TIME Mental Health/Psychology

You Asked: Do I Worry Too Much?

You Asked Do I Worry Too Much
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Frequent fretting is unproductive and not so hot for your health.

As human beings, our ability to predict trouble—and outwit it—is one of those cerebral superpowers that set us apart from birds and beasts. But nonstop worrying can be crippling to your life and your immune system.

“Just having a thought about some potential bad thing that might happen—everyone has those,” says Dr. Michelle Newman, director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Pennsylvania State University. “But if you have difficulty stopping the worry once it starts, that’s one of the ways we define what’s called pathological worry.”

Newman, who is also editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, cites more characteristics of out-of-control worrying, like fixating on things over which you have no control—or which have a low probability of happening—and “catastrophizing” them. Worrying about a loved one who’s driving and picturing the horrible ramifications of an accident is one example; imagining a string of events that might lead to your losing your job and your home is another.

Anxiety is a related feeling that often goes hand in hand with worrying. While it can be a little tricky to separate the two, Newman says the technical difference is that worrying is “verbal-linguistic” while anxiety is “physical.” If you feel tense or on edge while thinking about your job security or your child’s long car trip, you’re experiencing both worry and anxiety. Feel those emotions “more days than not” for a period of six months, and you meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Basically, you’re a chronic worrier.

“I like to say that chronic worry is a process looking for content,” Newman says. “You’ve gotten into the habit of looking for something to be concerned about, and you always find it.”

That’s bad news for several reasons. First and foremost, incessant worrying and anxiety can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and has been linked to an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. “Anxiety can also over-activate your immune system,” says Dr. Wesley Moons, formerly of the University of California, Davis, and now CEO of his own consulting firm, Moons Analytics.

While at UC Davis, Moons and his graduate student Grant Shields found that people who reacted to stressful situations with anger experienced a smaller immune system response than those who reacted with anxiety. Shields says the sorts of immune system responses his research linked to anxiety could hurt the body’s ability to fight off infection or disease and have been tentatively linked to higher mortality rates.

“That’s not to say getting angry is a healthy reaction to stress,” Moons adds. “But in terms of your immune system, anxiety appears to trigger some different and potentially more detrimental responses.”

But isn’t there a benefit to lots of worrying? After all, if your mind is tackling contingencies and potential threats, you can act now to prevent them—right?

Unfortunately, Newman refutes this idea. “Mostly worrying becomes a process unto itself that doesn’t lead to problem solving or helping you in any way,” she says. If you’re worrying about something, she says, you’re not taking steps to address the source of your worry, if that’s even possible.

When you boil it down, worry is really a failure to live in the moment, Newman says. Activities that attempt to anchor your mind to the present—including yoga and meditation—may help combat incessant worrying. Exercise, massage and other things that alleviate physical tension are also helpful, she says.

Another great way to reign in your worrying is to set aside a specific time and place for it. Select a spot you can get to easily every day, but that isn’t a place where you normally spend time, Newman advises. (A quiet bench in your backyard, maybe, or a chair in your guest room.) Your goal is to give yourself 20 or 30 minutes a day in that space, devoted only to worrying. “The rest of the day, you tell yourself you aren’t going to worry because you will at that time and place,” Newman explains. “The idea is that by isolating your worry, you can control it.”

She says that focusing on a favorite relaxing setting—your “happy place”—also has proven worry-reducing benefits. “Close your eyes,” she says. “Try to vividly picture that place—the sights and smells and sounds you would feel and hear.” Hopefully the place that you see is worry-free.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways Successful People Deal With Stress Differently

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Plan out your motivation

Inc. logo

Any given day as an entrepreneur is the best or the worst. It’s often both.

The day you win a big award could be the day you’re struggling to meet payroll. The day you lose a big client could be the day you get your biggest one ever. These days can be confusing, and they happen all too often.

What separates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones is not the challenges. We all have them.

A critical trait that separates successful entrepreneurs is the ability to take setback and after setback without any loss of motivation.

Rather than being some innate thing we’re born with, this is a skill that can be developed.

I interviewed emotionally resilient, successful entrepreneurs to get their perspective…

1. Avoid Hitting Bottom By Reflecting On Death Daily Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach, and globally renowned speaker

In January of 2000, I noticed a metallic taste in my throat. Soon after, I collapsed in an elevator and had a near-nervous breakdown. That experience taught me to take stress seriously and take business less seriously. About 95% of what we think is SO SO stressful, really isn’t. We make up that story for ourselves.

So I developed habits that continuously help me keep my life in perspective:

Habit No. 1: Pondering Death. For me, the key is to remember that when I’m dead, none of this work matters. It’s all just a game. It’s what I do to make money so I can enjoy life. Dozens of studies have found that death awareness can lead to decreased aggression, better health decisions, increased altruism, and reduced divorce rates.

Habit No. 2: Taking Time Throughout The Day To Do What’s Important. I remind myself of the things that are important outside of business (things like time with friends, time with family, quiet time alone, time to pursue hobbies, and exercise). Throughout the day, I remember to take stock in how healthy my immediate family is. I breathe. I go to the gym. I went for a 5 mile run this morning. I make time in the middle of the day to chat with my wife.

 

2. Give Yourself Compelling Reasons Not to Quit Doug Conant, former CEO of Fortune 500 company Campbell Soup Company and founder and CEO of Conant Leadership

In the stormy seas of decision making, I refer to my personal mission statement often. It should include a clear and thoughtfully crafted intention that guides all your actions and specific bullet points that define how you will fulfill that mission. Research shows that without a good reason to keep pushing through tough times, we quit.

I have mine prominently placed near my desk so I can refer to it in moments of adversity. I share it with those closest to me so I am accountable to them as well as to myself. When thorny issues present themselves I can refer to the promise I’ve made myself and then compare my actions to the behaviors I’ve explicitly outlined.

After over 35 years in the corporate arena (most recently as a Fortune 500 CEO), and as a husband and father, I can’t emphasize enough the power of a personal mission statement.

The Franklin Covey Mission State Builder is a great resource for building and refining your statement.

 

3. Trigger A Mindset Reset With A Little Help From YouTube Benji Rabhan, founder of AppointmentCore

I personally like watching 5-6 short YouTube comedy videos that get me laughing out loud. I’ve found that this is enough time to take my mind off bad news and regain my positivity.

I call these my dopamine breaks. In a related and fascinating study, a Stanford research team found that funny cartoons activated a cluster of areas in the brain deeply involved in the regulation of dopamine, which positively impacts motivation and mood.

In order to find videos, I recommend going to YouTube’s most popular videos page, which shows newly trending videos. It has many categories so you can view based on your mood. If you like funny, there is funny. If you like music videos, they have that. It also serves to keep you in the loop of the current events from a video perspective.

 

4. Plan Out Your Motivation So It’s There When You Need It Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

I’m single. I don’t have any kids. Both of my parents are deceased, and I’m the CEO of a company I started. So having a source of daily inspiration that affirms my journey is critical.

I create 30-90 day inspirational themes that I rely on a daily basis. I find it’s less taxing when I know where my inspiration will come from so it becomes a fixed part of my day rather than something that’s ad hoc. Different examples of themes I’ve taken on are:

Reading daily affirmations for 10 minutes before I start my day.

    • Reading a few pages out of motivational books. I have a 50-day motivational journey book, Strength for Every Moment by T. D. Jake. Each day it reveals a question.
    • Following inspirational social media. I like Beats Reloaded, @drtiffanybrown, and @joelosteen.
    • Participating in community projects. In January, my base church went through a time where the entire congregation fasted and prayed 3 times a day for 30 straight days.

 

5. Smile To Boost Your Energy. It’s EasyJason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

In the last year, there were a lot of reasons I didn’t want to smile. I lost a key mentor in my life. I’ve been dealing with health issues with family members. Still, I think the easiest and, therefore, first thing that anyone should do when life gets challenging is to smile.

It transforms both the person smiling and people who see that smile. In fact, smiles can even predict longevity.

Smiles also serve as an indicator of how things are going in company and in my life. It’s a red flag if I notice that people in my organization aren’t smiling at each other or I’m not smiling at other people. That’s when I know it’s time to do a gut check and find ways to light that internal fire again.

One of the first books I read when I first became an entrepreneur is Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, and its principles have stuck with me. If I can’t smile, I know that I’m probably taking life and business a little too seriously.

 

6. Smile At The Beginning Of Meetings Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers

Similar to Jason, I believe in the power of smiling. Smiling is the simplest, easiest and fastest way to deal with stress. So why isn’t everyone doing it all the time? Remembering or wanting to smile is unnatural if you’re feeling stressed. That’s why I do the following three actions to make sure I’m smiling:

Have Accountability For Smiling. It may sound silly, but I’ve asked my employees to hold me accountable on smiling. I’ve told them, “If you don’t see me smiling, call me out on it!” This has worked on multiple levels. It has turned into a fun little game around the office. I smile more, and my employees smile more. A research study analyzing real-life behavior of over 1,000 males and females shows that more than half of people smile back at a smile.

Smile At The Beginning Of Meetings. I smile when I start new conversations. If I’m smiling, I project a friendly presence and demeanor, which inspires the other person to reciprocate, which then loops back to me. All of a sudden, we’re in a positive feedback cycle. So, 10 seconds of smiling can have a huge impact on a meeting. Given that the average person has 5.6 hours of meetings per week, you can begin to see how this small change could have huge consequences.

7. Do Multiple 1-Minute Meditations Daily Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene

The benefit of meditation is widely known.

What’s hard for most people is consistently doing it.

What’s helped me is doing 1-minute sessions throughout the day and on commutes rather than one long session. Research by Stanford Professor, BJ Fogg, shows that when hard activities are broken into smaller ones that are easier, people are more likely to take action.

Here’s the process I go through:

  1. Visualize myself standing alone at the summit of a tall mountain. See the clear blue sky and feel the sun beaming down on me.
  2. Focus on feeling only the bottoms of my feet grounded to the floor.
  3. Take 5 deep breaths. 3 seconds in–3 seconds out.

A great app to use if you’re just getting started is Headspace. Headspace helps you consistently meditate through guided programs and exercises.

 

8. Use The WOOP Framework To Visualize Rohit Anabheri,founder of Circa Ventures

I do 10-minute “Guided Imagery” sessions every two hours throughout the day and have been doing so for years. I visualize using the WOOP framework, which is backed by15 years of academic research:

1. Wish. I imagine the future state of the business’ success.
2. Outcome. I visualize the biggest benefit of that future state.
3. Obstacle. I identify the main obstacle to achieving my wish.
4. Plan. I think through a key action I can take right away to overcome the obstacle.

This approach recharges me and moves me toward my vision of success. I can then share that positivity across my team. I specifically like the WOOP framework because it grounds my vision in reality and immediate action.

Contrary to popular opinion, positive thinking about the future, by itself (i.e. positive fantasies), leads to poor performance and success. This finding is based on 100 studies performed by NYU psychologist, Gabriele Oettingen.

On Gabriele’s site, you can listen to a 5-minute audio that walks you through the process.

 

9. Visualize What You’re Grateful For Now And In The Future Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, and Wow 1 Day Painting

I visualize two things in vivid detail:

1. Now. What I’m most grateful for, such as my family doing fun things together.

2. Future. Our company’s Painted Picture, which is a brilliantly detailed snapshot of what the business will be like in three years. It includes what the company will look, feel and act like in every aspect, from revenue down to the way the company trucks will look. Creating a painted picture is purely a visionary process that does not focus on the how.

It’s a simple, quick exercise that always reminds me of what is most important and keeps my perspective in the positive realm, no matter how challenging the day might be.

Taking the time to visualize what you’re grateful for with all of your senses has a much larger impact than simply listing what you’re grateful for. In one incredible study, it was found that simply visualizing yourself doing exercise had a measurable impact on muscle strength!

 

10. Take Very Deep Breaths Kay Koplovitz, founder, USA Network and Syfy

I close the door to my office, lean back and take deep breaths for several minutes. It’s very calming, and puts things in perspective.

Breathing is our body’s built-in stress reliever. It can profoundly impact our physiology, and several studies have shown that it affects the heart, brain, digestion, and the immune system.

Special thank you to Ian Chew for being an integral part of putting this article together.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.com:

Read next: 17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

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TIME Drugs

Autistic Adults Could Take Ecstasy to Reduce Anxiety

The drug has also been tested as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder

Researchers are interested in seeing whether taking ecstasy could reduce social anxiety in autistic adults.

A team laid out their proposed study in Science Direct, saying that MDMA, the medical name for Ecstasy, could increase social adaptability in autistic adults and that clinical use of the drug would be far safer than street use of Ecstasy or Molly.

The abstract talks about “MDMA’s capacity to help people talk openly and honestly about themselves and their relationships, without defensive conditioning intervening,” as well as its ability to decrease fear and anxiety in people on the drug. It is a popular party or rave drug because it is known to increase energy and euphoria in the user.

The study would examine whether MDMA could be used to reduce anxiety in autistic adults, not used as a treatment for autism itself. The drug is also studied as a treatment for other anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

MDMA has been illegal in the United States since the 1980s.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Helps Older Adults Battle Depression and Anxiety

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For many older adults, the thought of stepping into a yoga class swarming with yogis more flexible than Gumby might provoke anxiety. But the practice itself may be just the antidote the over-60 set needs, suggests a recent review of studies about relaxation exercises. Those who did yoga and other calming activities saw greater reductions in their anxiety and depression than people who didn’t.

The body of literature on yoga’s relaxation benefits spans all kinds of people, but the authors thought adults aged 60 and older deserved their own analysis. Up to 40% of older adults report anxiety, they note, and anywhere from 15-20% of the elderly experience depression. So in the review published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, researchers scrutinized 15 studies—12 of them randomized controlled trials—from the past two decades that looked at different methods of relaxation. They gauged the effectiveness of six techniques: yoga, listening to music, tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, massage therapy and stress management training.

MORE: Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

The most effective ways to alleviate depression were yoga, the music intervention and the muscle tensing and relaxing exercise—called PMRT, for progressive muscle relaxation training. The music and yoga interventions were the best for anxiety.

Yoga had the strongest staying power. Positive effects from the stretching, breathing and meditation exercises stuck around six months later in older adults. “It could help counterbalance the negative effects of ageing, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the study authors write.

MORE: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

And good vibes from PMRT lasted 14 weeks after the intervention ended. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilising effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problem and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms,” the authors write.

The most effective intervention, of course, is the one you enjoy doing—and these results suggest that it’s never too late to find your favorite way to unwind.

 

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Mental Health Therapy Through Social Networking Could Soon Be a Reality

While still in the development stage, the peer-to-peer technology had "significant benefits"

An experimental social networking platform intent on helping users calm anxiety and reverse symptoms of depression has received positive feedback.

Panoply is a peer-to-peer platform jointly administered by MIT and Northwestern universities that encourages users to “think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that upset them,” says a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers found that the network, which is still being studied and has yet to be commercialized, produced “significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.”

Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives.

When a person is stressed, they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The “crowd” then responds by a offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.

The study involved 166 people over a three-week period. Researchers suggested a 25-minute per week minimum interaction to see results.

According to the published paper, the next step is to widen the net and see if the social media platform is as effective over a more diverse audience.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

A High-Fat Diet Could Be Altering Your Behavior and Not Just Your Waistline

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Study finds that heart disease and obesity aren't the only effects of eating too many fatty foods

Obesity, heart disease and other physical afflictions may not be the only negative impacts of consuming fatty foods. According to a recent study on mice, high-fat foods could be affecting behavior, increasing the risk of depression and related psychological disorders.

The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggests that a high-fat diet alters the mix of bacteria in the gut known as the gut microbiome. These changes, researchers from Louisiana State University believe, might be affecting one’s susceptibility to mental illness.

The researchers tested their hypothesis by taking organisms from the gut microbiome of mice that had been fed a high-fat diet and transplanting them into non-obese mice. They found that the microbiome associated with greater levels of fat led to problems such as increased anxiety and impaired memory.

“This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracks,” Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, told Science Daily.

Although there is still a lot of research to be done in this field, the study highlights mental issues associated with a high-fat diet regardless of obesity.

[Science Daily]

Read next: 10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

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TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 4

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. We’re measuring family poverty wrong. We should measure access to opportunity to find out what’s really working.

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

2. Anxiety, depression and more: “Four to five times more” high school athletes struggle with mental health issues than concussions.

By Gary Mihoces in USA Today

3. They provide social order and an economic structure. What if prison gangs actually make life better behind bars?

By Shannon Mizzi in Wilson Quarterly

4. Scientists have released the genetic sequence of the 2014 Ebola virus to crowdsource solutions to future outbreaks.

By Fathom Information Design

5. If new technology really cut jobs, we’d all be out of work by now.

By Walter Isaacson in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Heart Disease

This Makes Your Heart Attack Risk 8 Times Higher

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A new study links high levels of anger to an increased risk for heart attack

Getting very angry isn’t just off-putting to the people around you, it may also significantly increase your short-term risk for a heart attack, according to new findings.

Having an episode of intense anger was associated with an 8.5 times greater risk of having a heart attack during the following two hours, a new study published in The European Heart Journal Acute Cardiovascular Care showed. The new findings add to prior research that has suggested high levels of anger may spur a heart attack.

The study looked at 313 people who were being treated in a hospital for a heart attack. The men and women were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the level of anger they experienced in the last 48 hours based on a number scale:

  1. Calm.

  2. Busy, but not hassled.

  3. Mildly angry, irritated and hassled, but it does not show.

  4. Moderately angry, so hassled it shows in your voice.

  5. Very angry, body tense, maybe fists clenched, ready to burst.

  6. Furious, forced to show it physically, almost out of control.

  7. Enraged, out of control, throwing objects, hurting yourself or others.

An anger level greater than five was reported among seven of the people in the study in the two hours prior to their heart attack, and up to four hours prior for one person. An anger level of four was reported among two people within the the two hours before heart attack symptoms, and among four hours before for three people. According to the researchers, the results come to a 8.5-fold increase in relative risk of a heart attack in the two hours following severe anger. People who reported high levels of anxiety, also had a higher risk.

The study is small and therefore it’s still too early to know how great of a factor intense anger is in predicting heart attack onset. The anger levels are also self-reported and could differ person to person. But the study does provide experts with information about what emotional factors could trigger a heart attack. For instance, the researchers found that some of the greatest reported anger was due to arguments with family members followed by arguments with non-family members, work anger and driving anger. “Our findings highlight the need to consider strategies to protect individuals most at risk during times of acute anger,” the authors conclude.

Exactly how anger could trigger a heart attack still remains unknown, but the researchers speculate that the stress may stimulate activity in the heart like increased heart rate and blood pressure, blood vessel constriction, a plaque rupture, and clotting which could eventually lead to a heart attack.

“I think this study is very helpful in many ways because it’s validating to what we already know. Anger is not what we would call a traditional risk factor because it’s so hard to measure,” says Dr. Curtis Rimmerman a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study. “It highlights the importance of paying attention to a patient’s wellbeing.”

TIME advice

How to Combat Restlessness

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Restlessness isn't necessarily bad, but it could be an important signal from your body or mind

Answer by Mark Schannon on Quora.

First, what is this thing we call restlessness? There is a range of emotional reactions to stimuli that range from pleasure to panic. Somewhere in that long, complex thread exist some reactions that we call restless; they range from mild anxiety, to not be able to sit still, to needing to do something physical or metaphysical (breathing, yoga, meditation) to alleviate the restlessness. What’s interesting is that we all intuitively understand the word, although it may mean something different from a phenomenological point of view to each of us.

Second, whence comes the restlessness? Is there a psychological or physiological cause—or a combination? Restlessness is most often seen as a psychological phenomena. Before going on stage, many actors experience extreme restlessness (e.g. anxiety, fear, stage fright). As a former actor in high school, college, and community productions, I was a nervous wreck before any performance, walking aimlessly, bouncing up and down, generally feeling an almost uncontrollable restlessness. However, the minute I went on stage, that fear, anxiety, restlessness turned into adrenalin which I used to invigorate my role. The same transition occurred numerous times in job interviews, where restlessness (isn’t it a form of anxiety?), which made it almost impossible for me to sit still, was transformed into a positive adrenalin rush when the waiting was over and the interview began.

However, there have been times when my restlessness wasn’t associated with anything concrete; it was a vague, sometimes overpowering sense of discomfort within my own body. Medication, activity, and time usually sufficed to make it go away. Other things mentioned here—meditation et al.—also can work.

But I believe there is a phenomenon that can be called physiological restlessness—you’ve no doubt seen or had yourself the experience of people just shaking their legs up and down, feet on the floor; or walking aimlessly and restlessly. It is sometimes psychological, but it can be attributed to an over-active nervous system, similar to fibromyalgia but without the pain. Medication such as Lyrica, which are not without side effects, can do an amazing job alleviating the feeling of restlessness. It is not anxiety, although it’s very hard to get most doctors to understand the difference; anti-anxiety medication has no effect on it.

Third, “supposed to do” suggests that restlessness is bad and therefore should be eliminated from the various issues going on in your life, as if there’s one and only one solution for anything perceived as a problem. Before you breathe slowly, do meditation, or take drugs, ask yourself the “why” question: What’s going on in your life that could be causing the feelings? Why are you feeling this way? It may be a signal that something wrong is going on. It could also be a signal that you’re like a race horse at the starting gate, anxious to get going. Restlessness isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s almost always (unless is physiological) an important signal from your body.

Good luck!

This question originally appeared on Quora: What am I supposed to do when I feel restless?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Millennials and Gen Xers Feel the Most Stress About Money

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Even with the improving economy, one population of Americans is more stressed about financial concerns than they were nearly a decade ago

In the latest survey of Stress in America conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), money remained the top causes of stress reported by a group of more than 3,000 adults aged 18 years or older, followed by work, family and health concerns. Overall, the average level of stress, reported on a 10-point scale, is at its lowest since the APA began the survey in 2007.

But 29% of participants said that their anxiety over money matters increased in the past year, and younger generations and parents seem to be feeling the pinch most. More than one-third of parents reported higher stress levels over the past year (at 5.8) compared to non-parents (at 4.4).

Millennials and Gen Xers (aged 18 to 49 years) felt more stress than the average American about money. “Where Millennials are concerned, we know that the cost of education is pretty high in this country, and student debt is higher,” says Katherine Nordal, executive director of Professional Practice at the APA. “The job market until recently has also been problematic.”

The gap between financial stress between lower and higher income families is also widening; in 2007 both groups reported the same amount of anxiety over money, but in the current survey, those making less than $50,000 a year were twice as likely as those in higher income groups to feel stress about financial matters all or most of the time.

While the overall rate of stress about money is declining, Nordal says the trends involving younger generations and lower income households is concerning, because strategies for coping with stress aren’t improving, despite greater awareness of its health risks. One in five Americans said they did not have anyone to turn to for emotional support; 27% of those in lower income households fall into this category, compared to 17% of those in higher income groups. “Good support systems seem to be good for reducing stress — it’s not an inoculation against stress but it can be a stress reduction factor,” says Nordal.

Lack of emotional support can also drive people to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including over-eating, not sleeping well and becoming more sedentary. Forty-two percent of respondents said they indulged in such behaviors to cope with their stress in the past month. “Excessive alcohol use, smoking, eating the wrong kinds of foods, not exercising and being too sedentary we know are behaviors that lead to disease states, and unhealthy states,” says Nordal. “And these health risks are very real. We’d like to see people doing things that are more proactive to cope with stress, such as meditation, relaxation techniques and exercise.”

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