History Shows We’re Not Unique

It’s a wonder any of us are sane. I mean, look at all the stressors we have in society: We have the evils of social media; we have regular reports on TV news about horrible things going on everywhere; we have larger and larger cities that are noisy, polluted, and overcrowded. People run from the cities and what happens? The suburbs become noisy, polluted, and overcrowded.

Feeling stressed from all these pressures? Of course you are! How can anyone be expected to cope well? Sure, you have a lot of excuses, a host of things in society that you can blame for your inability to cope. Still, the bottom line is you’ve really got it bad these days, worse than any other generation, right? Wrong!

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in both Europe and America, so-called “nervous disorders” were increasing drastically, especially among women. Today, these problems would be called anxiety disorders, and would also come under the general rubric of what we talk about in this blog: coping with stress.

Practitioners 100+ years ago blamed the increase in these nervous disorders on the stressors of modern civilization. First, there were the railroads, which made a lot of noise and transported people around very quickly, maybe too quickly for their brains to process calmly. Second, there was the telegraph, which gave almost instantaneous communication. Talk about immediate news! Who can process that? No wonder people were all stressed out. Third, American society had the sensory overload of overcrowding and noise in larger and larger cities, and their dirt and filth that took people away from the serenity of nature. Finally, there were an increased number of newspapers, magazines, and popular media sources that spread disturbing news among the populace. Bad news traveled fast and was plentiful.

Sound familiar? From a stress perspective, just how different, really, is 2020 from 1900? Just like now, people in 1900 had excuses and scapegoats to blame when they were having trouble coping. And, amazingly enough, the agents of blame were the same ones we use in 2020!

“But wait,” you protest, “we also have a pandemic.” Oh, sorry, the Spanish flu hit in 1918. Also, Americans had that little disturbance called WWI to worry about around the same time.

The point here is simple: your stressors are not unique, not worse than anyone on the planet has ever experienced. That pity parade doesn’t square with reality. So, you might as well accept your problems as a part of life, make yourself accountable in facing them, and develop a rational plan – that includes reading this blog – to cope with them. Sounds pretty empowering, doesn’t it?

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