Stressful Life? Problems in the world, health, marriage, kids?
Living in a stressful world
We live stressful lives. Our days are packed with problems, activities, work, kids, events and functions. I ran into a friend of mine who has three children and she told me about all of the activities and events she's involved with on a regular basis. Many of these take place on the weekend. She works a full-time job, raises three kids, and is active in the business community. While she shared her schedule, what I wasn't hearing was a time in her schedule that allowed for a moment to relax.
We have all heard of the "fight or flight" stress
reaction. This is an immediate response in us that tells us to run away, or
stand and battle it out. Stress causes:
- Release of hormones.
- Rapid heartbeat and respiration.
- Increase in how much blood pumps into your heart and other muscles that have now tightened up with tension.
- Heightened energy and strength.
How stress affects the body
While the "fight or flight" response can save our lives when we're in danger, other situations that have little to do with a threat on our life, such as a hurried lifestyle, anger, or emotional upset, can cause these same symptoms. When this happens, the body attacks itself.
Stress can bring on health problems:
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive disorders
- Headaches and migraines
- Back pain
- Reduced immunity to infections
- High blood pressure
- Chemical imbalance that may contribute to cancer
- Heart disease
The effect of stress on our emotions
Back to my friends stressful life-
She called with a problem that seemed impossible to solve. It was actually a very benign and simple issue. To her, however, it was "more than she could take". The reason small problems become big is due to the weight of all the other things we are piling on to it. Ever hear of "the straw that broke the camels back?"
I know it is cliché, but it paints the picture so well. When we live in a constant state of stress, it takes very little to break us. We are not able to carry any more weight. We begin to react in ways not in line with the situation.
We may cry more, or lash out at people. We may internalize and have stomach and fatigue problems. We tend to fight more or micro-manage.
How to change our stress response
The very first thing to do is make a complete stress list of all the things in life that feel upsetting to you. This list needs to include everything you--
- Worry about
- Afraid of
- Tired of
- Wish were different
- Sad about
- Crazy about
- Angry about
- Disgusted with
- Ashamed of
- Fed up with
- Had it up to here with
- Unfortunate circumstance
- I can't believe it
- What are we going to do?
- How can we possibly
- What will happen
- How do people do that
- Why do bad things happen
There are a bunch more, but you get the idea. This list will likely be very long. Some things may be silly and others may be tragic. The main thing is not to leave anything off. No one but you will see this list.
Stress response - what do you control?
Now take your list and put a check by each item you have the ability to change. Go ahead, do it now, I'll wait for you.
Got it done?
OK, now take a look at the things that you can't control, change or do one darn thing about. These are probably the things that are causing you the most stress in your life. Is that right?
Now ask yourself, can I bring world peace? Can I feed all the starving children in China? Can I make the economy better? Can I protect my children from every harm that may come to them? Can I make my husband, wife, mother, father, child, best friend, neighbor--change? The answer to each of these is NO.
These things are out of our control and there is very little to be done other than accept this is how it is. You can still enjoy your life despite these things that are impacting your feelings, but you have no power to change the situation. You only have the power to change how you feel.
These are the things that you can let go of right now.
Stress response - what can I change?
Now look back at your list at the things you can change. Is your schedule so full (like my friend) that you have no moment for peace? Do you need to make personal changes or lifestyle changes? Pick the one thing that will have the greatest return on your investment.
It's kind of like paying off credit cards. you tackle one at a time, choosing the highest interest and lowest balance card to pay extra on each month. When that one is paid off, you now have more to spend on the next one. And so on, and so on...until you are debt free.
The same principal works with stress. You chip away at it by getting rid of the smallest irritant first. This will give you extra energy to tackle the next one. Until finally, all your energy is going towards that big monster that masters you.
Positive stress message
Jesus said to his followers:
John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
May you live in peace my friend.
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