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How Stress Economy is Changing the World

With our smartphones constantly buzzing, our emails reminding us of work, our minds wandering away thinking about the tasks to be completed along with travel to work and home and our familial and financial responsibilities  where each of us are trying to balance it all at once…Does this sound like too much stress? Well, you are not alone! Just texting too can stress you out. According to World Economic Forum, one in five people say they struggle with keeping with the messages and one in six people ignore messages due to a flood of notifications they receive. 
 
Welcome to the stress economy where people across the world are experiencing more worry and sadness. The Global Emotions Report from Gallup states that in the United States alone, stress, worry and anger have all gone up, with 55% reporting that they had experienced stress during much of the day. The stress factor is costing the US nearly $300 billion a year. In India too, stress levels are skyrocketing. A recent survey conducted by Cigna TTK Health Insurance found that about 89% of the people surveyed say they are suffering from stress compared to the global average of 86%. Meanwhile, the figure is astoundingly high among millennials - 95%. Derek Thompson writes in his article on Workism that “there is nothing wrong with work, when work must be done. And there is no question that an elite obsession with meaningful work will produce a handful of winners who hit the workist lottery: busy, rich, and deeply fulfilled. But a culture that funnels its dreams of self-actualization into salaried jobs is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment, and inevitable burnout.” 
 
Interestingly, the stress economy has now become an industry by itself which churns out products catered towards combating the proliferation of unhealthy anxiety in society. This space is populated with 10,00 meditation gadgets, scents and specific products like a unicorn cat with a scent of strawberry or a comb that tells you something positive with each brush of your hair. If that isn’t enough, there is goat yoga training, break rooms in corporates and MNCs along with “stress relief experts” who will come to your rescue. 
 
Inspite of wellness programs and other “stress busters,” several organisations fail to understand that lack of decision-making, autonomy and lack of recognition and respect increases stress among employees. According to WHO study, a clearly defined role and good support at work decreases absenteeism and lateness. However, many organisations fail to understand that the health of their employees is related to the overall health of the organisation, performance-wise and financially too.
 
Despite all the avenues for stress-busting, we are stressed about stress. One plausible solution for this could be understanding the causes and inequities of stress. “All of us can take stock of the situations we voluntarily enter and do a retroactive risk/benefit analysis to see if those encounters are potentially avoidable or if our response to these stressful situations can be amended for better results,” says a Veena M, a city-based psychologist. 
 
According to her, forming healthy social circles is crucial. “That starts with deciphering the difference between a friend with some qualities we don’t like but overall decent human versus someone with some decent qualities, but is overall an unfavourite person. For some, this comes naturally. But for the others, this is a very difficult task,” she explains, adding that social interactions calm us down. 
 
While each of us today go through varied levels of anxiety and stress, it is upto us to look for remedies. “A simple meditation or Yoga session or physical exercise, dance session, finding a hobby that makes you happy or just cooking or gardening…just anything that will keep you off gadgets and immerse yourself in an activity can do the trick,” says Anshu Shroff, wellness coach.
 
Of course, stress will not be wiped away by using glittery and fancy products. Experts say it is something we have to recognise and recalibrate our approach to dealing with this heightened level of anxiety currently demoralizing us. “We need to acknowledge it and find better ways to deal with stress. On a positive note, it also has the power to bring people together and empathise with each other,” adds Anshu. So, the more our workplaces value a healthy workplaces, both physically and mentally, the more we all stand to gain as a happy people! 
 

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