Stress: The New Fat

Jan Bruce, CEO of meQuilibrium and Entrepreneur in Residence at Chrysalis Ventures, was recently interviewed by JWT Intelligence’s blog.  At Chrysalis we continue to believe those who are more engaged in their health, whether it be via technologies or management tools like meQulibrium, are healthier as a result.

An excerpt of the interview is below.  The complete interview can be found here.

We talked with media entrepreneur Jan Bruce while researching one of our 10 Trends for 2013, The Super Stress Era. As our big and small stressors are multiplying, there’s also a growing awareness of stress’s serious effects on health and productivity. Bruce has identified stress as “the new fat,” and her current venture, meQuilibrium, is a digital coaching system for individuals and corporations to achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness. The system offers a next-generation blend of Web, video and mobile technologies to deliver personalized 360-degree lifestyle programs. We discussed the causes of the stress epidemic, the health effects of stress and what companies, governments and brands should be doing about it.

Do you think people are more stressed now than they were five years ago?
Five years ago we were facing an economic meltdown. We thought our banks were failing and our auto industry as well. That was a pretty stressful time, maybe unprecedented, especially as it followed after 9-11, food scares and major drug recalls. So if people aren’t more stressed five years later, that’s a good thing. But whether or not they’re more stressed, what’s key is that people are now significantly more aware that their stress levels are way too high and that this will diminish the quality and productivity of their lives, make them sick and affect their children.

What are the impacts of stress on health?
Stress is the base of the iceberg for chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and many gastrointestinal issues. It is now linked to cancer and to infertility. Stress makes us sick. Family practitioners report that two out of three patient visits are due to stress-related symptoms. The list of immediate discomforts is long: headaches, neck pain, fatigue, insomnia and gastrointestinal problems.

Over time, chronic stress contributes to serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and it has a negative impact on our immune systems. Stress not only makes it harder to function day to day, but it also makes it more difficult for you to create the very changes that would relieve stress. Stress can keep you trapped in bad behaviors, creating a damaging and vicious cycle. The more stressed you are, the worse you feel, and the worse you feel, the more stress takes hold.

What do you think can be done to prevent stress from becoming an even greater global epidemic?

For my part, I’m working to give people the tools not just to assess their stress levels and areas of greatest concern, but to teach them how to change their thinking—which changes everything. Stress contributes to all manner of health problems, so changing the paradigm around stress will pave the way for much more.

Beyond stress, meQuilibrium creates proactive mental wellness. You need to get your head in the game. Resilience helps you cope with all the stuff life throws at you. All the studies show that stress is the underlying cause for so much of the lifestyle-related issues we suffer from and the No. 1 inhibitor for sticking with healthy behaviors. People who are stressed don’t stick to their diets, they overeat, they drink, they don’t sleep as well as less-stressed people, and they don’t work out. MeQ can help people do better in all these areas, and we are working with other companies in the fields of weight management, fitness, anti-aging and parenting to make their programs even more effective.