This Generation’s Stress and the Resilience Factor…
By Paul Shearstone
Who among us hasn’t had a conversation with a pre-baby-boomer
[senior] who didn’t take pleasure in pointing out that their
was made of sturdier stuff compared to ours?
“We never suffered from depression and stress!” they
accepted what was, sucked it up and soldiered on…. We never
time for ‘nothin’ else!... You kids today aren’t
as tough as we
Sound familiar? The important question then is, are they right?
At least on the surface, things like, stress and depression were
far less prevalent ‘back-in-the-day’ than in our time.
it because that generation suppressed their stress and tried not
to let it show? Was it, like divorce, something you just didn’t
do back then? …Maybe.
Did their generation have less stress to deal with than ours?
The current common belief is we are the most stressed generation
the world has ever produced but try convincing any WWI or WWII
Vet that they don’t know stress in all its ugly forms. They
do! Nevertheless, there are fundamental differences in the way
they and we handle the problem.
For example, we know today that PTSD [Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder] is real and emotionally devastating. In there
day, they called
it ‘Shell Shock’… and they also called it something
else — LMF
— which stood for LACK of MORAL FIBER.
It’s not up to me to say which generation’s approach
only to highlight the differences.
Another point pre-Boomers like to make is, our generation doesn’t
know how good we have it.
Senior: “In our day, we didn’t have money, we had
to make due.
We found ways to entertain ourselves and we were happy!”
Whether they were happy or not is debatable. The fact that they
had far less money than we, is not. So it is here, I believe,
we can put this fundamental difference under the microscope to
track and determine whether they may, in fact, be right and, how
something a simple as money, may be at the root of this generation’s
moral decay and its impact on the Resilience Factor.
The Baby Boom Generation
Fact: The 1980s ushered in the greatest increase in personal
wealth compared to any generation in the history of man.
Along with wealth and disposable income, came ‘Choice’.
the previous generation, Boomers suddenly had unlimited choices
to make because they could afford to — and they did. Boats,
large homes and lavish lifestyles were all possible thanks to
New choices also allowed attitudes and behaviors to change. Boomers
no longer had to ‘make do’ or find ‘inexpensive
ways to entertain
themselves’. They could afford to do whatever they wanted
when they got tired or bored of that, they could simply do something
If things got a little too tough, Boomers could easily abandon
them and move on. Included in that were things like jobs, careers
and education. The move to convenience — away from challenge
discomfort — clearly demonstrated, the paradigm shift separating
the mindset between the Boomer generation and the one before.
The need to ‘suck it up and soldier on’ was no longer
Money took care of that.
Although the 1990s leveled the playing field a little, the die
was already cast for this generation’s new attitude. Even
had changed their way of thinking. Gone were the loyalties to
employees — once a given. If things weren’t the way
wanted it, change it, regardless of who or how many it affected.
Loyalty was only to be given to one’s self.
“There is a price to be paid for everything my son.” my
drill into me as a lad. “The scales always balance.”
It would appear the scales are indeed on the move. Statistics
Canada reported that in 1999, $12 Billion was spent on stress-related
illnesses and employee absenteeism. The New York Times reported
September 2004 the same problem was costing the USA $300 Billion
a year and in 2005 the UK estimated its annual costs to be in
excess of 12 Billion pounds. Although anyone could argue the accuracy
of these reports, what can’t be argued is whatever the correct
figure is… it’s BIG!
The bigger question, though, is why is it happening? Why are
so many people in this generation negatively affected and unable
to cope with stress?
There may be two good reasons:
1) Without question, we are the most stressed generation the
world has ever seen. The need for both parents [where there are
two parents] to be in the workplace to make ends meet, longer
hours on the job, daunting responsibilities, unrealistic deadlines,
global competition, lack of corporate loyalties, unemployment,
increased drug and crime rates…. the list goes on.
The net? We live in unprecedented stressful times.
2) This generation lacks the Resilience Factor! In just over
two and a half decades, the emphasis on the pursuit of what’s ‘pleasurable’ leaves
in its wake, a generation bereft of resilience-training
and turpitude. Simply put, there has never been a time in human
history when stress was not present. How to deal with it is, and
will always be, a learned skill. Some people learn quite naturally
on their own. Most of us, however, rely on others — parents
most cases — to teach it to us. Nonetheless, it has to be
Could it be that the current working single-parent phenomenon
— also unprecedented — in tandem with two-income families
preoccupied the lesson-givers and the next generation is now ill
equipped? Absolutely! But the problem still systemically exists
in this current generation. Have we, over the last twenty-five
years forgotten how to be resilient? Yes… but better put,
learned more, how ‘not’ to be resilient. Let me explain.
Trained psychologists tell us that behavior of any kind [positive
or negative] is learned and it is learned through repetition.
The last generation focused on things like, stiff upper lip, soldier
on, turning ones cheek and in Churchill’s words, “Never,
NEVER SURRENDER!” That generation believed it, lived it and
to be Resilient because of it.
Compare that to a generation that followed whose newfound wealth
and ability to choose, allowed them to learn new ways to live,
that meant Resilience training was suddenly off the radar. Add
to the mix, unprecedented daily stress and responsibility, more
uncertain competitive times and the picture suddenly becomes clear
— we are unarmed — we lack the Resilience Factor.
This generation was told that it is okay to show one’s feelings,
be upset, angry or sad. I can’t argue with that logic but
if people are not also taught proper boundaries — how to qualify,
quantify and rebound to natural negative emotions. That is the
other important half of the lesson. My Dad always said, “Control
your Downs and your Ups!” Resilience is the ability to bounce
back, to cope. It has so everything to do with learned healthy
boundaries and control.
The good news is the same psychologists tell us that behavioral
modification is possible and it is achievable at any age.
There are breathing techniques designed to control blood pressure,
reduce stress. Behavioral Triggers are excellent ways to immediately
transform one’s negative thoughts and actions. Stress Minimization
exercises and techniques, Music, Power-Talk, all blend together
to reduce stress and bring more balance and harmony into our daily
lives. Moreover, the better news is, anyone can learn these strategies
and without question, they WORK!
The Bottom Line:
This generation and the one to follow can learn a lot from generations
past. What they did instinctively, are the building blocks we
can use on a conscious level to embolden ourselves in this new,
more competitive and stressful world — saving companies and
systems Money! The success of our health and happiness lies in
the strength and quality of our Resilience Factor! •
© 2005 Paul Shearstone
About the Author
Paul Shearstone is President of The
CFIDS Foundation of Canada
He is an International Keynote Speaker, Author, Writer, Motivation,
Sales, Time & Stress Management Specialist.
Paul enlightens and challenges audiences as he informs motivates
Paul’s newest Keynote or Seminar / Workshop is, “The Billion Dollar Dilemma…Conquering Stress & Life
To comment on this article or to book Paul for your next successful
event we invite to contact Paul Shearstone directly @ 416-728-5556
www.success150.com or email@example.com. 11/04/05