Outside of modern society, stress continues to be a useful tool for survival. In small bursts, it allows the mind and body to quickly evaluate and evade the dangers of the natural world, such as falling tree branches, hungry lions and loud noises. It’s easy to understand why one might assume that inside modern society, where those dangers are less present, that stress would be diminished. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. Stress continues to rise at an alarming rate. Rather than experiencing acute stress, as we would in nature, many of us experience chronic stress, which is jeopardizing the longterm health of modern populations around the world.
Today, teenagers report to be more stressed than their adult counterparts. That trend is only growing. If this continues, future generations are looking at serious ramifications to their longterm health, such as a rise in cardiovascular diseases, cancer and highly weakened immune systems.
So how did we get here?
It turns out that we humans are both the problem and the solution. Over time, we evolved to be empathetic creatures, highly attuned to the emotions of others. When we see a person rushing through an office, or in a hurry to finish a task, that stress and anxiety is transferred onto us (e.g. “Second-Hand Stress“). This cycle spreads like wildfire, eventually creating a booming stress culture, one where members who are not stressed are looked upon with suspicion, and those who are highly stressed are seen as productive and valuable. The irony is that chronic stress actually reduces performance and productivity significantly, turning Mr. Busy into Mr. Inefficient.
The next time you’re in an office environment, or driving on the road, take a look around and observe the energy of the people around you. Observe how that energy makes you feel in response. And then be conscious of the energy you send off, even when you are stressed. You could be unknowingly passing on Second-Hand Stress to your loved ones.
If you’re feeling stressed, try a quick breathing exercise or a 5 minute meditation before doing anything else. There are stress management programs like bLife that help you measure stress, and provide useful tools to help you manage it.