Let the Word Speak!

Other Contributors

What are other contributors to stress? Here are some other factors that we’ll review:

  • Physical Stress
  • Change
  • Hassles
  • Worries
  • Resentment

Physical Stress

We tend to think of stress as a mental issue, but it is equally a physical one, not only in our reaction to stress but as a cause of stress. When we work too hard, get too little sleep, or eat and drink too much, we stress our bodies and produce both a physical consequence of the actions and an emotional stress response. Particularly, when we feel tired or sick, we cannot think as clearly, and we are more likely to dwell on negative thoughts that worsen our stress.

It is imperative that we take care of ourselves to manage our level of stress. Some of the basics include watching what we eat to avoid stimulants and depressants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. We need to avoid “difficult” foods like sugar that stimulates and fats that are difficult to digest.

Often, stress related to our physical condition is also made worse by how we think about ourselves. Our mental image of how we look or what we should be able to do may exceed our physical limitations, and the more we refuse to accept these limitations, the more we pay for it in a potential cycle of physical and emotional stress.

Change

One key source of stress for most people is change—any change—anything that differs from the expected routine. These can be things we choose, like moving to a new residence, getting a new job, or joining a new group activity. These can also be things that we do not choose, like a promotion, a new boss, or a friend that moves away.

On their Men’s Health Resource internet site (referenced below), the Rose Medical Center lists the top 20 change stressors in life. Some of these include:

1) death of a spouse
2) divorce
6) personal illness or injury
7) marriage
8) fired at work
12) pregnancy
16) change in financial state
20) mortgage or loan for a major purpose

Notice that it doesn’t matter that we consider these good or bad, they still are instances of significant change that can cause considerable stress.

These stressors are cumulative! Our ability to handle any one of these by itself is much greater than our ability to handle many. For that reason, most counsellors working with those whose spouse has died advise against moving out of the residence, even though that means that their home is filled with memories of their loved one. Notice that the combination of “good” things like getting married, moving to a new house, improving a financial condition, and changing jobs all at the same time—like my wife did when we married—can together be very stressful, even if it is all positive.

The key to managing this stress is in controlling change. We need to be aware of our limited capacity for handling change and manage to that limit. If we think of change tolerance as a bucket, we need to recognize and accept that the volume of that bucket is unlikely to change over our lifetime. Therefore, we need to keep our “bucket” at half or two-thirds full as we choose what changes to face, because we cannot know when a change will be forced on us that could use the rest of that capacity.

When we do have changes, we need to give ourselves a way of processing that change, described by the Arnot Ogden Medical Center (also referenced below) as the steps to Recover, Refocus, and Regenerate:

Recover—look for and regain a sense of balance and routine after the change, taking time to adjust to the change and giving oneself time away to cope.

Refocus—look for the “big picture” of what has happened, why, and what it might mean to us, giving ourselves the chance and the time to work through our confused and mixed emotions about the change.

Regenerate—acknowledge the stress and the effects to our bodies and minds by getting plenty of sleep and eating properly, and by increasing our emotional circle of support by connecting with new people or reinforcing old relationships.

In our belief in the power and love of God, we have the supreme Source to help us recover, in whom to trust for the “big picture,” and who promises to renew us on wings like an eagle. In Romans 8:28,31-32, Paul writes:

”And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to God’s purpose.”
”What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Hassles

So many things that cause us stress are truly small:

  • Traffic
  • Delays
  • Annoying habits of others
  • Minor failures
  • Rules and regulations

We don’t normally choose to let small items like this bother us the way they do, but if we pay attention, we’ll find personal sensitivities that provoke us to irrationally high levels of stress. When things like this “set us off,” we need to recognize the damage that we do to ourselves by unnecessary and usually unproductive stress. There are three basic steps to coping with hassles:

  • Identify it, admit it, understand our response, and face up to it
  • Consciously diffuse the stressor; for example:
    • Allow time for delays
    • Acknowledge differences in individuals
    • Consciously keep the situation in perspective
  • Make choices that avoid the stressor when practical

Worries

Somewhat like stress, there can be “good” worries and “bad” worries. If we use the term worry to mean thinking with concern about a problem, then our thinking has the real possibility of producing positive results that alleviate the worry. However, frequently worry is more emotional and less cognitive, much less apt to produce actions, and much more likely to produce sustained bad stress, reinforcing our damaging belief that we are powerless against forces that would harm us.

As one of God’s children, we are never powerless against anything, if we rely on our faith rather than our might. Jesus explained it in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:28-33:

”Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall wear. Isn’t the life more than meat, and the body more than clothing?
Consider the birds of the air: for they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor harvest into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they?
Which of you by worrying can add one inch to his stature?
And why worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they don’t toil, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
So, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is burned, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore, don’t worry, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed? For the unbelievers worry about these things, but your heavenly Father already knows that you need them.
You seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and God will provide all these things to you.”

So, when we have thoughts of worry, we need to prevent it from focusing on and perpetuating a feeling of helplessness. We need to change our thinking to initiate action against the source that could produce the desired result. As a simple example, instead of thinking “I’ll never get this work done,” think “I can complete this work if I can just…” Above all, pray, asking God to guide you to overcome that worry.

Resentment

Resentment not only poisons our relationships with others, it also produces ongoing, destructive stress within us. In the process of resentment, we cling to and relive episodes in which we believe we were wronged, and by repeatedly playing back those episodes, we put our emotions and our bodies back through those stressful situations. By harboring resentment, we guarantee that we are doing nothing constructively to alleviate and eliminate the source of that stress, so we doom ourselves to damage from a stress that we refuse to let go.

Paul gives practical advice in Ephesians 4:25-27:

”Putting away lying, and let every person speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but don’t sin, and do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, giving opportunity to the devil.”

References:
How to Fight and Conquer Stress from Rose Medical Center in Denver, CO
”Stress – Basic Concepts” article from the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, NY, no longer available online

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