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10 Tips for Managing Stress in the Information Age
1978-2008 – A 30-year review of our world and stress
Have you noticed that our lives are more stressful than they were 30 years ago? If you can even answer this question, chances are you are a member of a huge demographic group known as the Baby Boomers, and because of this membership, you are the driving force of our society. “Baby Boomers” is the demographic trend of those born after World War II in 1946 and before 1965. This group drove major changes in our society including: use of disposable diapers, canned baby food, Disneyland/Mickey Mouse Club/TV, 1960’s Ford Mustang, 1980’s minivans, women’s emancipation, Women, Lexus/Acura, Computer Use, Pagers, Cell Phones, Email, “Information Age,” “Green” Movement, “Growing Young,” “Active Retirement,” Liposuction-Face-Botox, 500 TV Channels , real estate booms and busts, stocks boom and bust, sales of antioxidants, rising medical costs, recreational drug use, popularity of sushi, wine consumption outside of France and Italy, leisure travel like sardines in time challenge (later ,) unhealthy airplanes, major sporting events (Super Bowl, March Madness, Tiger Woods’ golf, pay-per-view events, and the “X Games”), rock tours, special effects action movies, and war refueling.
Since the establishment of the Stress Education Center in 1978, the number of stress-related symptoms identified and diagnosed has increased substantially. Many symptoms such as: insomnia, panic/anxiety, headaches, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal distress, high blood pressure, substance abuse/addiction, heart disease, depression, obesity, some chronic pain, and even immune system dysfunction are associated with our Society is under increasing pressure. But why are we more stressed now than at any time in human history? The answer may lie in trends driven by the Baby Boomer generation and the group’s preference for the high-paced expectations of our new technologies. Remember, we have some very primitive genetic code and have to struggle to keep up with the explosion of modern technology. For example, as a kid growing up in the 1950s, I watched my working parents come home from get off work at 5:15pm and sit in the “living room” for ½ hour discussing their day, smoking cigarettes, drinking their cocktails, All before having a “family dinner” together. That’s how they managed stress in the 1950s, before we discovered that smoking and drinking were bad for us and there was no time to sit, chat, and debrief about the day. Sure, we have alcoholism, lung cancer, and explosive “Cold War” TV coverage, but your doctor’s desk is littered with ashtrays while you discuss the latest vaccination program. People will stay at home for a week during the two-week holiday, sit at home and take a break. People didn’t respond to pagers, cell phones, faxes, emails, or “plug in” 24/7 like they do today.
Interestingly, in 1978, the birth of a new “information age” was on the verge of an explosion in our North American society. Personal computers are under development. During our dinner time, media coverage from all over the world plays international conflicts on our televisions. Advances in science and technology are driving our economy and putting pressure on our relationships. The Middle East became powerful through the control of oil production and its instability based on Muslim vs. Western beliefs and philosophies. Parents are forced to monitor and control their children’s schedules and educational development more than in previous generations, and divorce is changing the very definition of “traditional family.” People found that natural resources were running out. Nuclear power is exploding but not sure. Experienced a gasoline shortage. The prestige and effectiveness of American education began to decline. Asian economies are exploding. Defined PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and developed psychoneuroimmunology to explore possible links between mental/emotional and health. In 1978, people were still paying for their own health care instead of waiting for insurance companies to cover all health care procedures. Health care procedures are still nearly affordable. AIDS has not yet been discovered medically.
Compared with 2008, the new technologies of the “information age” control our lives more comprehensively. We are more “on the clock” 24/7 than ever before. People are distracted by cell phone calls while driving. People walk down the street with their phones stuffed in their ears, talking loudly about their private concerns. (No more “country idiots” who seem to talk to themselves while walking the sidewalks of our cities.) In restaurants, churches, movie theaters, doctor’s offices, schools, airports, elevators, and while shopping. People go on vacation, but still communicate with work on a daily basis. We watch a TV news show and see “Talking Man” while words that have nothing to do with the news story in question fly across the bottom of the screen. Graphics also appear on the screen to the right of Talking Avatar, and we wonder why “News” is so intense. We “plant reporters” on the front lines, show distant wars on our home TVs, and then wonder if TV is desensitizing our children to violence.
At work, we experience constant change. The 8-hour workday is a thing of the past. Many of us are working 2 or 3 people to help keep our jobs and “downsize” our positions. We have: software changes every quarter, hardware changes, policy changes, procedural changes, layoffs, international business communications/meetings, retention issues, leadership challenges, hiring issues, management development challenges with technical staff with no management training, communication challenges , multitasking, multinational conglomerates micromanaging local workplaces, international telemarketing (from India, China, wherever) and longer commutes. Our copiers are too complicated for anyone but a few mechanical engineers to use. We have emails and an immediate need for more information. We have high hopes for ourselves that we can excel in this high-tech world and produce 3x the amount of work because we are paid 2x as much as the previous generation of workers. People want more “quality of life” at work and in life. Workers want “flexitime,” “job-sharing,” and want to work from home through “telecommuting.” Work environments are being scrutinized like never before to understand environmental challenges that affect physical and mental health. Retaining key personnel has become a critical issue for many organizations, and in many companies concerned with retention, the “quality of life” issue is equal or greater than compensation.
Our primitive survival response mechanisms have not evolved to keep pace with technological advances…so…we are more stressed/stressed now than at any point in human history. One of the most important coping techniques for dealing with increased stress is the increased use of denial, also known as the “put your head in the sand” response to stress. We’re so overwhelmed that we don’t have time for stress management or even self-awareness about this pandemic. Our quality of life is taken away. Our productivity may decrease. Our short- and long-term health can be compromised, but we’re still finding “quick fixes” that don’t require time or energy to deal with stress. The medicines we ask our doctors don’t solve the problem, and even when they work, they often have side effects. An increasing number of children are being diagnosed with stress-related physical and emotional symptoms at an earlier age. As we age, we live longer and have higher demands on our health. We seem to be working longer and harder despite our use of labour-saving equipment and utensils. Most working families need two incomes to support the lifestyle our “expectations” and social role models encourage. Our kids are having to raise themselves more than ever because their parents are busy at work, or distracted because they are working 24/7.
These are not just developments and problems in the US and the West. Asian economies are exploding as their demand for energy and technology grows. Eastern Europe is nothing like it was in 1978. World climate change affects all inhabitants of the world. Food shortages are beginning to be felt in many countries. Wars and conflicts in “third world” countries have repercussions for other economies. Culture is changing faster than at any time in human history. Communications and world trade have made our lives more global and keep commerce and trade on a 24-hour-a-day cycle. The race is on, and only those who live in denial fail to see the wide-ranging effects of modern change. The world is smaller, and businesses are bringing the world together like never before.
We must be aware of the impact of these changes on our health and wellbeing. Awareness is half the battle. The other half of this battle is developing better coping strategies that we can practice as individuals that allow us to withstand the pace of change and keep up with rapidly changing trends. Our health, productivity and quality of life will depend on our ability to adapt to these changes in the most positive way…We cannot avoid or even control all the changes we encounter, but we can learn to be more in control of how we respond to these challenges .
Some possible suggestions for managing building stress include a variety of possible solutions, including:
1. A new example of normal people and family stress survival. Old standards of coping with stress, such as: denial, avoidance, substance use (medication), overeating, “going crazy” or getting angry need to be replaced by more positive and effective stress management techniques.
2. Changing awareness and priorities about improving productivity and quality of life, including living in a healthier and more realistic way in this fast-paced world. Awareness of the aging Baby Boomer generation and its impact on our society and the world has increased dramatically.
3. Support positive habit change followed by accountability to a partner or mentor, which may include a professional coach/therapist, clergy, educator, “healthy family and friends.”
4. Realistic goals and a realistic plan to achieve them.
5. It’s time for self-care! Lesson learned, to create more time, you have to take time for self-care. Commit to self-care!
6. Controlling our urges to give in to “denial” and “quick fixes”
7. Changed expectations for the use of new technologies. Use techniques such as biofeedback to increase awareness and then control stress responses. (More tools and resources for stress management and biofeedback techniques for learning physical control over unhealthy habit patterns.
8. The evolution of spiritual and emotional health and well-being (not necessarily religious). Find ways to maintain a healthy balance that respects the mind, body and spirit.
9. An education system that truly prepares us for the “information age” and our role in it.
10. A world so technologically advanced that it actually respects the individual and the true quality of life…
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