Part II of Position Paper- Some of Stress's External Factors

Part II of Position Paper

In order for a personality typing system to be effective, it needs to be able to clearly articulate the various reasons that the different types experience stress.  Some of us get annoyed with slowness- people who are walking slow, driving slow, processing information slow; some of us get impatient very easily.  On the other hand, those of us who are more or less fine at this pace are annoyed by other things.  People who aren't genuine, who aren't self-motivated, who patronize.  We all have buttons, and their combinations tend to constellate around certain types.

Human neuron showing actin formation in response to stimulation. 

Human neuron showing actin formation in response to stimulation. 

Furthermore, not only should this typing system pinpoint why each type experiences stress, but a really great personality typing system will have specific guidance for how each one can deal with that stress.  To quote Jung, "the shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases."   To give blanket "life advice" may have people taking the wrong medication for the wrong reasons. 

For example, the advice to "walk away when you're angry" is useful to a certain personality type that easily puts their foot in their mouth when provoked.  They could quite easily say or do something they eventually regret.  There are those, however, who don't express anger adequately and need to practice staying with their anger so it emerges instead of being stuffed down.  Those who sue for peace out of fear of rocking the boat need to count to ten for a different reason-- so they can get in touch with their anger and hopefully articulate their needs.

We know that stress isn’t about what happens to us- it’s how we respond to it, but it is worth noting how much more stressful our lives are becoming compared to those of previous generations.

One of the main reasons Canadians and Americans are stressed out is because they're trying to maintain the same standard of living as their parents while in some cases making less money after inflation, doing similar jobs, and working longer hours than they did.  This is taking its toll.  The strain of this new normal means that people are skimping on sleep, taking less vacation, skipping their workouts or home-cooked meals, affecting their health and their families. In 2011, Statistics Canada found that a full 27% of Canadians describe their lives as "quite stressful" or "extremely stressful".  South of the border, the American Psychological Association who publishes a study every year on the stress levels of Americans, found that twenty-two percent of Americans said they experienced extreme stress about money in the month before the survey.  31 percent of adults with partners said money was a major source of conflict in their relationship. 

Image from www.makingsenseofcents.com

Image from www.makingsenseofcents.com

While our economy has slowly been recovering from the 2008 recession, there are overall trends that show the reality we're living in now is quite different from was one or two generations ago.

Both men and women are working longer hours than we were thirty to forty years ago.  In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg writes that “assuming a fifty-week work year, middle-income married men and women with children worked 428 more hours in 2010 than in 1979, or an average of 8.6 more hours per week" (Sandberg, 2013).  Employees seem to be haunted by the 2008 layoffs and consequently "feel they have to be tied to their desks" out of an increased pressure to be productive.  Canadian workers have developped a habit of not taking all their vacation, says Right Management's spokesperson Margaret-Ann Cole.  She doesn't foresee the trend letting up soon, either, as people feel pressured to show up at work lest they be judged by their colleagues for not contributing enough, even if a vacation might re-energize them. 

Image from www.bringyourchallenges.com

Image from www.bringyourchallenges.com

According to a recent StatsCan report, over a quarter of Canadians feel their lives are “quite” or “extremely” stressful.  One of the reasons might be the fact that Canadian families are the most indebted with a record high household debt of about 164% of after-tax income [Source]. 

Not only are Canadians and Americans working longer hours, but as Linda Duxbury from Carleton University says, their work hours are blending into evenings and weekends as a result of their managers having access to them via their cell phones and asking them to take work home with them [Source].  This is especially true for highly-paid knowledge workers who, to juggle this new complexity, are outsourcing their family duties to outside providers. 

As for the lowest income earners, overall economic growth has translated into increased wages, according to Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist at CIBC, and yet, as of 2014, one in 5 Canadians were still juggling more than one job, and the majority of them were at the lower end of the pay scale.  The other group that was experiencing growth was the top 20% of wage-earners, leaving the middle at a stagnant growth rate.  Says Tal,

When you look at Canada over the last 15 years, what’s interesting is that the two groups that have seen the most significant growth in income were the bottom 20 and the top 20.  The middle has seen its income growth lagging.

Image from avc.com

Image from avc.com

Which is a problem our southern neighbors wish they had.  Their middle class wages are actually going down.  According to a 2015 New York Times report, due to trends in globalization, off-shoring, and the IT revolution, between 2000 and 2013, the median income dropped in most states in the U.S, a trend they dubbed "the hollowing out of America's middle class."  Whereas the vast majority of Americans used to identify as middle class, America looks more like an hourglass now, with more people sliding into the "working class" designation and more wealth is accumulating at the top [Source]. An article in the New York Times says, "After three decades of income gains favoring the highest earners and job growth being concentrated at the bottom of the pay scale, the middle has for millions of families become a precarious place to be [Source].

Robots mixing drinks in a bar online a luxury cruise ship.  Image from dailymail.co.uk.

Robots mixing drinks in a bar online a luxury cruise ship.  Image from dailymail.co.uk.

When a college education doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher income bracket anymore, and the jobs that provided those middle class wages are being replaced by robots, it's no surprise, then, that a recent Pew study found that only 64% of Americans now believe they have a chance at upwards economic mobility, the lowest it’s been in 30 years.  [Source]   

It would be one thing if Canadians and Americans were just feeling squeezed by the economy, but simultaneously, the bar has been raised on how much time we spend raising our children as well.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says,

Just as expectations for how many hours people will work have risen dramatically, so have expectations for how many hours mothers will spend focused on their children. In 1975, stay-at-home mothers spent an average of about eleven hours per week on primary child care (defined as routine caregiving and activities that foster focused play.)  Mothers employed outside the home in 1975 spent six hours doing these activities.  Today, stay-at-home mothers spend about seventeen hours per week on primary child care, on average, while mothers who work outside the home spend about eleven hours.  This means that an employed mother today spends about the same amount of time on primary child care activities as a nonemployed mother did in 1975 (Sandberg, 2013).

Image from unsplash.com

Image from unsplash.com

As of 2015, the workforce in Canada and in the United States is now made up mostly of Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000.  Although they make up such a large part, employers don't seem to want to hire them, and certainly have trouble relating to them.  Millennials are often described as lazy and entitled by older generations, owing in large part to their habit of texting while eating, walking, and even socializing.  One survey of Canadian Millennials says that they would rather lose their sense of smell than their cell or smart phone. 

Soon, Millennials will be holding up two of the world's biggest economies, trying to prevent further widening of the income gap while at the same time, balancing their social media and texting habits.  To do so successfully, they will require a new level of self-awareness of how they respond to the many stressors in their lives- if they respond in constructive or destructive ways.