A Fine Mess of Stress

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By Mary McConville

According to a survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research, stress is the most common problem in mental health today. This survey concentrates on the professions most likely to cause serious stress.

The worst job for stress is Sales Support. The survey did not make it clear what type of sales work was being done. Were they working on commission or in call centres? Angela Smith, the Group Account Director for Roy Morgan Research said that these workers “are in constant contact with an often demanding public” and that they “are frequently young – and our data indicates that 18-24 year olds are more likely than any other age group to be affected by stress.”

Stress is an insidious problem. Effects differ from both long term and short term stress. In the short term we may become effectively paralysed or switch to the fight or flight state. The worst reaction to stress is when a sense of paralysis descends, short circuiting the brain and sabotaging the body. It is more effective to go into the fight or flight mode. Adrenalin gets the body ready to use all its energies to survive. The heart rate goes up and physical awareness is intensified. Unnecessary processes like digestion and bowel control cease.

In the longer term stress can undermine basic health and cause hair loss, skin problems, digestive troubles, etc. It depresses the immune system so that it is harder to throw off everyday ailments.

There are some solutions to stress. We could just give up or take chill pills but this just causes further problems. In the immediate term, deep breathing and repeating soothing mantras can help. Cultivating a change in attitude can also help. Take things one at a time and “don’t sweat the small stuff” or talk to the boss and negotiate greater flexibility and support.

Stress is considered a modern problem but I wonder just how much has changed from our grandparents’ day. The problems may be different but the stress levels are probably the same. My grandparents lived through the Depression. I lived through the Global Financial Crisis. We both had problems with unemployment and poverty

We know that the greater mixing of populations during the World Wars contributed to the Spanish Flu but the greater mixing of populations due to the modern advances in air travel has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and Ebola.

Sexism was much more common in the past, it was even enshrined in law. Nowadays sexism is legislated against but there is still a lot of under the radar bad behaviour. Racism is also legislated against but there is, as above, under the radar bad behaviour. My grandparents’ generation were more likely to be snobs and make snide remarks about their vulgar, Anglo neighbours.

Some sources of stress never change. People still misuse drugs and alcohol. An eternal problem is that people will never, ever stop falling in love and hurting each other. We all have to handle stress, unsolvable problems and the occasional moments of grace. It’s called life. Fight back and help each other with a joke, a little sympathy and some practical help.

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