Seventy-five percent of Americans are moderately stressed. Fifty percent of Americans are lonely. More than 33 percent of us sleep less than six hours a night. In addition, 77 percent of us use social media daily and 81 percent of us own a smartphone. Why are these statistics important? Because loneliness, sleep-deprivation, social media use, tech use, and even gut-imbalance—which the Huffington Post refers to as “the modern plague”—are all causes and results of stress. Stress is the reason for at least 75 percent of today’s doctor’s visits, costing the US billions per year in employee absenteeism, accidents, and illnesses.
9/11, climate change, a historic economic crisis, numerous mass shootings, an inordinate amount of school lockdowns, a foreign attack on our election, a politically divided country, tech-induced anxiety and addiction, and information overload: since 2000, these unique-to-our-time phenomena have created a petri dish of stress in the US, causing a host of emotional and physical ailments.
Here’s the problem: while the well-researched, psychological theory on attachment tells us that secure attachments to each other and to our nation create resilience to stress, our current American culture is creating barriers, not pathways, to human trust and closeness. Stressed in the US: Twelve Tools to Tackle Anxiety, Loneliness, Tech-Addiction and More investigates current, cultural phenomena that are causing a convergence of increased stress with decreased interpersonal connection from an attachment theory perspective.
Dr. Van Deusen explains why and how our relationships are breaking down at a time when we need them the most. The good news? As a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and mindfulness practitioner, she offers insights and solutions to a complex, pervasive problem.
- Restorative practices protect us
• Nature calms us
• Mindfulness connects us
1. Can you tell us what Stressed in the US is about?
Stressed in the U.S. : 12 Tools to Tackle Anxiety, Loneliness, Tech-Addiction and More looks at how current cultural stressors since the turn of the millennium are not only unique to our time, but have increased our stress levels, changed our stress levels and weakened our resilience to stress.
So, while stress in the U.S. is going up, our secure attachments to each other and our nation, (relationships which help us handle stress) are going down. I address many of the stressors themselves and what to do about them, but I also delve into the importance of building secure connections with each other and our nation in order to combat stress.
The majority of Americans are significantly stressed. The majority of Americans are significantly lonely. I look at why this is and help the reader find an efficient path to connection and peace amidst troubled times.
2. Did your work as a psychologist inspire you to write Stressed in the US?
Absolutely. I have a private practice and in the last decade I began to notice that anxiety was increasing substantially as a problem clients presented with. I also began to notice that technology was contributing to this anxiety in numerous ways and that it was connected to a growing sense of mistrust and insecurity that people were feeling about themselves and with one another.
Simultaneously, I was aware of how international and national issues such as global warming, terrorism, domestic gun violence and so forth were impacting people’s stress levels.
When the election of 2016 came about, stress began to shift toward angst about our nation and worry about our nation’s future. Clients with chronic illness became perpetually anxious about healthcare. Immigrant and other minority clients became fearful of discrimination and deportation.
Simultaneously, the suicide rate among our Z gens was increasing. I watched my own kids as they grappled with anxiety and loneliness (two common experiences for Generation Z).
I felt compelled to write about what I saw happening in our culture. My aim was to process and understand what was happening to us as Americans. I felt that if I wrote about it, I could reach many Americans, bring us together more, and provide people with concrete ways to intervene on their stress.
3. What do you see as the major causes of stress in America?
An untrustworthy “father figure” at the head of our nation—one who appears more threatening to safety than protective of it causes a lot of stress for people.
Global warming. It’s terrifying to realize that humanity itself is being threatened. The economy, particularly the disparity between the rich and the poor and the common experience that no matter how much people work, they can’t seem to “get ahead” in life.
Technology, not only how it causes us to literally look down most of the time instead of look at one another, but the amount of information it streams that creates information overload and the common phenomenon of feeling overwhelmed.
Social media, which is connected to technology, while it has its merits, generally makes people feel badly about themselves and serves more to isolate us more than truly connect us… thus, the loneliness epidemic.
And then there is the breach of privacy and security technology poses on us on any given day and in numerous ways.
These are a few of the big ones.
4. What kind of research did you undertake for Stressed in the US?
I’ve been listening to client stories for twenty-five years and I saw how stress was increasing and changing recently.
My clients are a significant source of information for this book. In addition, I interviewed both experts and everyday Americans about their knowledge of and/or experience of stress and stress-related topics.
So, whether it be a neuroscientist talking about how stress affects the brain, a high school teacher teaching in one of the most diverse schools in the US, giving us a window into the lives of the oppressed or a teenage girl explaining how social media impacts her, I was able to get valuable input from people living in the United States.
I also read a ton of research studies on loneliness, technology, anxiety, attachment, depression, stress, the gut microbiome and so forth.
5. What does your typical writing day look like?
Because I have a full private practice I don’t write every day. I have certain days I can write and days I can’t write because of my schedule. On the days I can write, I begin after breakfast as that is my freshest time. I usually spend three to four hours writing, with breaks! Then, if I have a thought in between, I jot it down in my notebook to follow up on it later.
6. Can you tell us how old you were you when you first started writing?
When I was 8 my parents gave me a colourful pad of paper and I decided to start recording my thoughts about the day on it. When I finished that pad, I got a journal and wrote in it. I continued to write in journals throughout my adolescence and adulthood.
This eventually led me to majoring in English with an emphasis on writing. But, after my dissertation, I took a long hiatus, only writing periodically in journals, until I began a blog on sleep which is now a blog on stress and a book on stress.
7. Do you write with pen and paper or on computer?
Computer… it’s faster and more legible. But I take notes with paper and pen.
8. Do you have a favourite author?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite. I like different authors for different reasons. Emily Bronte was brilliant. Carl Hiaasen is funny and clever. Wallace Stegner is contemplative and a great story-teller.
9. Where can readers find out more about you?
My websites are megvandeusen.com and sightonstress.com I’m also on Twitter @drvandeusen
Stressed in the U.S. : 12 Tools to Tackle Anxiety, Loneliness, Tech-Addiction and More is available to buy on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
10. Do you have any advice for novice writers?
Believe in yourself, be honest, write about something you’re passionate about, adopt a schedule, and get a good editor!
11. What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m keeping up with my blog and promoting my book. I’m not sure what the next project is yet. I’ll keep you posted!
Thank you, Meg Van Deusen and Author SOS
About the author
Meg Van Deusen received her BA in English from Santa Clara University in 1985 and her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles in 1992. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults both in inpatient and outpatient settings throughout the Los Angeles and Seattle areas. Her knowledge of and passion for attachment theory, mindfulness, interpersonal neurobiology, sleep and dreams informs her belief that meaningful connection with ourselves and others helps us handle stress. In her review of the literature and interviews with researchers, everyday Americans, and clients, she has cultivated a first-hand understanding of how our current American culture is creating barriers to human attachments and, therefore, weakening our ability to handle the stressors we face today. She believes that the ancient art of mindfulness, the recent research on happiness, and the simplicity of nature can, among other things, help us build resilience and calm during a time when disconnection has us lost in a worried world.