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By David Bachelor, PhD
George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying, “Britain and America are two nations separated by the same language.” While this assertion is true at the lexicon level, the headlines this week show that on at least one issue America and Britain have the same problem even while they call it by different names. The problem: Everybody is worried.
On Valentine’s Day in the UK, the human resource newsletter HRnews had the headline, “How to Keep Employees Happy in These Turbulent Times.” The article began with an explanation of “permacrisis” which a leading British dictionary named as the word of the year for 2022. Merriam-Webster, the American dictionary equivalent, does not even recognize “permacrisis” as a word. “Permacrisis” is “an extended period of instability and insecurity.” HRnews offered ways employers could help their employees cope with the existential anxieties the employees have inside their head. The article states, “There is…a lot that employers can do to boost people’s mood.”
The British trade newsletter RetailWeek featured an upcoming event in March called, “Disrupt or Be Disrupted: The Retailers Succeeding in a Permacrisis.” Readers are told this conference will reveal. “[H]ow you too can get ahead of crises before they happen.” Successful retailers provide their store and warehouse staff with “best tools” to reduce employee stress. Panelists from leading retailers will offer techniques for businesses to thrive in these uncertain times.
On February 16th a BBC article asked, “Are Gen Z the Most Stressed Generation in the Workplace?” The piece states, “‘[P]ermacrisis’ impacts workers of all ages, yet many researchers and experts posit that Gen Z are the most stressed cohort in the workplace overall.” The key stressors listed are possible layoffs and the rising cost of living. The pandemic is cited as the root of this malaise. The author invites readers to join the stressed generation, “The fact that the youngest people in the workplace are struggling to keep their heads above water should alarm everyone.”
On this side of the pond, the mental health of Gen Z is also under scrutiny. In its February 15th edition the public relations website, PRNewswire featured the story “The CDC’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Signals a Call to Address the Growing Mental Health Crisis Among Teens.” The CDC Youth Risk survey is also the motivator of the February 18th New York Times opinion piece “American Teens Are Really Miserable. Why?” There is no mention of “permacrisis” in either article, but all the stressors mentioned in British publications are on the enemy list: Covid-related isolation, insecure employment, and hostile (i.e., competitive) work culture. The CDC report suggests the magic bullet is, “Increase access to needed services by improving school-based services and connecting youth and families to community-based sources of care.”
Jesus noted that his followers suffered from existential stress. In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained, “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25). To comfort these followers, Jesus invited his disciples to consider how God provided for other creatures living on the planet: “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single inch to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!” (Matt 6:26-29).
Whether permacrises or anxiety, Jesus provided the prescription that will work no matter which side of the Atlantic a person lives on, “Make God’s kingdom and His righteousness your first priority, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt 6:33).