Let's face it, stress is the blight of our generation. Why?
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.
When the problems are less easily pinpointed 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 be to the contrary; good job, stable relationship, children, holidays and disposable income… yet it still feels wrong.
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!
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.
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