Relax. Now. All that stress Americans carry around could be lethal. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, adult-onset diabetes, and even cancer according to Eric Wargo in Observer, the magazine of the Association for Psychological Science. To make matters worse, stress appears to be cumulative. The more stress you feel, the more susceptible you are to stress. Wargo writes, “Think of it this way: Too much stress and you forget not to be stressed out.”
The problem is that there’s so much to be stressed out about. A foundering economy, terrorism, bird flu, peak oil, nuclear war, and a giant volcano under Yellowstone National Park all threaten human existence as we know it. It’s difficult to read the paper and not get stressed out.
“Nothing stresses me out more than someone telling me I need to relax,” Andrew Santella writes for Notre Dame magazine. Santella, who previously tackled the psychology of anger in an article reprinted in Utne Reader, now turns his attention to the chronic stress that may be inherent in the American character. Once dubbed “Americanitis” by psychologist and philosopher William James, chronic stress drives a world-wide industry of yoga studios, behavior tips, and pharmaceutical helpers. Santella writes that “everyone from the National Institutes of Health to the corner yoga studio wants me to do something about all that stress, all that worry, before it kills me.”
Image by Michael Sandoval, licensed under Creative Commons.