House Unrest: Handling Stress at Home

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — So you're stressed out at work, school or home? You're not alone.

According to data analysis website Statisticbrain.com, 77% of Americans say they "regularly experience the physical symptoms caused by stress" and 48% say their stress levels have risen over the past five years — not surprising given the downbeat economic climate, since 76% of Americans point to money and their job as the leading triggers for stress and anxiety.

But workplace and money woes aren't the only sources of stress.

Health Net, a Los Angeles managed health care service company, says off-hours stress is a big deal, including anxiety linked to a "noisy environment, an unhappy spouse or even mundane domestic duties like doing the laundry or mowing the lawn."

If any of that sounds familiar, take steps to treat the problem before it grows worse.

"Stress has been linked to a broad range of psychological and physical disorders," says Patricia Buss, a physician and the medical and health care services operations officer for Health Net. She points to studies from the American Institute of Stress that have uncovered "a connection between stress and depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, common colds, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, rashes, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis."

To keep your home a "stress-free haven," as Health Net puts it, you've got to tackle the issue head on:

Speak out. Don't let yourself be a victim to an in-home bully, manipulator or instigator. "If you feel in any way mistreated by a member of your household, you need to speak up and diplomatically express what's bothering you," Health net says. It promotes good self-esteem in addition to reducing anxiety.

Pull back on the chores. Doctors say a heavy "to do" list can lead to emotional and physical problems. Consequently, don't take on too many projects or commitments at once, Health Net warns. It's healthier to sometimes say "no."

Find an outlet. Stress can melt if you find a good, healthy activity to release it. Try meditating, yoga, knitting, dancing (even in the house!) or gardening.

Get a handle on money problems. Household income —¬†or the lack of it — is a reliable source of problems in the home. Get ahead of the problem by creating a budget, putting more money away for emergencies and changing jobs if you have to. The key is to be "actionable" and not take a sour financial situation lying down.

Get support from healthy people. Toxic people can drag you down in the home. But healthy people can pick you up again. "The people you consider to be your 'inner circle' should be sources of solace, not stress," Health Net says. "If this isn't the case, it's time to re-examine just who should be in that circle."

Get your home in ship shape. Organizing your home is a great way to curb stress. Even something as mundane as installing a hook for car and house keys or a cubbyhole in the kitchen for cellphones and sunglasses can have you breathing easier.

Also, make plenty of time for fun for yourself. That could mean reading a book, jogging or walking, playing with a pet or preparing meals with good friends.

— By Brian O'Connell

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