Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back

Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back

Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back

Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back

Synopsis

Comments like "I'm worried sick" convey the conventional wisdom that being "stressed out" will harm our health. Thousands of academic studies reveal that stressful life events (like a job loss), ongoing strains (like burdensome caregiving duties), and even daily hassles (like traffic jams on the commute to work) affect every aspect of our physical and emotional well-being. Cutting through a sea of scientific research and theories, Worried Sick answers many questions about how stress gets under our skin, makes us sick, and how and why people cope with stress differently. Included are several standard stress and coping checklists, allowing readers to gauge their own stress levels.

We have all experienced stressful times--maybe a major work deadline or relocating cross-country for a new job--when we came out unscathed, feeling not only emotionally and physically healthy, but better than we did prior to the crisis. Why do some people withstand adversity without a scratch, while others fall ill or become emotionally despondent when faced with even a seemingly minor hassle? Without oversimplifying the discussion, Deborah Carr succinctly provides readers with key themes and contemporary research on the concept of stress. Understanding individuals' own sources of strength and vulnerability is an important step toward developing personal strategies to minimize stress and its unhealthy consequences. Yet Carr also challenges the notion that merely reducing stress in our lives will help us to stay healthy. Many of the stressors that we face in everyday life are not our problems alone; rather, they are symptoms of much larger, sweeping problems in contemporary U.S. society.

To readers interested in the broad range of chronic, acute, and daily life stressors facing Americans in the twenty-first century, as well as those with interest in the many ways that our physical and emotional health is shaped by our experiences, this brief book will be an immediate and quick look at these significant issues.

Excerpt

Each of us has witnessed a friend, coworker, or family member who tried to “do it all,” yet ended up exhausted, sick, or depressed. Maybe you’ve faced your own struggles, whether a divorce, a bankruptcy, or a troubled relationship that pushed you to drink more than you usually would. Maybe you have a stressful job, and try to calm your nerves by smoking cigarettes or eating your favorite comfort foods. That stressors—large and small— affect our health is a truism. Laments like “I’m worried sick” convey the conventional wisdom that being “stressed out” will harm our health. Literally thousands of academic studies reveal that stressful life events (such as a job loss), ongoing strains (such as burdensome caregiving duties), and even daily “hassles” (such as persistent traffic jams on the commute to work) affect nearly all aspects of our physical and emotional well-being.

Yet we have all experienced stressful times—maybe a major work deadline, or relocating cross-country for a new job— when we came out unscathed, feeling not only emotionally and physically healthy, but better than we did prior to the crisis. This experience is not unique; dozens of academic studies also provide support for the rallying cry “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” which suggests that we may grow more resilient and resourceful with every challenge. But how can stress be a source of both compromised health and resilience? And why do some people withstand tremendous adversity without a scratch, while others fall ill or become emotionally despondent when faced with even a seemingly minor hassle?

Worried Sick answers these and other questions about how stress makes us sick and depressed and even shortens our life spans. I will also show how and why some people are resilient and seemingly immune to such health woes—even in the face of unimaginable stress. Figuring out our own sources of strength and vulnerability is an important step toward developing personal strategies to minimize stress and its unhealthy consequences. Yet I will also challenge the notion that merely reducing stress in our lives—doing deep-breathing exercises or venting to our best friend—will help us to stay healthy despite our increasingly hectic lives as workers, parents, students, and caregivers. By focusing on repairing the stressors in our lives and trying to find quick-fix solutions (a good babysitter, a new job, an antidepressant), we’re missing the larger picture. Many of the stressors that we face in everyday life are not our problems alone; rather, they are symptoms of much larger, sweeping problems in contemporary U.S. society.

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