Summary: Stress and Anxiety have increased due to COVID-19 and the contentious political divide. Message processes influence of stress and offers biblical solutions.
Today I want to address a PROBLEM we all face: stress and anxiety.i This year, 2020 has been a stressful year. The pandemic has affected the whole world. Economic pressures have increased for families and businesses. Social distancing and isolation have interfered with normal human interaction. Governmental efforts to manage the coronavirus may be producing more problems than the virus itself. People need people. They need the touch of a loved one. They need a smile from the stranger. They need the comfort of love and acceptance from others. They can endure the absence of that for brief periods of time. But extended deprivation of normal human interaction has a psychological impact. The negative affect is worse for some than others. But we are all affected by it.
The contentious political divide in our country is producing a lot of stress for Americans. Rather than prompting meaningful conversation, it has degenerated into name-calling, mud-throwing, rock-throwing, and even deadly riots. Everyone knows the outcome of the coming election will put the country on one of two very different courses. It will affect every one of us financially. It will affect our children’s financial future. It will affect our liberties. It will affect the moral course of the nation. It will affect the judgment of God on America. This is a high-stakes election! Added to that are concerns about election fraud. Will we even have a valid election? Will the loser concede, or will there be more contention over the validity of the results? We have never faced this level of uncertainty. And that uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety in our society.
A recent Harris poll conducted for the American Psychological Association found about 70% of American adults are stressed over the political climate and the uncertainty we face. About the same numbers say the danger of getting the coronavirus is significant source of stress for them.ii All that is added on top of the changes people are experiencing in the way they do their jobs, educate their children, and conduct their shopping.
The efforts people are making to cope with all this can be humorous. I saw an article yesterday revealing the latest coping strategy. It began in Europe and has arrived in America. It is cow-hugging. The article says, “Tree-hugging is out. Cow-hugging is in.” Proponents of the movement say cows are calm animals and hugging them has a calming effect on the person.iii I haven’t tried it. Perhaps I shouldn’t criticize it too much. People need relief from all the stress.
Another article talks about people turning to pinball machines for relief. The article is entitled, “Coronavirus leads to spike in pinball popularity.”iv It is natural for human being to seek relief from anxiety.
The way we manage stress has a powerful impact on our wellbeing. What strategies do you use to manage your anxieties and stress? If it is not managed well, it can cause us to behave in aggressive or passive-aggressive ways. And that can undermine our relationships. It can cause us to say things we later regret. It can ruin our careers and sabotage the quality of our lives. Many people today are living in a sad, despondent state because of the choices made under stress.
Mishandling stress often leads to addiction. We find something that sooths the soul. Like a laboratory rat, we keep going back to that drug or activity for relief.v The drug of choice might be cocaine. It might be alcohol. It could be pornography. It could be social media or video games. It could be eating or shopping. It might even turn out to be cow-hugging. It is anything that people get hooked on as a source of relief from anxiety and stress. Not all addictions serve to reduce tension and anxiety, but many do.vi
We live in a high stress culture. Earlier civilization had the stress of getting the basics of food and shelter. Our advancements in technology have increased our standard of living and resolved some of those stress factors. However, the technology itself has become a source of stress. Has anyone been stressed out over your phone or computer in recent months? Has the bombardment of robo calls and scammers produced any stress in your life? Archibald Hart discusses the stress we encounter in his book, Healing Life’s Hidden Addictions. He writes, “Just driving five miles on a modern freeway provides as much stimulation as our ancient ancestors got in a whole year.”vii When you’re driving 75 miles per hour bumper to bumper on the freeway, one wrong move can lead to disaster. It is stressful to be in that environment.
When I was a kid, we raised chicken for our food. At first, we only had a few in a large pen. It was a fairly natural environment for them with lots of grass to scratch around in for insects and seeds. Those chickens were very healthy in that environment. Then we dramatically increased their numbers. We squeezed more and more chickens in the limited space. We put some in wire cages. We also learned how to feed them in a way that maximized egg production. Those changes put the chickens under more and more stress.