Let’s face it, stress is the blight of our generation. Why?
- Are we weaker than our parents and grandparents? After all they managed to live through wars and didn’t seem to be in the state that so many of us are in today. True but perhaps it wasn’t that they were any tougher than us.
- Perhaps it’s modern diets and all the “artificial” and genetically modified ingredients in our food? It might be a contributing factor for some people but eating to the healthiest of regimes is alas unlikely to remove stress from your life.
- Perhaps work is tougher for us today than it was in previous generations? Again there might be a vestige of truth in this in that people tended to work closer to where they lived and organisations were less subject to frequent change, but let’s not forget that our forebears had to deal with considerable work place stress. It’s only a relatively modern phenomenon to have employee rights, fair pay councils and tribunals.
The simple facts are that for many people life was just as tough at work 50 years ago.
Some people are under stress for clearly identifiable reasons; a redundancy, bereavement, or ill health. Here the causes are obvious and to some extent the cures become easier to identify. This doesn’t make the effects any more pleasant only that this type of symptomatic stress has been with humanity forever. The problems are less easily pinpointed and the causes can have as much to do with direction, roles and clarity.
Many will have experienced feeling “stressed”, anxious, and uneasy without a readily identifiable cause. It might even run contrary to what you’d expect with a good job, stable relationship, children, holidays and disposable income… yet it still feels wrong.
Stress and health
Let’s journey back to the lives of people living in the 1960s. The roles of a man were quite clearly defined. He provided for the family and in recognition he sat at its head. Today this seems draconian and out of step in a society of equal opportunity and representation. The roles of a woman were equally clear. Her role was to get married and raise the next generation. Horribly limiting but clearly defined.
On the whole marriages didn’t break up. Not because everyone was blissfully happy, but divorce was largely unheard of up to the 60s and even then rare right through to the end of the 1970s. Society frowned on it so no one did it. Marriages survived and problems were kept within the family. People had religion and grew up in the community following the doctrine of their faith. Whilst modern thinking and scientific research challenges the idea of a God, this sense of consistency often provided comfort. Put simply people had values and guidelines, often imposed and quite restricting but they made it all simple. Everyone knew his or her place.
Today we have choice and equality, and relationships have become as easy to dissolve as they are to initiate. We have far more choice but not without cost. The cost is uncertainty and uncertainty can create stress. This is not meant to paint a bleak picture of life today because in so many ways it is better then it was 50 years ago.
So many of us take for granted things that our predecessors could only dream of having; air travel, holidays, cars, centrally heated and double glazed homes. The problem in so many cases is that we are confused!
- Confused as a result of the comparisons we make with one another
- Stressed with our expectations
- Stressed with our relationships not conforming to our definitions or perhaps not conforming to the definitions of other people
- The input of our friends, magazines and the media all act upon us sometimes without us being fully aware of their impact
We need clarity and the time to define our own values for ourselves. Our society offers more choice than we have ever had but if we fail to define our own values and live by them we run the risk of suffering the effects of ongoing stress. We can no longer rely on society to define them for us.
We will have to learn to deal with today’s society more effectively than perhaps we have done to date. Too much time is spent on the symptoms of stress ignoring the need to address and identify the underlying causes.
Getting to the root causes of stress can not only offer relief, it may also present new opportunities to put your life on a better course for the future, by designing your life to suite a lifestyle you prefer.
This article is credited in the main to: Stress In The Modern World, at Coaching Life.com