Updated 01 October 2015

Are South Africans more stressed?

In South Africa, we have a high crime rate and a history of violence and patriarchy. This puts us at an especially high risk for stress.


Stress and the South African situation

We are exposed to crime on a daily basis, wherever we live. Most South Africans live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. This is a good example of how fear, anxiety, guilt, despair and hatred constantly evoke the fight or flight reaction, which has to be processed and balanced.

Many South African men have been brought up with the idea that they should suppress all their emotions and they find it difficult to cope in South Africa today. Every man lives with the thought that he and his family are potential targets of criminal activities. We all have to deal with feelings of helplessness and hatred. We are often overly attached to our material possessions and the loss of them causes intense shock and anxiety, as well as financial strain.

Men and women react differently to stress

Emotionally, women tend to cope with this type of trauma better than men. Society allows women to give expression to a wide range of emotions. The socially acceptable reaction for men is aggression and rage - certainly not heartache, uncertainty, vulnerability, fear and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

We all have to learn to cope with this stressor. We cannot suddenly change it; we can't really all move house or relocate to another country; we can't run away; we can't attack the aggressor. We have to find the answer within ourselves.

What is important is that people should talk to one another. Partners should communicate their feelings to each other. Relationships with other people create a safe, confidential space for sharing feelings.

Trauma counselling

If you find it difficult to cope with a traumatic experience, it is highly recommended that you and your family go for trauma counselling for posttraumatic stress disorder, before you internalise the experience and it forever influences your life negatively from the deep unconscious where it’s buried in the shadows of your existence.

Good things can develop from bad experiences. People are reaching out to one another again. Couples are learning to talk to each other, men are discovering that it is normal to feel uncertain, scared and helpless. This is often a stimulus for spiritual growth and an awareness of the important things in life. People sometimes decide to realise life-long dreams or try a new job. How you tackle or react to a situation is your choice.

Focus on the present

We must become more alert and learn to spot signs of danger in the neighbourhood. Criminals don't just appear from nowhere. If we were less concerned about tomorrow and less regretful about yesterday, we would be better able to focus on the present and not operate in a state of unawareness of our surroundings. This would enable us to use the fight or flight reaction for the purpose for which it was created.

We can also take the necessary steps within our power, to safeguard our house, workplace and the lives of our nearest and dearest as best as possible. By taking control of how you utilise your fear reaction, you can change from being a victim to being in control of a situation.

Start the healing process

Today's society is generally very negative and we pass this message on to our children. We must start the healing process. We cannot wait for the government or the police service to do everything. Emphasise the power of love, rather than the power of hate.

South Africa is in a period of transition which will lead to the rebirth of a more tolerant and balanced society - perhaps in our lifetime, perhaps not. It is difficult to see the light when it's still dark. Remember, that darkness is neither an entity nor a reality - it is only a place where the light is absent. There is a deep feeling of mutual respect and dignity among most of the people in our country. Let us build on that feeling!




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