Dealing with Stress
Breaking Down the Types and Risks of Stress
Stress is our body’s response to adapting to environmental changes.
Often portrayed negatively, stress has both positive and negative aspects due to its effects and intensity. Moderate stress, known as “eustress,” stimulates our mental state, providing a pleasant sense of tension that fuels our readiness for challenges in new environments.
The challenge lies in how we deal with stress that exceeds our capacity.
Stress can be categorized as acute or chronic. Acute stress involves short-term and easily recognizable situations like job interviews or public speaking. Chronic stress, on the other hand, arises from ongoing issues like coping with chronic illness, economic worries, and family or relationship problems. When facing tasks with no clear end in sight, we can find ourselves in a constant state of readiness, experiencing stress 24/7.
Bad stress not only affects our mental state but can also lead to circulatory diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, causing damage to both body and brain. In the worst cases, it poses a risk of death. What’s important is managing our stress levels and seeking help from our surroundings when we can’t cope.
In this newsletter, we’ll explore stress-relieving shopping behavior (often referred to as “retail therapy”), stress management among athletes facing rigorous physical and mental conditions like Olympians, stress-care initiatives within companies, and how to navigate social communication.
If this newsletter can help someone suffering from stress, it would bring immense happiness to the author.
Rethinking Retail Therapy
Have you ever found yourself browsing online shopping sites for clothes, furniture, or that new camera as a way to take a break from your busy schedule in front of the computer? Many people have experienced turning to shopping as a way to release stress when facing unpleasant situations or fatigue.
Desires for material things can significantly influence our motivation. It can involve setting goals for oneself like, “I’ll buy that thing I’ve been wanting once I get through this month,” or using it as a way to motivate others as a reward for their efforts.
When stress accumulates, it can have a significant impact on our psychological state. According to an article on **[health essentials](https://health.clevelandclinic.org/retail-therapy-shopping-compulsion/#:~:text=Research has shown that making,can also fight lingering sadness.)**, even just adding items to an online shopping cart or accessing favorite online shopping sites can have a psychological effect, a phenomenon known as “retail therapy.”
This is because the decision-making process in purchasing can enhance our sense of personal control, and it’s believed that this can help alleviate stress that seems beyond our control. Research from the University of Michigan suggests that purchasing behaviors directly related to personal interests can provide a sense of control that’s 40 times greater than not shopping at all.
However, there are pitfalls to this “retail therapy,” and caution is necessary. For instance, impulsive buying, where one indulges in shopping without much thought as a way to relieve stress, can lead to subsequent regret, anxiety, and a feeling of loss of control. If shopping turns from being therapeutic to becoming an addictive behavior, it can result in considerable stress, even becoming an obsession.
In recent times, there’s been a shift towards a well-being-oriented perspective that focuses more on connections and personal growth than on consumer behavior. However, the fact remains that “shopping” has indeed been a way for us to alleviate small stresses in our lives. There’s room to think about how we should approach shopping. Perhaps “attachment” could be a key factor. By being conscious of the connection we have with the products we buy rather than just the act of purchasing, the sustained level of happiness after shopping might change significantly.
The Monstrosity of Overgrown Olympics and Mental Health
The Winter Olympics have finally begun. As we watch, feeling the suspense, athletes compete on a stage sometimes mockingly referred to as where “monsters reside.” But how do athletes and their accompanying teams deal with mental health challenges?
While athletes often project an image of being mentally and physically strong, the burdens they bear can sometimes exceed their capacity. Issues like online harassment, stringent infection control measures, and controversial regulations amplify external challenges faced by athletes.
In last year’s Tokyo Olympics, gymnastics star Simone Biles withdrew from competitions to safeguard her mental health. Her actions brought athlete mental health into focus, prompting the U.S. Olympic team to prioritize their athletes’ well-being. According to Jessica Bartley of USOPC, athletes now have access to mental health professionals, therapy sessions, screenings, and even wellness apps available throughout the Olympic Village and venues.
While personal preventive measures like journaling or taking walks are becoming more recognized, seeking advice from professionals like mental health specialists still seems like a distant option.
Initiatives like those taken by Team USA, which aim to bridge this gap, are likely to be crucial in the future.
Fostering Resilience Remotely
The lifestyle of being “always on” has become commonplace.
Tasks like replying to emails and attending online meetings have made online platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Zoom, and Slack integral to communication. However, within the context of remote work and flexible schedules, the challenge of effectively balancing work and personal life is evident.
Amid these diverse working styles, mental health care has become a critical issue. Deteriorating mental states lead to absenteeism and higher turnover rates, causing economic impacts on companies.
In the era of remote work, where employees’ states of mind might be less visible, companies face the question of how to care for their employees. The key might lie in creating systems that encourage empowerment, growth, and continuous self-improvement, while also visualizing and addressing stress.
In bustling New York City, companies like Noom not only promote activities like acai bowls or in-meeting yoga, but they also view experiences that prevent burnout, such as empowerment and growth, as essential parts of employee wellness. This approach includes mentorship, open communication about work-related goals, and maintaining work-life balance. As a result, 97% of Noom’s employees respond that they feel encouraged to balance work and private life.
Creating a space for sharing stress online and emphasizing the connection between well-being and a sense of belonging within a larger community appears to be an effective strategy for stress management. Through this, employees show positive views toward their work style within the organizational framework, and by nurturing resilience, effective stress management can be expected.
As work becomes even more flexible in the future with numerous choices available, the deterioration of mental health is often attributed to individual choices. In a digitally connected world, where the warmth of human interactions might diminish, seeking “heartfelt connections” both online and offline becomes essential to supporting each other.
Algorithmic Choices and Information Selection
The usage of social media has significantly increased over the past 15 years. In the United States, for instance, the usage rate was below 7% for all generations in 2005. However, by 2021, it had risen to 84% for ages 18-29, 81% for ages 30-49, and 73% for ages 50-64, indicating its widespread use across various age groups. Considering my own life, platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Zoom, and Slack have become essential for communication.
On the other hand, concerns about the correlation between social media usage and mental health are indeed valid. Instances like the internal disclosures about Facebook and the increased dependence on social media during the pandemic have led to more discussions on this topic.
In response to these issues, several measures have already been taken. For instance, Instagram has introduced a feature where a screen saying “Time for a break?” appears when a user’s set time limit is reached, recommending deep breathing or listening to music. Additionally, the parental service “Bark” alerts parents if concerning terms are detected in their children’s social media posts or messages.
As such countermeasures are being implemented by platforms and companies, this article takes a slightly different perspective on how to approach social media.
It involves understanding the impact of algorithms. Many social media platforms customize users’ screens based on their interests. This allows for easy exploration of content related to close connections and communities, as well as topics of interest.
The problem arises when algorithms cannot accurately discern users’ interests. For instance, if a person searching for “healthy recipes” is presented with content related to extreme diets or eating disorders, it’s not difficult to imagine that this could lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.
While platform and company responses are undoubtedly necessary, we also need to take responsibility for our online actions. Understanding the influence of algorithms, we should carefully consider whether we truly want to see certain content or connect with specific people. By making selective choices regarding information, we can shape our own online society.