Moonbeams #4: Stressed? Here’s Something You Can Do About It.

We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage

A recent report by the American Psychological Association confirms what many of us are feeling–the levels of stress in this country are sharply increasing.

This anxiety crosses party lines. “Two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans…”  It translates into: “headaches, feeling overwhelmed, feeling nervous or anxious, or feeling depressed or sad.” (“Stress in America: Coping with Change.”  A report by the American Psychological Association)

from The New Yorker Magazine, March 13, 2017 issue.

What’s the source of this distress?  It will come as no surprise that it is attributed to the current political climate, pressing political issues, the election, and its aftermath.  What’s worse, it’s difficult to avoid the political maelstrom.  Dr. Katherine Nordal, the APA’s executive director, stated in a recent press release: “The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it. We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”

But what can we do about it?  How can we take positive action to reduce our stress?

Dr. Robert Brooks, a Boston psychologist, is an expert on resiliency in children and adults.   Through his practice and research, he has identified several core beliefs and principles used by resilient people who have faced adversity and, against all odds, overcame it.

In his monthly article, “Antidotes to Stress-Filled Times: Finding (or Affirming) Your Core Beliefs,” Dr. Brooks discusses one of these core principles– to take action during stressful times that focuses not on ourselves, but on others.  He emphasizes that by reaching out to other people, we are shrugging off a “victim’s mentality” and becoming “a positive force in the world.”

Over the last few months, I have done this.  The relief of stepping beyond the narrow confines of my own preoccupations was immeasurable.   Even small gestures of help, of concern for others bring great rewards–like signing a petition, contributing to a favorite charity, and volunteering to help someone in need.  The possibilities are endless.

To bring home this point, here’s a short, surprisingly funny 6-minute video by Lux Narayan, a statistician who has studied 2,000 obituaries of famous and not-so-famous people over the past two years.  What makes their lives memorable and notable may surprise you.

Has your stress risen in the last few months?  Have you found a way to help reduce it?

Here’s hoping this week brings you more joy and less stress!

This is the third Moonbeam, a series open to everyone who wants to penetrate the murkiness of divisive rhetoric and fear-mongering that defines our age..  My hope is that together we can create a virtual space that will startle us with its beauty, hope, and vision of what is possible.  To read other Moonbeams click on the embedded link.

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12 replies »

  1. Aha Patti, we were indeed on the same page, albeit from a different slant, this week. I loved your post and the video. I’m always after my husband to quit watching the 24-hour news channel as it really works hard to get the audience excited by angst – UGH. I think they’re the biggest contributor to stress today and wish they’d just go away but unfortunately that’s not likely any time soon. Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the thoughtful insight this week!

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  2. Hi, Tina. I like that: “…excited by angst…” So true. It’s counterproductive watching 24 hour news–they are creating stress and giving us no way to relieve it…except by changing the channel! So glad we are on the same wavelength this week…I wonder what will happen next week??

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  3. Yes, I agree helping others is the best antidote for feeling overly stressed, yet ironically people in need pose challenges that keep others from helping. It’s the “not famous” aspect that was mentioned in the video.

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