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Stress: Facts, figures, coping strategies, and dangerous toys, too

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Seems there’s an awful lot of nail biting going on out there, confirmed by the American Psychological Association finding that nearly 75% of survey respondents experience unhealthy levels of stress.

That discovery was underscored by TeleVox’s “A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance” which found that 52% of us say stress is negatively impacting our health, and 65% of healthcare providers say that about their patients.

The end result:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension/pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems

It also leaves us anxious, restless, unmotivated and unfocused. And, as if that’s not enough, some of us end up feeling irritable, even angry, sad, and/or depressed. Meanwhile, we often end up dealing with such stress symptoms in unhealthy ways that include:

  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

Put another way: a vicious circle.

To this, Scott Zimmerman, president of TeleVox, says, “Healthcare providers across America need to step up and help patients better manage their levels of stress. By leveraging technology to stay engaged with patients between office visits, doctors can provide patients with the support necessary to implement changes that will result in a less stressed lifestyle.”

And 65% of such providers agree that emails, text messages, or phone calls with tips between visits would help their patients improve their health and stress levels. That doesn’t mean they’re doing it, however, since many are already overscheduled and pressed for time.

But even if no such personalized messaging comes your way, there are things you can do for yourself—especially now when we’re well into the most stressful time of the year—the holidays. Start with exercise, something 88% of doctors said they’d recommend as a stress reliever. Hop on a treadmill, take a walk, jump rope, Zumba, jog . . . You get the idea, but don’t stop there. Consider adding:

And, of course, consult with your physician before doing any exercise.

Meanwhile, during this rush-around, gift-buying, food-filled, partying time of year, here are a few more stress-relieving tips:

  1. Plan ahead and be a list maker, organizing purchases by store, groceries by supermarket aisle.
  2. Set up a realistic spending budget and stick to it.
  3. Take cooking shortcuts, such as buying pre-cut fruit and frozen hors d’oeuvres.
  4. Eat healthfully, limiting artery-clogging fats and blood pressure raising sodium.
  5. Get plenty of sleep, aiming for 7 to 8 hours a night. (Helps avoid weight gain, too.)
  6. Don’t overindulge when it comes to food and alcohol.
  7. Say “no” once in a while; no need to show up at every get-together and celebration.

And, while you’re at it, if toy shopping is on your to-do list, avoid additional stress by keeping these top 2013 most dangerous toys out of your shopping cart:

CHOKING Hazard:

  1. Princess Wand, by Greenbrier International; sold at Dollar Tree
  2. Bead Kit, by Greenbrier International; sold at Dollar Tree
  3. Littlest Pet Shop-#22744 Horse, by Hasbro; sold at Kmart
  4. Littlest Pet Shop-Candyswirl Dreams Collection #3313; sold at Kmart
  5. Littlest Pet Shop-Candyswirl Dreams Collection, by Hasbro; sold at Kmart
  6. Littlest Pet Shop-Sunil Nevla, by Hasbro; sold at Kmart
  7. Littlest Pet Shop-Seal and Dolphins, by Hasbro; sold at Kmart
  8. Gobble Gobble Guppies, by SwimWays; sold at Kmart
  9. Super Play Food Set, by Geoffrey, LLC; sold at Toys-R-Us
  10. Fisher-Price Loving Family Outdoor Barbeque, by Mattel; sold at Kmart
  11. Punch Balloons, by Toy Investments, Inc.; sold at Toys-R-Us

TOXIC Risks:

  1. Captain America Soft Shield, by Disguise, Inc.; sold at Toys-R-Us (lead)
  2. Rings, by Greenbrier International; sold at Dollar Tree (lead)
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, by Innovative Designs, LLC.; sold at Toys-R-Us (cadmium & phthalates)
  4. Lamaze Take and Tidy Activity Mat, by TOMY; sold at Toys-R-Us (antimony)
  5. Monster High Skelita Halloween Costume, by Rubie’s Costume Co.; sold at Toys-R-Us (antimony)

MAGNET Risk:

  1. Sonic Sound Sizzlers Noise Magnets, by JA-RU, Inc.; sold at Family Dollar (ingestion)

And NOISE Risks:

  1. Chat & Count Smart Phone, by Leap Frog; sold at Babies-R-Us (at or above 85+ decibels)
  2. Lil’ Pal Phone, by Leap Frog; sold at Babies-R-Us (at or above 85+ decibels)
  3. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Remote, by Mattel; sold at Babies-R-Us (at or above 85+ decibels)

Bottom line: To keep stress at bay, exercise regularly, don’t overdo, get plenty of zzz’s, and shop smartly, as well. Will surely make for a merrier Christmas and a happier, healthier 2014, too.

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