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Stress in the Future

Before even beginning to write about stress and the future, it must be noted that it is virtually impossible to accurately predict exactly what stress will be like in the twenty-first century. Any possibilities that are suggested here are purely based on the applications of current research.

In the past, there has always been stress in people's lives in one form or another, so thus it is completely unrealistic to hope that eventually stress will just disappear from our lives. To put a time limit on stress, such as, "If I can make it to the year 2000, then I won't be so stressed," or "after retirement I can live an stressfree life," is a bad idea, as it invariably will not happen. In addition, a life completely without stress would be unfufilling, you would suffer from a total lack of stimulation, and thus it would cause stress that way. (For more about optimum stress, click here). What people really when they hope for "no stress" is no negative stress, and it is important to differentiate between the two.

It is true that there probably won't be the all same types of stress in the future that we experience now, but instead, completely new and different stressors. It is not possible to list or predict what these stressors will be, because they may involve things that are not even in existence in today's society. A peasant in medieval times who is stressed because his crops are failing and the plague is running rampant through the counryside would never have thought that the stressors in a few centuries would involve computers, traffic, and divorce. However, some stressors will probably stay the same, such as family and death, which have been a source of stress at all points in time.

There are two possible scenarios for how people will react to stress in the future. One is the optimistic view, and the other is the pessimistic view. They are extreme in both directions to clearly indicate that there are a wide variety of possibilities in between the two.

The optimistic view is that teaching about stress will be done everywhere, and everybody will gain knowledge of what it is, how to recognize it, the fact that it can cause physical and psychological symptoms, and how to manage it. There are some fundamental things that we would need to change about our mindset in order for stress management to stick over a long period of time. All of the self-imposed stressors need to be reduced incredibly, as a starting point. (To see more about self-imposed stressors, click here). This will enable people to recognize that to be at their optimum stress level, they need to take some time for themselves to relax, and to prioritize to allow for this time. A greater amount of work ethic in society as a whole could also be beneficial. Being able to adapt to unfamiliar situations would help as well. It is even possible that new, wonderful ways to manage stress, such as new wonder drugs, will be developed in the future to deal with stress.

The more pessimistic possibility is that everybody will experience "fight or flight" so often that they will become very sensitive to stress. (To see more about "fight or flight", see here). If this happens, every little stressor would set off the "fight or flight" response, and nobody would be able to cope with everyday stress. Whatt could also happen is that the body could learn how to adapt to higher levels of stress and thus burnout will not occur as quickly as it does now. This would cause people to not recognize that they are under too much stress and need to take a break, which could result in serious medical conditions to appear, without the person ever seeing it coming. This desensitization could get to be so common that the body could eventually evolve to include a much more desensitized response to stress.

In conclusion, neither of these extreme scenarios are very likely in their entireties, but, rather, some combination of the two may happen. Exactly what will happen depends on what we do today.