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Friday, November 20, 2009

Stress...The White Plague

The new social rituals forming around H1N1 are incredible. People are confused about whether to shake hands, bottles of anti-bacterial gel everywhere and you may have seen that look of shame and guilt on people's faces as they cough or sneeze worried that people may label them as "infected". I can't help but wonder what things must have been like during the time of a really dangerous pandemic like the Black Plague. Imagine how every facet of life was impacted as millions became infected.

I see H1N1 as the first successfully "branded" disease of our time, they tried with the Bird Flu and that was pretty well done but nothing compared to the Swine Flu and then of course H1N1. It seems people of our generation are more responsive to a technical term than to animal-based nomenclature. As a former advertising executive I have a fondness for effective advertising although the novelty wears off when I see such blatant disregard for the fundamentals of health as I am witnessing in this day and age.

You may not even realize but there is another global pandemic that is affecting many, many more people than the latest and greatest H1N1. In fact, it contributes to the death of 4 times more people than all the deaths related to influenza and pneumonia combined, according to the Center for Disease Control. The World Health Organization identified STRESS as a global pandemic years ago. The real problem seems to be one of marketing. People do not realize that STRESS KILLS. In fact, I gave a presentation on stress just yesterday and it is amazing how people cling to their stress. People think that if we ever took it from them they would be unproductive couch potatoes, the lowest of the low in our culture.

I think we need to re-brand STRESS to something more flashy, more deadly, perhaps THE WHITE PLAGUE. The all-caps thing can be effective too until we get a funky, ominous but fresh logo. The WHITE PLAGUE is here and the scary and yet attractive characteristic from a marketing perspective is that everyone is a carrier for this disease. You can look at a room and tell them straight up that 25% of every person there will be helped to the grave by the WHITE PLAGUE of stress. We don't even have to make up statistics, just share them with people.

Of course we would need to create an expensive vaccination because just letting people know the incomprehensible power of simple breath-awareness would never fly. People need big-budget marketing and spoon-feeding by Big Pharma. I am sure we could create a placebo vaccination in the form of an inhaler to combat the WHITE PLAGUE we could name it DBN (Deep Breath Now) and make billions. Even better we could create a sugar pill that melts on your tongue but takes a couple of minutes and we could put on the label that you must remain relaxed and aware as the pill dissolves on your tongue. If your attention wanders a toxin is created that can do more harm than good. Is it ethical to scare people into mindfulness? Fear, it seems, is the only thing that motivates our culture. We could call this special tablet XALER...get it?

Well, I may not have the attention span for this marketing push but you can do your part by beginning to honor the role of relaxation and mindfulness in your own life. Observe the play of stress and try to educate your children on relaxation and mindfulness. Of course, the most effective way to educate the little ones is by example. There is no easy way out except the easy way in...through the breath.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

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