Over the last few years, the world has undergone major changes. Our pace of life has become faster, society has become diverse, and our social, professional and personal lives have become far more complex than before. Each of us is under immense pressure to perform and to live up the other people’s expectations. The desire to do better, achieve more, and attain a higher status in society has resulted in enormous stress and anxiety for many. While stress is normal in most situations, long-term stress can have a negative effect on an individual and can trigger a host of undesirable effects.
Regardless of sex, age, religion and ethnicity, the burden of stress affects everyone. People from all walks of life feel stress, whether it’s women, single parents, ethnic minorities, sole breadwinners, healthcare workers, unemployed etc. According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly two-thirds of people experience stress that impacts their mental and physical health. Approximately 50% of individuals with stress have trouble sleeping and concentrating. What’s more concerning is the fact that levels of stress are increasing every year.
Most people are able to cope with short-term stress, but there are many people out there in situations that are overwhelming. Chronic stress for such people can often be accompanied by negative feelings, thoughts and emotions. Some of the common causes of stress include work, financial matters, health issues, interpersonal and professional relationships, family responsibilities, unemployment, housing cost, personal safety, death of a loved one, or other major loss.
Stress is not a benign entity. It has repercussions beyond just feeling anxious and nervous. In the USA alone, stress leads to nearly $300 billion in healthcare costs and days lost at work each year. Many accidents in the workplace are related to stress.
When stress is continuous, it can affect many organs of the body leading to other complicated medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and generalized anxiety. Chronic stress has often been cited as a contributing factor in many deaths, including lung disease, heart disease, motor vehicle accidents, liver damage and suicide. In addition, high levels of stress can lead to alcohol and substance abuse, which in turn lead to physical dependence and addiction.
The outlook for people with stress depends on many factors, including the ability to cope, intensity and duration, and support system. If an individual has low coping skills and high stress, it can have an impact on their life expectancy.
Mental health counselors and experts can play a major role in providing support to people suffering from severe and/or chronic stress. As the prevalence of mental illness increases, the demand for mental health counselors also continues to increase. These professionals provide support and help people deal with stress, fear, grief, or isolation. They are also important players in helping victims of physical and sexual violence survive and recover.
In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how vulnerable our society is. The pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental well-being, and mental health counselors are playing a critical role in helping people cope with the stress associated with this disease. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of clinical mental health counselors is projected to grow by 19% through 2024. With mental illness increasing consistently, opportunities for mental health counselors to grow and make a difference are also on the rise.
People in our society often shy away from seeking help for mental health issues, but mental health professionals have made significant efforts to help minimize the stigma once associated with seeking mental health counseling. Today, people are advised to benefit from these services and seek professional help. Delaying or avoiding mental health counseling can lead to further deterioration of physical and mental health.
Mental health professionals undergo significant education and training to be able to diagnose and target the cause of stress. It is now an established fact that the key to stress treatment is to address the cause and not the symptoms and to start treatment early and continue with regularity. Whenever a person faces a stressful situation, which they are unable to cope with, it is best to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional who deals with stress management.
There are several types of mental health counselors who manage stress. Hence there is assistance and support for all individuals. Mental health counselors can help many individuals overcome stress and enhance the quality of life. Despite societal misconceptions about mental health support, it is a fact that individuals who work with mental health counselors recover faster and are able to resume their normal lives quickly.
We all face challenges in our lives, some more than others. Ignoring signs of mental health problems can result in long-term complications. There is no shame in seeking help, whether it’s a physical ailment or a mental health issue. We all need support and never has this been more evident than during these challenging times.