Stress Still High in Adults and Kids

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2009 Stress in America Study came out this week. This year’s study included findings from adults and for the first time youth ages 8 to 17.

Report highlights:

Stress is still on the rise with nearly 42% of adults reporting an increase in stress over the past year.  Nearly 75% of adults are experiencing high (24%) to moderate stress levels.

And women seem to suffer from stress related symptoms more than men.

For adults, the top 3 physical stress responses: Trouble sleeping (47%), irritability or anger (45%), fatigue (43%)

It’s not just the adults who are experiencing increased stress levels.

Youth ages 8 to 17 also reported increased worry and stress this year. And their parents don’t seem to realize how much stress and worry these teens are experiencing.

2 to 5% of parents rate their child’s stress as extreme (or 8, 9, 10 on a 1 to 10 scale) compared to 14% of tweens (ages 8 to 12) and 24% of teens (13 to 17).

Even at this young age, kids are experiencing physical symptoms with 45% reporting trouble sleeping, 36% reporting stress related headaches, 34% reporting eating too much or too little in response to stress.

The real kicker in all of this: how easy stress is to ignore. Many study participants claim they are too stressed to manage their stress.

Stress is a matter of your health. And when stress is not managed it becomes chronic. Chronic stress leads to illness and illness is time consuming and costly.

Got 5 or 10 minutes?

When I present stress management workshops that’s what I ask people – do you have 5 or 10 minutes for stress relief activities.  If you don’t, I can’t help you.  If you’re ready to “find” 5 or 10 minutes during the day for stress relief, keep reading.  Below I’ve listed 5 of my “old stand-by’s” when it comes to stress management.  They aren’t new and chances are you’ve heard them before.  But they work and a refresher never hurt anyone.  Remember to always start where you are, take baby steps and consider the following a starting point.

  • Admit You’re Stressed! Stop ignoring it and acknowledge it. “I’m stressed!”  This can help with any irritability or anger.
  • Take a Deep Breath. Deep breaths won’t solve all of your problems. But they will slow you down and allow you to think about an appropriate reaction for a favorable outcome.
  • Take a walk. Whether up and down your street or up and down the hallway, take time to move your body.
  • Reach out and connect with friends and family. Share a hug, a smile, some laughter, some good times!
  • Write it down. Grab a pen and notebook and get your thoughts out of your head and out on paper. Remember, no one ever has to see it.

Managing stress isn’t about giving up your fast paced lifestyle, it’s about allowing yourself some time to refuel your engine in order to keep going. Start where you are, make it a family affair, become a role model to your kids, and help them manage their stress, too.


Check out Katie West’s The Levity Project on November 7 in Chicago.  At 12pm CT, she is asking to join her for a few minutes of laughter! Not in Chicago? No problem, laugh from home, video tape it and send it to her.  Katie is taking laughter and levity nationwide. Learn more about her and her project at I’ll laugh tomorrow at 12pm CT…laughing always makes my stress go away.

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  • Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    I know I’m stressed at various points in my day and I take about 30 minutes each day to deal with my stress. I’m working on dealing with my stress on a more regular basis throughout my day. It’s not easy.

    I’m working on staying in the now and focusing on my breath. The more that I bring myself back to the present moment the more awareness and ability to access my joy occurs.

  • Evita

    Hi Stacey

    Boy am I not surprised by those stats. You can really tell from people all around.

    I am so happy about the work you are doing in helping people deal effectively with their stress, that is a big bonus. But I also think as humanity in total we need a more aggressive shift in our thinking and lifestyles period.

    It is one thing to hear about stressed adults, but my heart really aches when I hear about stressed children. They are picking up so much from their parents both directly and indirectly and it is just not fair. Through this they pick up such a disadvantage health wise – mentally, emotionally and physically for their later years.

    I definitely think more and more attention should be brought to this subject and not of course from the problem side of it, but as you present the solution side of it. There are many things we can all do to decrease stress, but first step is always seeing it or admitting it.

  • Tess The Bold Life

    The last suggestion, writing it down works best for me. I’ve always loved journaling and it’s helped me gain many insights into relationships that are the most meaningful.

    Your and Katie’s work are so needed today. I’m not sure I know anyone who is dealing with some kind of stress these days. The solutions you give are simple but powerful!

  • Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord

    Stacey, first of all I love that you plugged the Levity Project’s awesome outing in Chicago. My gosh, that’s just so exciting (and stress relieving!).

    As for stress, exercise has always helped me manage stress and keep a clearer head. On the opposite end of the spectrum, nightly meditation (before going to bed) also allows me to keep a clear head. Your post from awhile ago reminded me that I hadn’t been meditating enough, and as a result, I recently downloaded some iTunes guided meditations to help break up the monotony of just sitting with my own thoughts. Guided meditations led by the right “voice” or person go a long way in keeping me grounded.

    Thanks for this important post!

  • Chris Edgar

    Hi Stacey — yes, not having time to sit quietly is an ironic situation many people seem to think they’re in. One thing I think it’s important to notice is that, even when we’re on vacation or have some actual “down time,” many of us find ourselves still seeking out noise and stimulation. The mind seems to naturally resist silence no matter how much time we have, but when we realize this at least the whole self-deception of “I don’t have time” falls away.

  • Lance

    Your list is a great reminder – it can sometimes, in the heat of the moment, be something we (I) forget. Taking a walk works well for me – or really – just getting away from whatever it is that’s causing the stress. Physically distancing myself from it (and distance doesn’t have to be much) does wonders.

    For me too, a lot depend on how I start my day. If I’m able to start it in a manner that starts with some moments of quiet – it’s like the rest of my day is lived in a very much lower-stress state.

    Great reminders!!

  • Darren Sproat

    It’s incredible what asking a simple question of your 8-year old will result in. I asked, “Honey, are you feeling stressed about anything?” and her answer, in a matter of fact fashion, was, simply, “Yes, Daddy.” (Background – her Mom and I are going through a separation right now)

    Once I got over the bluntness of the answer it was a great opportunity to share with her different ways for her to manage the stress – be it exercise, breathing, focusing thoughts, writing, or any number of other means. It was a perfect opportunity for Daddy/daughter time. She now knows that she doesn’t need to hide the fact she is stressing over something and she has some tools that will help her manage that stress.

    Wonderful post, Stacey…


  • Stacey Shipman

    Hi Karl – Agreed, it’s not easy. In our fast paced lifestyles, taking a time out seems counterintuitive. When really that’s what we need to do. It is definitely part of work happiness!

    Hi Evita – I know it’s the kids part that kills me too. A shift, or wake up call is definitely needed to make any modifications or decrease stress (or turn it into the positive)

    Tess – I love writing, too. My bookshelf is filled with journals! Simplicity is key, as far as I’m concerned, in getting people to do something about it!

    Megan – I don’t know where I’d be without my yoga and meditation. Truly have been lifesavers.

    Chris – I know, there is a constant need to be busy. And I’ve become so aware of that, now it stresses me out when I’m in the company of people who “can’t sit still!”

    Lance – Me, too. If I start my day rushed, then I’m typically stressed for the rest of it, and that never feels good.

    Darren – Wow, what a moment to share. It’s so important to be in tune with our own needs and our kids needs. I remember when my parents separated, no one asked us about our stress levels…and boy were they high. And thank you for sharing some great tools with her. That is what it’s all about. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story.

  • stress management techniques

    Stress is on the rise in kids and adults. Managing it doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it’s necessary for your health and well-being.

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