Mini-Medical School #3 2019
Stephanie Taylor MD PhD
Clearly, responses to stress cannot be crafted without a clear understanding of the current stressors. The results of the Stress Survey were overwhelming and incredibly heartwarming. Here is a summary:
The five major categories: % of total clicks
Dysfunction in government 26%
Climate change/wildfires 20%
Conflict with close relatives 13%
Financial strains 12%
Work/professional challenges/disappointments 12%
About 50 % of the written comments refer to external influences (government/climate) that cause emotional stress as well as influencing personal health. Issues cited include health breakdown due to overwork and chronic stress as well as the risk of violence in public places.
About 20% of the written comments refer to personal and family member health challenges including caregiving. The family responsibilities cited include care for adult partners who are failing as well as increased grandparenting demands. Many also noted the challenge of aging in a society that does not value older adults. As women often are the caregivers, they have the additional stress of continuing to give care when their own health is compromised.
The next most common concern is lack of time, especially for activities that they value.
This is not an inclusive listing of responses, and I apologize if your concern was not mentioned in the summary. A few respondents shared that meditation was very helpful.
Meditation comes in many forms. Classical meditation, quietly resting and clearing the mind, reduces stress. There are many forms of meditation and you will benefit most from one that fits your personality. There is also moving meditation, such as Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong.
Cognitive reframing could be considered a meditative technique, as it views problems from a different angle. Obstructions and frustrations are re-framed as an opportunity for a different approach. There are many narratives that illustrate applications of reframing. In martial arts and Celtic society, one hopes for a “worthy enemy”, a challenge that will tests one’s capacities. The danger in constant challenge is the possibility of repeated failure. This may lead to a state of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness has a long history in psychological research. Simply, if you put a fly in a jar with a lid, it tries to escape and fails repeatedly. Eventually, it will only climb on the inside of the jar. If the lid is removed, it will not leave. The fly has decided that option is forever closed. Learned helplessness has also been abundantly proven in mammals. You can see how damaging learned helplessness can be to our society, as it is exactly what despots hope to achieve in order to humble a population.
We humans are social creatures, and when deprived of our network become quite vulnerable. Much of our disconnected/connected life leads to isolation. No matter our level of intelligence (which of course must be questioned if we are destroying our own planet), we need warm interaction with our own folk. In a perverse proof, think about the highly successful methods used by colonial governments to destroy indigenous societies. The formula is to ban the native language and native dress, ensure poverty in the target population by taking them from the land and ban any public gatherings. This has been applied with great success in the early Americas, in South Africa and in Scotland. We are only now beginning to see signs of revival of cultures that were broken three hundred years ago. Quick to break and slow to recover. The interest in genealogy, in connecting with one’s own culture and ancestors is a warming trend toward making our society more complete and celebrating diversity.
On a neighborhood level, living in a community that offers support and that values every member is essential for personal health. This can be as simple as the grocer knowing your name and what you like to buy. We had a few respondents who attribute their equanimity to social and family support. Love in its many manifestations is highly underrated as a social force.
External Factors — Managing the Poltergeist
It may be easiest to cast government dysfunction and unpredictable climate factors as naughty house ghosts. They really never leave, but they can be managed. It helps to expect there might be an adverse event, and when it manifests itself, you will manage it. Practically speaking, what choice do you have, so you may as well deal with it. Avoid learned helplessness and just take on what you can manage. That may be voting and writing to congresspersons. Do what gives you strength and peace of mind.
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