Uncertainty is common nowadays. On a global level, issues such as climate change, the proliferation of armed conflicts, natural disasters and new forms of work have caused some authors to call it “the era of too much uncertainty.” If we think about it at the local level, the economic crisis, the lack of work and the lack of clarity in the political-social scenario, make our context more uncertain than in other countries.
For years, uncertainty has been considered a source of stress in the mental sciences. A high level of uncertainty is associated not only with a worse quality of life but also with many mental health problems: depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.
As noted in a recent review of the topic published in the Journal of Mental Health, most studies have examined the relationship between uncertainty and health in a medical context (the impact that uncertainty has on diagnosis and disease prognosis was assessed). mental health of patients, or after natural disasters or economic or social crises). A study recently published by Bae showed that, for example, after the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, Google searches for terms like “depression” or “stress” increased.
Although it is necessary to continue investigating the subject, in all cases, the two variables seem to go together: the higher the level of uncertainty, the greater the impact on mental health. In other words, uncertainty, with the feeling of lack of control, the threat of losing valued things or changes in life, are situations that everyone considers stressful.
Stress is a normal reaction of the body to respond to demands and changes in the environment. In the right measure, and to better face challenges, it makes us more attentive, productive and focused.
The problem appears when it is known that the changes demanded by the environment are more than the resources that people believe they have to deal with. In these situations, pathological distress or stress appears, which is undoubtedly a problem in itself and can cause the development of various conditions that affect our mental health.
In Argentina, in these times, with this economic and political uncertainty, it is expected that we will see higher levels of stress and it is time to be more attentive than ever to our mental health. Doing physical exercise, eating healthy, taking care of our rest time, cultivating our bonds, doing things that make us happy, are factors to protect against stress.
Eliminating or reducing stress-causing stimuli and increasing positive stimuli can help. In addition, it is useful to imitate the methods of breathing, relaxation or mindfulness and to be aware of the symptoms of distress, which can be very different: from physical (contractures, muscle tension, stomach problems) to mental and emotional (such as reduced memory)., the ability to focus or irritability).
When these symptoms appear, let’s remember that there are mental health specialists who have effective strategies to better deal with the situation that unfortunately we have to go through today.
María Roca is the scientific coordinator of INECO Foundation and Director of INECO Organizations.