Like many of you, over the weekend, I was a little thrown off by the sudden change in the BellaNaija website layout. I saw a lot of comments under many posts lamenting the change; people vowing that it was their last visit to the site, “the final nail in the coffin.”
Why was this upsetting? Because we don’t like change. We don’t like a disruption in the way we do things, especially if we have become so used to it. Yet, change seems to be the only constant thing in life. It is a paradox that we know this deep inside, yet still seek to have everything remain the same.
Why don’t we like change? Because it is stressful. It is upsetting and disruptive. And anything that disrupts, whether for good or bad, is stressful. It is even worse when many disruptive changes are going on at the same time. Elections are postponed a week, so your plans for that week and the next are automatically disrupted. The next week, elections take place alongside too many disruptive activities caused by those seeking to manipulate the outcome. It’s insane out there. You manage to weather that storm, rush back into the calmness of your home where everything seems to remain unchanged, until you whip out your phone to relax on the BellaNaija website and what do you see? Arghhh! Stress! Stress! Stress! And, of course, to relieve yourself of some of that stress, you leave your two cents in the comment section. (That’s if you can even find where that is now.)
But those are minor life events and they shouldn’t give us too much stress. They’re not enough to make us break down.
In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to illness. They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them if they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.
Each event, called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different weight for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. The higher the score and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.
Some of the major life event changes that caused the most stress were things like: death (of a close relative), marriage, addition to the family (like new birth, adoption and even pregnancies), job change (new job or job loss) and moving homes/relocating.
What we don’t want in our lives is all of these major changes happening at the same time. They can throw us off (far worse than a new website layout can) and cause us to fall terribly ill, because the body keeps the score.
While we are not able to control some of the things that happen to us, we are able to control how we respond to them. For example, God forbid there’s a sudden death of a very close family member of yours right about the time you’re preparing for your wedding. The appropriate response is definitely to plan for both the wedding and the funeral to not fall within a few days of each other. That is just going to be a stressful juxtaposition of new beginnings and dreadful endings; life and death. It will throw you off in the most bizarre way.
No, you deal with the death first; postpone the marriage until after the burial, grieving and healing have take place. That’s a much better way to manage the two stressful life events of death and marriage.
We are also able to control our life choices which often lead to these life-changing events in the first place.
Imagine if a young boy who’s just about to finish high school decides to have unprotected premarital sex with his girlfriend and knocks her up. He’s then forced, by his parents and hers, to marry the girl and take care of the child. So he drops out of school, gets a low-paying job, moves out of his parents’ home into a shoddy apartment, marries his pregnant girlfriend and moves her in as they prepare for the arrival of the baby. Within one year, the young boy would undergo major life events of: marriage, job change, moving homes/relocating, and addition to the family. All because of the one silly mistake he made. All that could certainly cause him to lose it and go crazy, especially if he doesn’t receive adequate support from his family.
Change is often good, but too much change is often bad. Change is inevitable. It cannot be avoided, but that’s not always true for “too much change.” It often can be avoided; it often can be spaced out. It can be managed by how we respond to things and the decisions we make in our lives that lead to major life events happening or not. Too much change is stressful and stress has to be properly managed for a better and more successful life.
So while we might be able to survive – and we will – the change in the BN website layout coupled with changes in election dates and a possible change in government, we might not be able to healthily survive concurrent changes in major life events, especially if we don’t know how to adequately rank and manage stress.
A beginning step would be to get yourself educated on what these major life events are, and how much each of them ‘weigh’ as they affect your life and health.
You may take the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory assessment for free, and see what stress level you’re currently at.
I just took mine and I scored a 102 out of 1466. That’s less than 150 points, which means “a relatively low amount of life change and a low susceptibility to stress-induced health breakdown.”
Take yours and tell me what your result says in the comment section (it’s a bar under the “YOU MAY LIKE” suggestions, below this article).