THE BLOG

Do People Really Have a Right Not to Experience Stress?

01/04/2015 12:20 BST | Updated 31/05/2015 10:59 BST

I believe we live in a time, within the UK especially, where we enjoy a quantity and quality of life opportunities and experiences that are greater as a whole than in any time in history when we take into account a whole range of factors. Technology alone has continuously changed and improved our lives at increasingly greater speed, endlessly providing us with opportunities and experiences our previous generations would find unimaginable. Socially, we have more rights as individuals and society has as a whole a greater acceptance of the diversity of mankind.

But I would like to suggest that there is one right some people appear to be demanding that will always be impossible to achieve without curbing the freedoms we enjoy, and that is the right not to experience stress. What I mean is I believe that some people assume it is the responsibility of the government and other bodies to eliminate factors in people's lives that cause them stress, where stress can be seen as the emotional and often physical effects of difficult situations.

The third certainty in life, behind death and taxes, is that things are going to go wrong and probably when you least expect it. And when one thing goes wrong, it is likely to cause a domino effect for a whole raft of other things to go wrong. If someone is in a car accident on the way to an airport to go on holiday, they are going to miss the flight and the holiday, although their priority has to be their health. Depending on how serious the accident is, their life could be turned upside down with bills not paid, appointments missed and so on.

Eventually you would hope they will get things sorted and their travel insurance will reimburse them for the holiday, unpaid bills will be settled and normality will resume even if it has changed. But this may take time and I believe there is probably very little anyone can do to avoid the stress caused by unexpected accidents. Airlines and tour operators can not spend all day checking if their passengers are in car accidents to be ready to refund them before the ambulance arrives or delay the plane indefinitely. Service providers expecting to be paid can not read our minds if our circumstances mean we can not communicate with them, especially when they are not exactly a priority.

But when I read some of the articles about how DWP is failing welfare claimants, the media seems to be demanding that they work miracles. If someone is required to attend a meeting and for some unforeseen reason they can not attend nor communicate with DWP for a specific period, in the name of fairness to the rules they will be sanctioned, because by not communicating so far, they have acted in the same way as someone just refusing to attend. It is hoped that it will all come right in the wash when people have recovered and can appeal, but their immediate health must always be a priority.

The onset of sickness and impairment are always going to be stressful by their very nature as immediate priorities means less immediately important things will get lost or forgotten. The state and others can not pander to a 'what if' culture that will result in everyone being put in drugged induced comas as the best method of avoiding any kind of risk. This is certainly not how I wish to live my life.

I believe humankind has strived because of having to deal with stress and hardship, in a way many of us can never imagine, not despite of it. We have advanced because people were willing to take risks and suffer the consequences. A world without stress is a world without freedom, and it would be very wrong to try to eliminate stress as a goal for society.