The United States of Stress

There’s a movie “Contagion” where doctors and government officials try desperately to stop the rapid spread of a serious virus that wreaks havoc on social order, leading to riots, looting, and other examples of the very worst of human behavior. The virus was on the verge of ruining the entire world when finally, the scientists were able to get to the bottom of things and find a cure.  

We already have a contagion that’s ruining the entire world, and it’s stress. But since that’s a far less glamorous subject that doesn’t require the ominous bright yellow outbreak suits, face shields, quarantines, and the National Guard,  I doubt anyone wants to see a movie about how stress is killing us. Unfortunately though, in the United States of Stress, that disaster movie is playing out for millions of people every day.

“75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year.”

– American Psychological Association.

We’re not just stressed here in America. We are SO stressed, that our nervous systems act as if we’re living in a war zone in a third world country, scrounging to feed our families while ducking under a continuous hail of bullets. Even though we aren’t under threat, our nervous systems respond to everyday events as though we are.  We could be peacefully arriving 5 minutes late to events, calmly returning a phone call if we miss their call the first time, or reminding our brains that it’s making mountains out of molehills as we fret over things that really aren’t a big deal. The result:, STRESS!!!

This “contagion” called stress – this public health crisis that we’re turning a blind eye to – is literally waging a war against our minds, bodies, lives, families, and communities, and collectively, when we merge our stress together, on the nation and the world. This is because, when stress is allowed to run willy nilly through our lives like a bull in a china shop, it puts us in a chronic, reactionary state. We’re no longer living life, we’re reacting to it as a threat and the people around us are affected, too.

Here in the United States of Stress, most of us are keeping ourselves in such a chronic state of stress, that our nervous systems think we’re in mortal danger. Take a moment to think about how this is affecting your life, your relationships with your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, and your community. How often, when you’re feeling stressed, do you snap at others, make impulsive decisions, slam a door, hang up the phone in frustration, yell at your kids or spouse, binge on “comfort food” (or comfort adult beverages)? Most people have their “moments” like that but for many, it has become a chronic, constant reactionary state.  

Now think about that on a mass scale – a national one. Our collective stress condition as a country is affecting how we deal with each other and with the world as a whole. If you really want to change the world, how can you do it when you’re in survival mode?  Suddenly “stress” escalates from a personal problem – to a global one. Stress is no longer just “your” problem to deal with – it’s our problem.

How on earth did this happen?

Here in the U.S. people live generally good lives. For the most part we have freedom, safety, shelter, food, water and comfort to spare. Why then, aren’t our rates of personal fulfillment and health outcomes better? Why is stress torpedoing our happiness? Why aren’t people living better lives? How is it that somebody in a third world country who makes $50 a month, is happier and less stressed than we are? What are we not getting about stress and what to do about it?

It begins with the fact that our culture, including the medical community, has a problem with the way they view stress. We’re not looking at it or talking about it correctly. And how are you supposed to solve a problem you don’t fully understand?

We’ve somehow decided that stress is a normal part of life – totally inevitable and unavoidable. We’ve designed our lives around something that we’ve been made to believe is a chronic, lifelong, incurable condition. If the information you’re working from is that stress has no solution, your focus becomes solely on dealing with it. Managing it. Coping with it.

What if “stress” was not a chronic, permanent condition to be “coped with”? What if it was a specific type of neurological programming, that could be CURED? Here’s where the heart of the paradigm shift in my upcoming book The Stress Switch: The Truth About Stress and How to Short Circuit It  comes into play – coping with stress vs. having the audacity to CURE it!

If this is a far more serious conversation about “stress” than you’re used to, it’s because that’s how serious the future implications are if we continue down this path. We are a great nation full of good-hearted people who each possess infinite potential to achieve remarkable things, and together, to impact the world. But in order to be successful, we must remove this thing called “stress” that is robbing us of our future in every moment we let it. That is my mission, and I invite you to join me!

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