By L. John Mason
It is unfortunate. The news media is full of stories that indicate that stress levels are higher than ever before and denial is still the “preferred” coping strategy. Today, as I write this article, the radio, TV, newspapers, and internet are screaming about a South Korean college student who killed 32 fellow students and teachers at Virginia Tech in Virginia. The pundits are raging that stress is at higher levels than ever before “especially for college students.” The rumors discuss the lack of mental health support and the sales of guns to “unstable” people including this college student.
Everyone in our society is impacted by increased stress, not just college students. Our society is not alone. Many societies and cultures around our planet are feeling the pressure of increased pressures and stress. It is common to read stories about people “going postal,” “road raging,” “freaking out,” “rage-a-holics,” “being uptight,” and “losing it.” We are more fragile than ever before. We have less support and have higher expectations. There is more substance abuse practiced by people who are trying to “cope.” There is more “high test” caffeine feeding busy schedules and more commercials regarding sleeping problems.
There is, in fact, an increasing lack of common sense and we are seeing the dramatic effects in the news media.
Average Americans are not the only ones who seem to be victims. Our young men and women are returning from their military tours of duty with more post-traumatic stress dysfunction. Poor understanding and lack of support plague our returning heroes. Our future will be filled with the stories regarding these service people and how they process their experience from their time in uniform.
Our emergency responders, fire personnel, police, and emergency medical responders, are also suffering from PTSD and are becoming a huge concern for police and fire departments. Our society will be taxed to cope with these issues.
Stress can not be avoided. Traumas will continue to make the headlines. The way that we respond and the support that we must be prepared to offer become the parts of these challenges that we can control. We can do something! We do not have to suffer as “victims!” Commitment to prevention will be needed to prepare our children for the increasing stressful world they must live. Parents need to manage their stress and be the role-models that will prepare themselves and their children for the future. “Sticking our heads in the sand” is not the best way to cope with this epidemic of stress. Denial will only work for so long!
Awareness is half the battle. Support and teaching people how to be effective in dealing with stress is the second half of the fight. I know from personal and professional experience that taking time to practice regular stress management will actually save time and energy, in the long run. Practicing preventive stress management will also improve the quality of life and enhance performance.
We will never see the headlines devoid of stories generated by poorly managed emotional stress, but we can hope to improve this situation and have much better support and coping strategies in place. This is especially necessary for the support of our service men and women, our police personnel, and our fire fighters. Better support for our children, our parents, and our seniors would also offer good results. In fact, all of us who must interact with our increasingly stressful society could benefit. So let’s pull our heads out of the sand and confront this situation.
Please go out of your way to take good care of yourself!
L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.
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