People sometimes doubt that stress is a real problem. It’s true that sometimes stress can be a motivator to constructive action, and a completely stress-free life could mean inertia and boredom. But when stress is experienced as chronic anxiety, it causes mental paralysis and ill-health. The painful reality of the stress and anxiety conditions that plague many citizens of late industrial societies shouldn’t be dismissed.
That Powerless Feeling
We live in complicated societies that are ruled by factors most of us don’t understand, let alone control. That doesn’t stop people from doing their best to master their own fate. They strain to conquer work and educational hurdles and blame themselves when they fail or when the results don’t lead to prosperity and success.
But manufacturing jobs move around the world, to places where inducements are highest and labor costs are lowest. That isn’t the fault of the people who are made redundant but they are still left feeling ‘not good enough’ in our individualistic society.
The economic crisis of 2008 was mostly caused by high-risk financial deals that were done without the average person knowing anything at all about them.
Numerous studies have shown that feeling powerless to change a bad situation is massively stressful.
Health and Well-being
All sorts of ailments are caused or exacerbated by prolonged mental stress. Cardiovascular illness and migraine are cases in point, but just about every physical illness is exacerbated by stress.
Acute stress affects relationships too. An anxious person is unable to appreciate much beyond their own situation and will find it hard to empathize with a partner.
At work, stress results in poor concentration and bad decision-making.
What’s the Answer?
It’s important not to develop a reliance on potentially harmful cures for stress like alcohol, drugs or gambling. Addictive behavior can be a terribly dangerous strategy for stress reduction. Luckily there are plenty of other options.
The best strategies involve re-focusing the mind and body and allowing oneself to feel centered and absorbed in an activity that produces harmonious feelings.
Exercise can help a lot. Going for a run releases endorphins that dissolve anxieties and produce a natural feeling of well-being. Exercise tires out the body in a healthy way as well and promotes restful sleep.
Mindfulness and other self-help techniques allied to meditation have also been shown to assist in managing everyday stress.
Technology is often blamed for high-stress levels, particularly the constant on-call culture that’s facilitated by smartphones. But tech can also help with the cure. The mandala coloring book for Android is an example of the sort of tool that can distract from stress, as well as teaching the brain to focus on something achievable and satisfying in a therapeutic way.
If stress is seriously poisoning your life, you may need to take a step back and look either at therapy or at changing your situation in a fundamental way. But for many, moderate stress can be handled by taking positive self-help measures. The important first step is to recognize that you are suffering from problematic stress and making a decision to seek out solutions. They are out there.