It’s Your Life
Do it your way
Recently I’ve taken part in some lively discussions at work and home that have left me feeling exhausted and frustrated. Although each side of the argument had valid points, they were getting visibly annoyed that the other participants weren’t agreeing with them 100%.
Emotions started to run high and I found myself slowly but surely giving in to my feelings whilst expressing my views (in perhaps not the best manner). When I caught myself I pulled back but it wasn’t long before someone would push one of my hot buttons in an attempt to get me fall back to emotion.
Nevertheless, they were good exercises for me to find my boundaries and to realise how flexible I really am when having to deal with opposing views. After reviewing what was said, I found that my conduct was not only influenced by the topics and the general mood of the discussions, but also by how stressed and tired I had been prior to engaging in these debates.
At the time of this writing there are many people being polarised by their differing views with regard to the pandemic and what should or shouldn’t be done to solve the issue so that we can return “back to normal.” I believe many of these debates aren’t solely about the pandemic and I feel that it is now more important than ever to understand the role that tiredness plays in our ability to decode and respond to events outside of ourselves.
Long and Stressful
Many blame the pandemic for the increase in amount of stress that people are feeling, but from my observations it seemed to me that many people were extremely stressed from way before.
After and during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 I noticed myself and others working longer hours and taking on more work than we normally would. This lead to a lot of workplace conflicts and frustration between individuals and departments (some of which expressed themselves, lets just say, not in the best of manners). It was so bad that memos were being sent out almost daily to inform us that there were formal channels that we could use to voice any grievances.
Also, leading up to the pandemic there were countless reports being published about social media causing stress.
As if we didn’t have enough cause for stress in our busy, complicated lives, along comes social media. What started out, theoretically, as a novel way to “connect” people on a wide scale has now been implicated in social anxiety disorder, which is the third leading psychological disorder in the United States, as well as in other forms of stress.FACS, F.M.. (2018). The Stress Factor of Social Media. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, AdvanceArticle(6), 1-691.
Regardless of the source of stress, it appears that prolonged exposure to stress can affect the way that we perceive and respond to the world and the events taking place in it.
Unaware of Tiredness
Television news and national newspapers during the pandemic have bombarded us with continuous pandemic related news items that highlight not just the threat to our health but also our financial and social well being. Students in particular (at least in the UK) have been under a lot stress as their exams have been rescheduled or cancelled and Universities have let it be known that typical student socialising will not be tolerated.
Chronic psychosocial adversity increases the risk of mental illness including schizophrenia and depression. These adverse factors include developmental psychological trauma and adult life events (situations or occurrences that bring about a negative change in personal circumstances and involve threat).Bloomfield, M., McCutcheon, R., Kempton, M., Freeman, T., & Howes, O. (2019). The effects of psychosocial stress on dopaminergic function and the acute stress response.eLife,8.
The unintended results of constantly warning about the threat to our way of life has lead to people becoming more frustrated at the current pace of life, which may be why so many people feel the need to argue their point over the most trivial of issues.
Although I can’t prove it, I believe a large portion of society have been worn down by the constant threat of the virus and are now overly stressed and tired, leading them to lash out more than they otherwise would.
Despite this higher access to knowledge, the impact media exposure has on healthy individuals remains poorly studied. Given that most information conveyed in the media is negative and that upon perception of threat, the brain activates the stress system, which leads to cortisol secretion, we decided to determine how healthy individuals react to media information. Accordingly, we investigated whether reading real negative news (1) is physiologically stressful, (2) modulates one’s propensity to be stress reactive to a subsequent stressor and (3) modulates remembrance for these news…
Results showed that although reading negative news did not lead to change in cortisol levels, it led to a significant increase in cortisol to a subsequent stressor in women only. Also, women in the negative news condition experienced better memory for these news excerpts compared to men. These results suggest a potential mechanism by which media exposure could increase stress reactivity and memory for negative news in women.Marin, M., Morin-Major, J., Schramek, T., Beaupré, A., Perna, A., Juster, R., & Lupien, S. (2012). There Is No News Like Bad News: Women Are More Remembering and Stress Reactive after Reading Real Negative News than Men.PLoS ONE,7(10)
Even though it’s good to know what is going on in the world and your local environment, ruminating over situations that are bigger than any one person can solve is bad.
Instead, maybe limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news and when you do consume it, briefly asses how it relates to your personal current situation.
Getting upset about someone else’s point of view regarding a news item just adds more stress to your life than you need. There’s nothing wrong with being aware of other peoples’ views, and even discussing your differences in view with those people can help you better understand their position.
Just remember that each person has their own view, and it’s unlikely that you will change their views by aggressively stating your point. Before getting into a discussion remind yourself that just as you are entitled to your view, so are other people.
Being comfortable in yourself and your views goes a long way to helping reduce anxiety and stress. Worrying about other peoples’ views actively increases your own stress levels. Why? Because you can’t control what someone else thinks. You can influence them, but even that can be tricky.
Be happy with your own choices and walk your own path. It’s one of the best things about being human.
“Throughout my life, I have found that I have had to leave many people behind, and break many bonds that we formed together. I know, however, that this happens for a reason and the entrance and ultimate exit of someone in my life is because their influence has been made and they must continue influencing others as I must do as well.”Ford, D., Cavanaugh, J., & White, H. (2006). Life Choices: The Search for Meaning. Journal of College and Character, 7(1),