How To Have A More Contented Life (Are You Suffering From Toxic Stress And The Twenty-first Century Blues?)

Vernon Coleman

Do you constantly feel unhappy and discontent - without really knowing why?

Do you feel fed-up with the world? Do you feel miserable and low - though you know that you are not depressed enough to need to take pills?

You could be suffering from a condition I call The Twenty-first Century Blues - a disorder which is a result of exposure to toxic stress.

Toxic stress is the sort of inescapable stress that you can't do anything about; the sort of stress that is outside your control because it is produced entirely by other people's demands and expectations and by your own, sometimes unconscious, responses to those demands and expectations.

Like personal stresses, toxic stress can cause an enormous range of individual symptoms and well-defined diseases. It can cause headaches, skin rashes and bowel disorders. It can cause asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and peptic ulceration. It can cause sleeplessness, backache and hair loss. It can cause depression, psoriasis and sexual problems. It can make existing diseases worse and it can increase your susceptibility to infectious diseases, cancers and psychological problems.

But my researches over the last twenty years have also convinced me that toxic stress is responsible for something else; something specific and something that has never before been recognised as an individual syndrome. I have named the disease caused by toxic stress `The Twenty-first Century Blues'.

I believe that `The Twenty-first Century Blues' is almost certainly one of the commonest diseases in the developed world. I suspect that it is as common as tooth decay or the common cold. It is certainly far more damaging than any other common ailment.

The range of individuals suffering from this discomforting and incapacitating disease is vast.

The only common factor is that victims of `The Twenty-first Century Blues' tend to be sensitive, considerate and caring individuals. The more thoughtful and imaginative you are the more you are likely to become a victim and the more likely you are to suffer. Toxic stress tends to be produced by manipulators and by people who are unthinking and insensitive. Toxic stress does most damage to those who are most easily affected by guilt and other, similar emotions.

Diagnosing `The Twenty-first Century Blues' is something that you have to do yourself and to make it relatively easy for you to make the diagnosis I have listed below the symptoms which are associated with the syndrome.

I have put the symptoms in question form and I want you to think carefully before answering them. Don't rush through answering them with a quick 'yes' or 'no'. This is no ordinary quiz.

If you find that you can honestly answer 'yes' to one or more of these questions then you are, I suspect, one of the many victims of The Twenty-first Century Blues. The more times you answered `yes' the more serious your affliction.

Symptom one
Do you often feel that you ought to be doing more with your life? Do you feel dissatisfied with yourself or your life without really knowing why?

Symptom two
Do you have an uncomfortable - and difficult to explain - feeling that control of your life is slipping (or has slipped) away from you?

Symptom three
Do you suffer a lot from symptoms and ailments for which there never seems to be any completely satisfactory treatment? Do your symptoms or ailments hang on apparently endlessly - never really disappearing completely?

Symptom four
Do you often feel nervous or anxious even though you know that you don't really have anything to be nervous or anxious about?

Symptom five
Even though you may have a large family and lots of friends do you ever feel strangely and inexplicably alone?

Symptom six
Do you constantly feel rushed - unable to find the time to do all the things you feel you ought to do, let alone the things that you would like to do?

Symptom seven
Do you frequently worry unreasonably about quite trivial insignificant things that in your heart you know don't really matter?

Symptom eight
Do you constantly feel tired, listless and short of energy - feelings for which there is no medical explanation?

Symptom nine
Do you ever feel an almost overwhelming and almost irresistible urge to run away from everything?

Symptom ten
Do you feel that life isn't as much fun as it used to be or should be? Do you go for whole days without ever really feeling happy or feeling glad to be alive?

Symptom eleven
Have you ever felt a frightening and unnerving urge to be violent - either to someone close to you or to some complete stranger who has annoyed you? Have you ever gone cold after realising how close you have been to initiating a frenzied physical attack on another human being?

Symptom twelve
Do you ever feel a complete sense of despair about the future of the world? Do you ever feel glad that you are not going to live to see the sort of world your children's children will inherit when they grow up?

If you have answered YES to one or more of these questions then there is a very good chance that you are suffering from The Twenty-first Century Blues.

The more thoughtful and imaginative you are the more you are likely to become a victim and the more likely you are to suffer. Victims of the Twenty-first Century Blues tend to be sensitive, considerate and caring individuals.

The Twenty-first Century Blues is caused by a variety of stresses.

But there are things you can do to combat it.

For example, you can help yourself by trying to know and understand the forces which drive you.

Only if you know your own driving forces will you be able to plan your life successfully.

Re-examine your life regularly.

Remember that the pressure from society is insidious and often difficult to spot.

We are all constantly being pressurised into doing things that other people want us to do.

To control your own life and to reduce the damage done to you by stress created by other people's pressures it is essential that you reassess your priorities as often as you can. Carefully and deliberately ask yourself what you want out of life. And carefully and deliberately ask yourself whether the things you are doing are helping you to achieve your aims.

Consider all these things carefully. Look constantly at the way you live your life. Understand the forces, desires and ambitions which drive you onwards.

Ask yourself frequently: `Am I doing the right thing?'

And never forget that if you aren't doing the right thing then you are doing the wrong thing.

Only when you know WHY you do things will you know whether or not they are worth doing.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2005

If you want to know more about toxic stress and The Twenty-first Century Blues then you might like to read Dr Vernon Coleman's book How To Relax And Overcome Stress which contains sections dealing with toxic stress and the `Twenty-first Century Blues'. How To Relax And Overcome Stress is published in the UK by EMJ Books and contains a good deal of practical advice on how to conquer toxic stress and The Twenty-first Century Blues. The book should be available from all good bookshops and libraries. It is also available from the shop on this Web site.