying problem: those finances. At LearnVest, we firmly believe in taking control over your finances, which will allow you to sleep easily at night, no matter how much or how little you have (trust us, having a lot of money does not mean you won't be stressed out about money—read about why the wealthy feel insecure and poor here).
But there is another way to manage stress that might be even more important ...
Tackle the Stress
Studies show that our response to an event—the meaning and significance we attribute to it—is actually more important than the event itself in creating an emotional reaction. In other words, if someone steals our wallet, there is nothing we can do to change that fact. But we can change our feelings about it—and we have much more power over our own emotional reactions than we think.
Our response to an event is more important than the event itself in creating an emotional reaction.
A recent study out of the University of Denver and the University of Basel showed that the method of cognitive reappraisal, or thinking about a situation in a more positive light, helps women change their emotional reactions to situations.
In the study, a group of 78 women from diverse backgrounds were shown a sad film clip. One group was left alone, and the other group was instructed to use the "cognitive reappraisal" method. The group that used cognitive reappraisal experienced much less negative emotion and stress than the other group (and they even measured this through physical skin conductance tests).
And according to the researchers, these results apply to our larger stressful life events as well.
How to Do It
So how exactly can we start taking this "silver lining" approach to life?
Get Rid of Stress Now
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Below are the actual instructions given to the women in the study—try them for yourself and see if they help you diminish the stress in your life.
Try to think about the situation you see in a more positive light. You can achieve this in several different ways:
- Try to imagine advice you would give yourself to make you feel better.
- Think about the positive effect this event could have on your life.
- Think about the good things you might learn from this experience.
- Keep in mind that even though a situation may be painful in the moment, it could make your life better in the long run, or have unexpected good outcomes.
Think about it—maybe we can re-direct ourselves into stress-free living no matter our circumstances. (And we're betting stress-free is the better way to tackle our circumstances anyway!)