Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress

Introduction

Organizational psychologist Cary Cooper, a leading authority on workplace stress, once noted that stress is the “black plague” of our times. He believes that stress is the main source of, or the trigger for, disease in the 21st century developed world. It’s hard to argue with Cooper when the link between stress and just about every major disease or illness is so well established.

Stress is a global epidemic. The most recent National Health Interview Survey reported that more than 75 percent of people feel stressed out during any given two-week time frame, with about half the population admitting to experiencing frequent moderate-to-high levels of stress during that time. Workers’ compensation claims related to stress and mental health have gone through the roof in the last thirty years; some states report a 700 percent rise in claims even as other claim categories have remained flat or declined.

And as Cooper points out, all this negative emotion is taking a heavy toll. Financially speaking, it costs American companies nearly $300 billion a year to address the claims, lost productivity and missed days of work of their stressed-out workforce. Medically speaking, the American Medical Association reports that at least 60 percent of all illness can trace its roots back to the negative effects of stress; a 20-year study conducted by the University of London concluded that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods. And personally speaking, it’s impossible to put a price tag on just how deeply stress ravages individuals, families and relationships.

We wrote this book to show you that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and undone by life — and also to show you that stress isn’t a foregone conclusion. As the stories in this book and the scientific information we’ve provided illustrate, there are some concrete and proactive steps you can take to reduce the stress you feel and the way stress affects you. Most of the time you can’t change the world around you, but we think it’s important for you to know that you can change your reaction to it.

So read on to see how regular folks like you and me have invented some ingenious workarounds to the stress in their lives. Then read the explanations of why these often simple strategies can work for you too. I think the power of storytelling backed up with well-established medical facts can help you manage the stress in your life no matter what source it comes from.

~ Jeff Brown, Psy.D., ABPP, Psychologist ~

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