What stresses out most Americans?

As you might expect, health and financial problems ranked high as stressors, according to a report released this month from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 53% of Americans also ranked work problems as a top stressor.

Almost half of Americans said that reading the news and “hearing about what the government or politicians are doing” is a top stressor, with 44% ranking news as more stressful than car problems, errands, commuting, and losing a cell phone.

Unfortunately, we respond to stress by sleeping less, exercising less, and eating less (or more). Our health -- and our attention to health -- plummets. This is a vicious cycle that makes it harder for us to deal with stressful situations in the future. But stress also affects those around us: 75% say stress affects family life, causing more arguments (42%) and preventing them for caring for their family (39%).

But how can we actually cope with stress? The study found that Americans try to spend time with family, meditate or pray, and spend time outdoors. In other words, activities that both connect us to the people we love and to our own bodies.

But how do we find the time for these activities? How do we manage our lives in such a way that stress and work doesn’t interfere with our health and well-being?

In our high-stress culture, more Americans than ever are redefining success to mean a less outcome-oriented, more valuable life. 2 in 5 Americans have decided to work less (and make less money) in the past 5 years, and 86% were happy with the change.

Many of these people are turning to freelancing as a way to better organize their work lives and give themselves more time to spend with family and friends. 88% of freelancers say that they would never go back to a traditional 9-5 job, even if they were offered one.

Freelancers, what are your biggest stressors? Do you find that your stress levels have improved since going freelance?

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