Feeling stressed? You're not alone because Kentucky ranks 4th in nation

According to WalletHub, Kentucky is the fourth most stressed state.

April is Stress Awareness Month, and with that, the website WalletHub has released a list of the most stressful states, and Kentucky comes in at number 4.

The Bluegrass State has an overall score of 54.77, placing it fourth behind No. 1 Louisiana (59.94), No. 2 Mississippi (58.71) and No. 3 Arkansas (56.20). West Virginia, New Mexico, Alabama, Nevada, Alaska and Oklahoma round out of the Top 10.

WalletHub ( https://wallethub.com/edu/most-stressful-states/32218/ranked each state in four categories: Work Related Stress, Money Related Stress, Family Related Stress and Health and Safety Related Stress.

As for Work Related Stress, Kentucky ranks 23rd, the only one of the four where the state didn't rank in the Top 10. Kentucky ranked ninth in Money Related Stress and third in both Family and Health and Safety Related Stress. The top state for Work Related Stress is Alaska, while Mississippi ranks first in Money Related Stress, Nevada in Family Related Stress, and Arkansas in Health and Safety Related Stress.

The least stressful state is Minnesota, with a score of 26.81.

Kentucky ranked third in Fewest Average Hours of Sleep per Night, second in Highest Percentage of Adults in Fair/Poor Health, and fourth in Highest Percentage of Population Living in Poverty. Kentucky came in 18th in Average Hours Worked per Week, 27th in Job Security, 10th in Median Credit Score, eighth in Divorce Rate and 19th in Psychologists per Capita.

WalletHub reached out to a couple of experts to get their advice on living a less-stressful life.

"As a person who has lived in two other countries (Spain and El Salvador), I've learned that most United States residents have a somewhat distorted view of 'standard of living'," said Charles Negy

Ph.D. - Associate Professor and Fulbright Scholar, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida. "Specifically, in the U.S., we have been conditioned to believe we don't just need two bathrooms; we need three. A one-car garage isn't enough; we need at least a 2-car garage. Not just one flat-screen TV, a TV for every room. The result is that we stress ourselves out unnecessarily working to earn more money just to have more things, instead of focusing on spending quality time with family and friends. Confronting our excessive materialism and recognizing we should re-organize our priorities would lower our stress some."

Brian Luke Seaward. Ph.D., an author and motivational speaker at Inspiration Unlimited and The Paramount Wellness Institute and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Northern Colorado, has these tips on fighting stress without spending money.

"My approach to stress is a mind-body-spirit "holistic" approach," Seaward said. "The bio-medical model: Simply trying to reduce the symptoms of stress has proven to be quite ineffective. There is a whole issue here you didn't ask about: Purpose of life. One needs to address both the causes (ego-based perceived threats) and physical symptoms of stress. There are many coping and relaxation techniques that prove quite effective in combatting stress that don't cost anything."

Here is a closer look at some of his tips:

Coping Skills

1. Change/Reframe your attitude (ask yourself why you feel threatened, then reduce the threat by reframing the situation. 9.9 times out of 10 your life is NOT in danger, so people need to learn to respond, not reacting, like everything is an emergency.

2. Try to find one humorous/funny thing a day (humor is a great coping technique).

3. Adopt an "attitude of gratitude" (this sounds like a cliche, but it is impossible to be angry (fight) or fearful (flight) when you are appreciative/grateful for the things you have, or even problems you don't have).

4. Learn to put things in perspective. Stress occurs when people make mountains out of mole hills.

5. Find a good support group meeting and attend regularly (not just AA, there are many types. Lyme disease support groups, battered wives support groups, empty nester support groups. Do a Google search in your locale for people with a similar interest/issue and keep looking till you find your tribe. There is no fee/cost with joining a support group.

6. Practice assertiveness by establishing healthy boundaries (with eating habits, sleep habits, technology habits, even associations with other people). Stop being a victim (remember the adage, once a victim, twice a volunteer).

Relaxation Techniques

1. Find a quiet place to meditate 5-30 mins each morning (meditation is a means to clear the mind, but really, it is a means to domesticate the ego that produces the fear-based threatening thoughts). Mindfulness is quite popular. Learn to sit still and be in the present moment.

2. Sit quietly for 5 mins each day and focus solely on your breathing (nothing but inhaling and exhaling). Start with 1 min and work up to 5, then 10 mins, if you can.

3. Schedule tech-free time. Turn off the screen devices and listen to some relaxing music (without lyrics).

4. Take a walk outside (in nature if possible) for 30 mins. Early morning is considered the best time. No cell phone. Just you and nature.

5. Take up/pursue a hobby. (I just read an article that concluded that bird watching is VERY relaxing). Gardening is another option. Photography, cooking, etc. etc. etc.

6. Reading a book (not on a kindle, is a great way to relax too).

7. Do 5-10 mins of Yoga each morning (you don't need to spend money at a yoga class, just do a couple of simple asanas in the living room floor.

8. Greenhouse therapy: Drive to the nearest nursery and walk among the roses.

9. Hallmark Therapy: Walk down the greeting card aisle of your nearest grocery store and read some funny birthday cards.

10. Volunteer some time with children in after school programs. When you start hanging out with young kids, it puts all of your problems in perspective.

11. Learn how to bake your own bread (try sourdough) or come up with a new meal recipe each week.

12. Spend some quality with a pet (you don't have to own a dog to go to a dog park). Time spent with a pet is known to lower heart rate and blood pressure.

13. Put your WiFi router on a power-strip and turn off the Wifi before you go to bed, you will sleep better.

14. Decrease your consumption of caffeine, which tends to elicit the stress response. It takes your body 8 hours to metabolize one cup of coffee. Drinking many cups/sodas per day keeps you in fight or flight.

Note: People today spend WAY too much time on screen devices and this affects work quality, work productivity, relationships, and compromises sleep quality. It also cultivates insecurities, and negativity. Keep all technology OUT of the bedroom.

What steps can people take to reduce stressing over finances?

• Financial wellness is really another term for "debt management." Start by making a budget (most people don't even know what a budget is: list all expenses in Column A, income in Column B).

• After making a very detailed list, look to see where you might be hemorrhaging money (e.g., eating out, daily stops at Starbucks, Amazon, ATM fees, various service fees, etc.)

• Start cutting the fat. Where can you trim expenses (what are non-essentials, start with entertainment such as Cable, and many on-line things).

• Use cash rather than debit cards (people don't keep track of their debit expenses and often overdraft their accounts resulting in more fees.)

• Consider passive income (e.g., AirBNB a room in your house once a month, etc.).

• Get rid of the TV. Television is a metaphorical IV tube for consumerism, the less TV you watch, the less you spend.

• The bottom line is this: WHAT is your relationship with money. Do you have poverty consciousness? Do you live with champagne tastes on a beer budget?

• Do you feed your emotions with consumer spending to reduce stress, and then regret the purchases afterwards? (many people do).

• Put your credit card in a glass of water and put the glass in the freezer... break open for emergencies only.

What tips do you have for parents trying to minimize their children's stress levels?

• Parents first need to model good behavior themselves. Kids learn/mimic by example, and if you are acting like a stress-ball, your kids will absorb and mirror this behavior from day one - EVERY TIME!.

• Parents also need to instill healthy boundaries for their children and stick to them. Don't get walked over by your children.

• Examples include:

1. No smart phones at the dinner table.

2. No smart phones until the homework is done.

3. No smartphones after 8:00 p.m. also known as a media curfew.

• Research shows that kids need unscheduled time to play, not have their day filled up with enrichment programs.

• Let the kids play outside (kids today spend less time outside than prisoners).

• Many parents try to shield their kids from stress (not letting them fail, etc.) and as a result making their children more stress-prone.

• Teach your children it's OK to be angry or afraid, but to work through it and learn to resolve the issues that bring up these emotions.

• The last thing any parent should do is teaching their kids to avoid stress.

dhouse@sentinel-echo.com

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