Why Lifestyle Tips Won’t Cure the Mounting Stress People Face

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From The Independent: Mental health awareness campaigns inundate us with lifestyle tips for managing stress such as mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and nutrition. But these tips do nothing to address — and often serve to perpetuate — systemic drivers of distress.

“‘Lifestyle drift’ is the tendency for public health to focus on individual behaviours and psychology that may be the cause of health inequalities but ignores the drivers of these causes — the causes of causes if you will. This serves the interests of neoliberal governance, at the expense of the wellbeing of the majority. Structural inequalities, childhood adversities and rampant atomised individuality are, the evidence-base shows us, the main drivers of stress. The more unequal a society, the greater the levels of stress as the disenfranchised get pushed down, a chronic experience of being responded to as less important that becomes embodied.

Our young people are more stressed than ever before because they have been pitted against one another, ranked in the education system from the age of six, with social media ‘likes’ a constant reminder of one’s relative success. Financial debt and unstable housing making security unreachable, meaning subjectivities fluctuate between a desperate pressure to succeed and collapse. It is not enough simply to be nowadays — one must be a ‘walking CV’ bent on constant self-improvement.

These are hostile environments to grow up in, to live in, that become imprinted on the psyche and body and that cannot simply be wished away by encouraging everyone to escape within their own, atomised mindfulness bubble. For the world that we live in is brutal right now and simply nastier to some people than others — a wrong that can only be readdressed by levelling society. We need to give everyone the opportunity to feel safe and valued — not for their ability to gain Insta-fame, or work relentlessly to serve the new god of the neoliberal economy, but for their inherent worth.”

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