Resource blogger Donatella Gasparro shares her thoughts on the Surf your Stress project. 'Do we need more awareness? Not at all, not here. Before moving to the Netherlands, I had never even heard of burn-outs. But here stress is what everyone talks about.'
© Sven Menschel
Cardboard hand-made surf boards invaded campus the past few weeks and shiny adverts popped on posters, narrowcasting, university magazines. Dames en heren, WUR launched a ‘major stress project’, Surf your Stress! I wish I was as excited as they are.
I had already been exposed to the Surf your Stress adverts and already approached with stress balls (which I personally find more stress-provoking than stress relieving), but the last two Resource editions were the ultimate trigger for my attention (once more) to this apparently hip topic - and I promise to myself this is the last blog I write about stress.
“Stress is still something people find hard to talk about” I read on the latest Resource. I’m sorry, but no. Not at all, not here. Stress is what everyone talks about: awareness is not needed I am afraid; we’re all very much aware of our stress, thank you. Before moving to the Netherlands, I had never even heard of burn-outs and my mum still does not understand what they actually are. And maybe that’s for the better, for if you don’t know it you cannot really have it.
Another objective of this ‘major stress project’ is to help students ‘cope with stress’. My interpretation: “oh poor thing, you’re stressed? Here’s how you can deal with it yourself, good luck.” That’s what Surf your Stress sounds like: a band aid. Another palliative solution that addresses symptoms and not root causes. It’s so beautiful to see reports blooming on systems thinking and system approaches being praised all over, while their application so consistently fails, or is, to be fair, not even attempted. In addition, students are not the only ones suffering from stress. Teaching staff is also, or even more, understandably affected by the systematised stress of the academic environment.
The thing is: we don’t need a stress awareness week as much as we don’t need an Earth day or a Women’s day. We don’t need to acknowledge problems we’ve been acknowledging for quite some time already. We don’t need pity nor quick fixes that postpone solutions. We don’t need nudging nor hiding the dirt under the carpet anymore. What we need are deep, radical, system changes.