Distress- Just a Function of Life?

Things just seem to be spinning out of control. Things are moving so fast I just can’t keep up. It’s crazy around here these days. It’s a zoo and the animals are in charge. Sound familiar? Statements like these seem to pop up in conversations on a routine basis these days. I find myself in conversations where these sentiments are shared at work, at home, in the community, and even at the latest basketball game I attended. What is happening?

As I listen and share in these conversations, for I too experience some of these same feelings, I hear undertones of frustration and distress. I personally experience frustration and distress. But isn’t that just the way life is and the way it has always been? No doubt this is the case. However, I do experience two things in my own life that are very different today than twenty-five or thirty years ago. The speed of change and the expectations that things happen instantaneously is different. And secondly, as a result of this speed of change and the instant access to information, the ability to stay informed and to effectively communicate with others has decreased. I find people are so geared-up and trying to accomplish so many different things, that there is no time for effective communication and real understanding. While I have more access to more information, I find myself overloaded, uninformed and out of touch with things. We appear to be running from meeting to meeting and event to event, while continuously plugged into one or more electronic gadgets. Thus, we experience constant distress. When was the last time you sat with a friend or co-worker or family member and just talked about whatever was on your or their minds?

When was the last time you were able to really focus on what the other person was saying and not have in the back of your mind the next meeting you must get to or the commitment you have made to another person? And what is the end result of all this rushing and lack of communication?

The impact I see is a significant increase in distress in people and a lot of misunderstanding, resulting in conflict between and among individuals. I see additional work created to resolve the misunderstandings and conflict, which takes time away from doing the work needed to serve the customer. I see an increase in emotional and physical health issues impacting the workplace, families, and friends.

While I don’t believe distress is new today, I do find that not having a release or chance to get away from the distress to be different. I believe that individuals are hungry for this release. Unfortunately, many turn to artificial means to escape the distress; drugs, alcohol, sex, food, excessive computer engagement. Whatever the escape, the use/misuse of these solutions and the resulting consequences many times just adds to the distress we experience. (Just this morning I said I needed to take a break and find some “comfort food”. Then I sat at my computer and ate my “comfort food” while I continued to do my work, not taking a break at all.)

So how do we know when we need to take that break and renew ourselves? If you are experiencing any of the following examples of distress indicators, you might want to reflect upon what this means to your work, family, friends, or life and develop a distress reduction plan. Examples of just a few indicators of distress include; fatigue and chronic exhaustion, frequent and prolonged colds, sleep disturbances, sudden weight gain or loss, extreme mood and behavioral changes, emotional distancing, depression, intellectualization, increased interpersonal conflicts, boredom, cynicism, and many more.

If you find this posting somewhat disturbing or you find that you are experiencing several of the distress indicators, perhaps you might want to visit with someone about this feeling. Contact a friend who you can count on to be honest and straight with you or contact your organizational human resource professional or the employee assistance program or a member of the faith community. Or take a day away from everything and go for a long walk or sit on a hill side and just reflect upon the beauty around you. There are many ways to take a break from the demands of the day and get renewed. Select one and practice it on a regular basis.

Until the next time, pay close attention to your stress level and be (response able) to take charge of reducing the distress within your life.