Even though stress is a factor in disease, yet we need not blow its impact out of proportion. For instance, wild animals in the bush go through a lot of stress too, but they don’t suffer the level of disease we suffer. Wild animals are stressed by ecological factors and threatened daily by human beings. Preys are attacked daily by predators. Even predators have to be under sufficient tension to be able to launch an effective attack on their preys. A lot of adrenalin rushes through the bodies of both predators and preys in the wild. Compared to animals in the wild, most human beings obviously face less physical tension, yet have inferior health.
Stress obviously impacts health, but it is my candid opinion that a person who eats right, lives right, and puts his trust in God, will be less prone to the devastating impact of the stress of daily living. According to Dr. Edward Howell,“The philosophy of stress as an etiological (causative) factor in human disease has been blown out of proportion to reality.”
DEGREES OF STRESS
Acute Stress:Usually hits hard and quickly – e.g. being robbed at gunpoint.
Intermittent Stress:Lasts over a longer period of time and recurs again and again – e.g. preparing for exams every semester or term.
Chronic Stress:These are long-term stressors. If care is not taken, an individual may have to co-habit with it for long or even throughout life – e.g. caring for a sick loved one long term or dealing with a debilitating degenerative disease.
STRESS EVENTSVERSUSSTRESS ENVIRONMENTS
Stress eventsare those traumatic occurrences that affect us deeply. They include the death of a loved one, a divorce, an accident, a natural disaster, the loss of a job, a financial loss, a major illness, etc. Stress events are not necessarily always negative. The pressure and challenges of relocation, a new job, planning a wedding, the birth of a new baby, etc, are all positive but stressful all the same. Stress events often happen suddenly. Most of the time we are unprepared for them, and they are usually inevitable parts of life. Even Jesus assured His disciples that these events are part and parcel of life when He said:“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”John 16:33 (Amplified Bible).
While stress events are usually one-off events,stress environments, on the other hand, are on going. They include things like: family relationships, our jobs, our neighbourhood, the country in which we live, etc. While some of these stress environments can be made less stressful, we however do not always have control over some of them. For instance, while I can easily resign from a stressful job or relocate my residence to a safer and more serene neighbourhood, I cannot just walk away from my marriage, run away from my home or parents, or relocate from my country to another. These are more serious issues requiring deeper thoughts and prayers, and greater efforts and planning.
For example, Nigeria, as of today, exerts a lot of stress on those that live in the country. I have been to a couple of countries around the world and I can tell that the Nigerian environment is quite stressful, especially in big cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Portharcourt, etc. There are very few recreational facilities, mass transit systems are almost non-existent, there are very few jobs and high road accident rates, high incidence of armed robbery and mysterious assassinations, etc.
The issues that stress us in this nation include: population congestion; traffic jams caused by bad roads, near-insane and inconsiderate drivers and motorbike riders, market-places indiscriminately situated at bus-stops and trucks parked indiscriminately on our highways; epileptic power supply; an unacceptable level of unemploymentand poverty; insecurity of life and property; inadequate housing, etc. What about Civil Servants who deliberately create bottlenecks in the system in order to extort money from other citizens? Sadly, the Police Force in Nigeria that is supposed to reduce stress for people also add their own stressors to commuters by mounting unnecessary toll-gates (excuse me, check-points and road-blocks), thereby creating unnecessary traffic hold-ups on our highways and bye-ways. Thank God that these road blocks are now gone.
Other sources of stress in the Nigerian nation include students’ unrest, incessant strikes by labour unions, a culture of corruption and impunity with their serious negative impact on the economy and national development, the restiveness in the Niger Delta area, the Boko Haram menace, kidnapping, mysterious killings and assassinations of political opponents, late payment of salaries/gratuities/pensions in some quarters, pipeline vandalism and its attendant consequences, poverty, hunger, and so on? High fuel prices and the attendant inflation that followed have become new stressors in Nigeria.
All of these and many more make living in Nigeria a stressful experience. I pray and look forward to the day when Nigerians would start enjoying stress-free living in all the areas mentioned above, and even more.
Many employers in Nigeria today are contributing to the destruction of people’s health and homes. The banking industry in Nigeria is particularlyculpable. They make their staff do 4 people’s jobs and pay them 2 people’s salaries, giving them the impression that they are being well paid. Many bankers in Nigeria wake up as early as 4am, leave their homes at 5am or even earlier, and return home at 10.30pm or even later (Saturdays and Sundays inclusive, sometimes). Most of these bankers are only allowed to go on vacation when their health fails. This is both unfair and unfortunate. This has two major implications:
i. First, it has the potential of reducing the lifespan of these highly stressed workers.
ii. Second, it has the potential of breeding a generation of children with absentee parents.
The implication of this is that our children will grow up without knowing their parents well or being mentored by them. These children end up being mentored by the television or domestic servants. What that spells for our future is anybody’s guess. I personally believe that people become more productive when they have time to rest and rejuvenate periodically. I have experienced high-class banking services in the USA than in Nigeria, yet these bankers in the USA don’t resume as early or close as late as their Nigerian counterparts. Planning and organization, coupled with superior work culture, will lead to efficiency in any human endeavour.
To the Employer:I appeal to employers to please take it easy on their staff. Productivity is not necessarily higher because somebody consistently works late. Fit employees are more productive than stressed out ones. Fit employees are more able to take on new challenges and achieve set goals in record time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the USA declares stress as a hazard of the workplace. In terms of lost hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and workers’ compensation benefits, stress is said to cost American industries more than $300 billion annually! It is estimated that 60-80% of industrial accidents are due to stress
To the employee:First, make sure you manage and utilize your time during work-hours very well so that you can meet your targets and deadlines. Second, if your employer wants to ‘kill’ you with overwork before your time and ‘destroy’ your family, please prayerfully seek for an alternative job or start your own business. Don’t be rash about this though. Plan before you leap. I must observe here that even some self-employed individuals are also killing themselves by running the rat race. You see, the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat!
To our Governments:Governments at all levels should do all in their capacity to reduce stress for the general populace by providing a good road network, well-paved roads that are free of death traps, mass transit systems, and enforcing traffic rules on our roads. I believe that no one should spend more than an hour commuting between his office and home. Anything more than this is outrageous and unacceptable. Government has a responsibility here to make this happen. All it takes is proper planning and prudent management of our collective resources. When workers are over-driven, their health deteriorates, their families disintegrate, and their children become delinquent. All of these results in even further stress and these have far-reaching implications for the larger society. Government should also ensure the security of lives and properties as well as guarantee minimum acceptable living standards for the population.
Government Agencies should make the Nigerian environment BUSINESS-FRIENDLY. Right now, the cost of doing business in Nigeria is rather too high! Government agencies and agents behave as if it is a crime to venture into private business. They make like difficult in every way they can. This must change to bring some relief to young and budding entrepreneurs.
TO BE CONTINUED…