One Nation Under Stress: How Social Connection Can Heal Us
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is the Surgeon General of the United States. His primary responsibility is to inform the public of scientific information on critical issues and he also communicates with the public directly. It was never Murthy’s aspiration to become the Surgeon General, but it was a role he always admired. He took the position when he was asked and has enjoyed listening to people in the U.S. and different countries about what they want from him and the government.
Murthy had his session, One Nation Under Stress: How Social Connection Can Heal Us, at SXSW and said that the topic and interest in stress came naturally when he was listening to people around the United States. He said many people talked about pain and emotional pain. Stress can be good if experienced for a very short time, but chronic stress has many effects on the human body and Murthy saw that America had a great deal of chronic stress.
It was also noticed that stress is related and is contributing to addictions. Whenever someone is in pain, it is natural to search for ways to relieve it. Some people relieve stress in healthy ways, such as sleeping and exercising more, but other people turn to unhealthy ways, such as drugs and alcohol, and then have health consequences.
Murthy mentioned that for 2017, they will continue works on addiction and emotional well-being. He also said that well-being is not just something that happens to you, science says that there are tools that can contribute to emotional well-being and it is important to learn exactly what these tools are and to teach them.
Murthy expected a large number of skeptics and people who think emotional well-being isn’t a big deal, but this topic has been the single most resolute topic that is talked about and this is something people are experiencing all across America.
What exactly is causing this epidemic? Murthy says that poverty, discrimination, violence, illness, a lack of self ethic, and isolation are all contributing factors. He stated that 40% of adults today feel isolated even with all of the technology around us to keep us connected. Isolation is said to shorten people’s lives and increase the risk of depression, anxiety, heart disease, and other unhealthy diagnosis. Murthy said that research is still underway to understand the relation between social media and isolation. People may be drawn to social media when feeling isolated but does it help?
Isolation is a contributing factor for feeling stress and Murthy mentioned that quality does in fact matter. It is the quality of the relationship that people need to focus on and not the quantity. Even introverts need someone in their lives, “We all need people who we turn to for support.” he said. It’s also not a real connection, Murthy stated, if they do not feel like they are giving anything to the relationship.
Murthy’s favorite way to have a healthy emotional well-being is to sleep enough, do some physical activity, meditate, and have a good social connection.
Murthy is also focusing a lot on educating children on ways to prevent and heal stress. It has been shown that trauma experienced as a child can highly compromise the way that children deal with stress, it has an effect on them years later, and can even change their DNA. Murthy said that trauma, and the more trauma that is experienced, leads to higher risks of stress, depression, suicides, and illness.
There is such a thing as a broken heart, stress cardiomyopathy, but the good news is that humans can heal and recover even if the body is highly effected by stress. One way to help prevent stress for others is to, create the world to be more positive. Media is contributing to the world seeing things more negatively and people, as Murthy said, need to amplify the good and the positive, “We are locked in a struggle between love and fear… do we want a world of fear or love?… Fear will only see despair and that’s what we see on the news and social media… that’s not a world that I want for anyone. ” he said.