Why is modern society defined by ever rising levels of stress? There`s not too many people I meet during any given week who are not stressed, one way or another. Yes people are stressed, What is stress – Why are we stressed?
Back in the sixties and seventies, people dreamt of a time when they could kick back and relax more because modern technology was finally there to help with tiresome tasks like cleaning the house. Politicians and community leaders and the media convinced us that life was getting better. And many of us we were convinced! People looked forward to more and more wonderful inventions that made life easier and essentially, happier.
Yes, many of us we were on the ‘happy’ bandwagon.
Fast forward to the era of the eBay, i Phones, Playstations, Apps and hand held computers of all sorts that connects us to the Internet in a heartbeat.
We are experiencing more advanced technology than all of the previous decades combined. Thanks to globalized trade and endless technological innovations, we can now enjoy the many benefits of the Internet- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Any ordinary laptop or PC that was assembled around the year 2012, would be at least 1,000,000 times more efficient than the computer that launched the Apollo rocket to the moon.
We are literally living the dream, Or are we?
So the question now is: why are we still stressed? Or more importantly: why are we even more stressed than our predecessors? Are we managing?
And will we feel and think less stressed in the years to come?
Sociologists, psychologists and modern day economists have all tried to determine at which juncture our era has become completely and almost inextricably associated with stress!
The studies that tackle the “stress puzzle” are complex in their entirety. However, I have taken the liberty of summarizing some of the most important findings.
The Roots of Stress
1. Less Leisure Time – Many people often associate stress with having to deal with childcare and taking care of the household.
However, if we were to compare the amount of time that people spend taking care of their homes and families now with the amount of time spent doing the same things back in the 1910’s, we would arrive at pretty much the same average number of hours per week: 52 hours.
The reason for this is that we are now spending more time on additional activities such as shopping for the daily household goods- checking out the things we see on TV. Those must haves, at least according to the media. We are perhaps at the mercy of having to have ‘things’.
Kids want them, women want them, men want them – the neighbors have them! My friends and mates have “it”. The stress of keeping up! Do people find these wanting activities pleasant and leisurely? Or…
So even if we have plenty of modern appliances to lessen the time needed to complete different tasks, the time that we could spend for leisure is now being consumed by additional, avoidable activities and chores.
2. Stressors Abound – In an ideal world, a person who continually feels stressed at work would be able to unwind and distress when he comes home.
There are some people who have managed to accomplish this feat. I am also certain that theses people are mostly extremely happy that they “cracked the code” and have less stressful experiences.
However, for 60% of adults, the scenario isn’t as bright and stress free. The present reality is that more than 50% of all adults in America and other countries experience the same level of stress both at home and at work.
So an ordinary working adult no longer experiences a reprieve from stress because both environments are deemed stressful. Stress is everywhere.
3. Harmful Societal Standards – It is no secret that modern society is still ruled by double standards, especially in the workplace. Competition in workplaces, bullying work environments, lack of equality, lack of appropriate leadership and culture and relationship building by managers, means many people are at risk of feeling, thinking, and behaving stressed!
Despite significant breakthroughs in the field of gender equality, many people still subscribe to the idea that a woman is less able than a man! Why ARE men paid more than women for the same work? Why do men hold more senior positions than women? Why?
Are equal rights afforded to people of all races, religion and beliefs, disability, and sexual orientation!
These different standards are actually toxic in the workplace because it encourages aggressive competition rather than co-operation! People are not respected for their skill, abilities and talent! Does this make the workplace a frustrating and stressful place for both males, females and all the different groups?
4. Chronic Overwork – More than 25% of all adult workers complain of not having enough time in a day to finish everything they have to do.
To compensate for the scarcity of time, many adults resort to overworking. Unpaid work hours are increasing around the world. Does this leads to a “burn out”? It is difficult to recover from burn out if people don`t have the skills and time to reduce stress levels. What to do?
5. Fragmentation – The present divorce rate in the United States, as an example, is a staggering 50%. This means that a significant percentage of the entire American population is comprised of single-parent families with only 1 main earner. Stressor?
This reality is forcing many single parents (mostly females) have to work twice as hard and longer hours just to keep up with the daily expenses of their families.
Obviously this situation is extremely stressful because…. leisure time is almost nonexistent! All other free time from work, if any, is diverted to taking care of the children and the household.
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