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A Year On Edge

Welcome to On Edge, a series about the stress we're all experiencing right now, and how to live with it.

ByAnkita RaoandRajul Punjabi

Lia Kantrowitz

This has been quite a year. In just 12 months, the illusion of a certain world order has been upended. These days the scandals have high stakes: Did Russia tamper with 2016 US elections? How worried should we be about North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Is there any industry void of rampant sexual assault? Which political party is more corrupt?

With the rapid, unfettered sharing of this information, it’s no surprise that we are stressed the fuck out. Young people these days have been called a bunch of snowflakes, but we’re living longer on a planet that is becoming increasingly difficult to live on, and that friction is inevitable.

Our healthcare system is broken, climate change is tangibly destroying the places people live, and the likelihood of a straight career trajectory is low. We are the first generation in recent memory to suffer worse poverty and unemployment than our parents, thanks in part to crippling student debt. Meanwhile, minorities—whether they are LGBTQ, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, or any combination of the above—are trying to shield themselves from a fresh hell.

The numbers are further proof: More than 16 million people in the US suffer from depression every year, 40 million from anxiety, and therapists say mental health issues are only on the rise. Most people are diagnosed in the critical years between childhood and middle age, and severe depression has been worsening for young people every year. Economic stress is also increasingly palpable, with the gap between the income stratas widening.

So Motherboard and Tonic wanted to investigate more specifically why this is happening, and how to react and adapt. What follows is a collection of stories that reflect the different textures and types of stress that we’re experiencing, whether debilitating panic attacks to a low-grade, daily agitation. And there’s a range of reasons: from living in an astronomically expensive city and dealing with problematic work environments to trying to protect your immigration status.

There are also stories about how to cope. It’s not likely that we’ll stop working crazy hours, cheating sleep, and we’re not going to deactivate our Twitter accounts. We need realistic ways of preserving our mental and physical wellbeing—we need strategies to make us resilient. And those might come in peculiar forms, like drone therapy, urban planning, spirituality, or changing where we choose to live.

Many of our experts tell us that finding the right cocktail of coping mechanisms is an individualized process—sometimes we’ll need action and at other times, stillness. The stories here will reflect that balance, examining the systems that are screwing us over in order to help us figure out how to work these very systems to our advantage.

Stress is real, it’s here, and it might be worse than ever for many of us. We wanted to break it down, dissect it and figure out exactly how to move forward.

Follow On Edge here for stories about stress in 2017.