Months of pandemic lockdowns, an economic crisis and necessary social upheaval are taxing each and every one of us. As Wired writer Matt Simon outlined in an article in early June, our bodies are programmed to deal with short spurts of stress. Longer hauls of strain amp up levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline and lead to a host of problems from anxiety to insomnia and—in the extreme—even Cushing’s syndrome. But we don’t have to stress out over the stress. Author and psychologist Steve Taylor writes in this issue that experiencing trauma and turmoil can lead to positive effects in some people. So-called post-traumatic growth leads nearly half of those who experience intensely stressful events to later find a new, more positive perspective on life. This transformation often includes a stark recognition of what truly matters and of what brings a sense of meaning to your existence. Despite their past hardships, those who report these positive effects feel that they end up in a better mental place than before their ordeal (see “The Coronavirus and Post-traumatic Growth”).
Elsewhere in this issue, our Beautiful Minds columnist Scott Barry Kaufman talks with philosopher and professor Robyn Repko Waller about the scientific study of human free will (see “The Neuroscience of Free Will”). And researchers at Harvard University reveal how particular language strategies can improve conversations between individuals and groups that disagree with one another (see “The Right Way to Talk across Divides”). What a welcome outcome that would be.