There are two major reasons that for several decades more Americans become stressed, agitated and anxious — which in turn increases their daily physical stress, which itself in turn has led to the ongoing decades-long epidemic in stress-related disorders and diseases.
The first reason is societal. As inequality rises, so do our fears about affording basic necessities — or if we’re relatively well off, about losing social standing and financial security for ourselves or our children.
The second reason is more personal. Many more of us suffer from stress dysregulation than we did 40 years ago. Mainly through excess cortisol — a key stress hormone — this dysregulation makes the typical stress response too easy to trigger and too hard to turn off. This leaves us feeling highly agitated (even with no reason) and without effective ways to self-regulate and get back to a calmer, more functional state.
In recent years, though, we have gained a much better understanding of this stress epidemic (which, it should be noted, is significantly different from clinical anxiety disorders or related diagnoses that merit consultation with a physician). We can use the knowledge learned to help protect ourselves from many of its consequences.