Californians are ordered to stay home, schools have closed, toilet paper is seemingly in short supply, lines snake around corners and buildings at the grocery store, and more in an age of COVID-19. The state and its people are stressed.

With April being Stress Awareness Month and the coronavirus becoming America’s biggest stressor in 2020, we turned to WalletHub to see how California compares with other states. The personal-finance website today, March 30,  released its report on 2020’s Most & Least Stressed States as well as accompanying videos.

To determine the states with the highest stress levels, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 41 key metrics. The data set ranges from average hours worked per week to personal bankruptcy rate to share of adults getting adequate sleep.

Stress Levels in California (1=Most Stressed, 25=Avg.):

  • 44th – Avg. Hours Worked per Week
  • 27th – Share of Adults Getting Adequate Sleep
  • 23rd ­– % of Adults in Fair/Poor Health
  • 23rd – Job Security
  • 33rd – Median Credit Score
  • 1st – Housing Affordability
  • 19th – % of Population Living Below Poverty Line
  • 36th – Divorce Rate
  • 14th – Crime Rate per Capita
  • 39th – Psychologists per Capita

Ashley Greenwell, Ph.D., Clinical Director of Trauma, Stress, & Resilience Program at the Utah Center for Evidenced Based Treatment, said there are several effective strategies to manage stress at no cost.

  • Finding small, worthwhile tasks around the house that give you a sense of control. This could be organizing, list-making, gardening, coloring.
  • Distraction (e.g. Netflix) can be effective but not in huge doses. Things that are more soothing like warm baths, upbeat music, mindful stretching have a better chance of regulating your nervous system rather than zoning out.
  • Physical activity, we all know this on some level, but exercise truly changes our brain and physiology. Despite all of the technological advances, it remains one of the most effective methods of combating depression and chronic stress. Also, it doesn’t have to be Crossfit, a good walk with the dog does the trick.
  • Sleep is also incredibly important. Few of us are getting perfect sleep these days with all that is going on, but doing what we can to maximize sleep (e.g. regular bedtime, calming routine with no screen time) helps improve mood.

Sometimes trying to stop ourselves from worrying just makes it worse, Greenwell told WalletHub. You can schedule a “worry time” for 10 minutes during the day. List all your financial concerns as well as what can realistically be done about them soon, and then put it down. If you notice your mind worrying again, remind yourself you’ve already addressed it and engage fully in the activity in front of you.

When it comes to minimizing children’s stress levels, Greenwell suggests:

  • Staying calm yourself. Kids will take their cues from their parents and are more perceptive than we realize. We can model proactively taking steps throughout the day to manage the stress that we’re all feeling right now and encourage them to join us. This can be something as simple as doing square breathing throughout the day, where you take slow, mindful inhales and exhales while tracing a square shape. Some people like progressive muscle relaxation where you tense each muscle and then practice relaxing it.
  • Explaining that some stress right now is perfectly normal and that it is their body’s reaction is its way of preparing them to cope with any challenge that may arise.
  • Play and movement. Kids are great at shifting attention and fun activities can bring levity and a break for everyone.

For the full report, click here.

Image Sources

  • Stress: Image by Pedro Figueras from Pixabay