In the school of life, stress is not an elective but a compulsory course in the curriculum from the first moment till graduation in death.
Stress is the reaction of your body and brain to situations. Stress can also be defined as the consequence of a constant daily demand on your body and brain. These demands may come from expectations from family, school, work, society, traumatic event, illness, divorce, a significant life changing situation or even your personal expectations in relation to the above mentioned. To me stress begins from conception and ends at death. In other words one is certified dead when there is no more body and brain reaction to situations or demands.
Types of stress
Going by the above definition, stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress or what I called legitimate stress is needed for us to thrive. When your body and brain reaction to demands or situations is greater than the demands or situations, then that is legitimate or positive stress. Example: a baby rotating in the womb, the new born reacting to its new environment by crying and stretching, or your ability to perform your daily task without exhaustion. Situations like child birth, acquiring a new property, getting your dream job or a promotion, getting married or pleasure travel can produce positive stress. A positive stress leads to growth and development. It motivates, keeps you alert and prepared to fight or flight. When the demands or situations are greater than your body and brain response, it is known as negative stress. Examples of such are the very things we face every day that we cannot respond to their demands fully or adequately. A negative stress weighs one down. It makes you overworked, and puts a strain on your physical, mental and emotional abilities. This write up will focus on negative stress which will just be called stress.
Stress can be minor or major and it affects everyone and affects your physical and health as well. Untreated stress can lead to a life time mental, emotional and physical disorders.
Symptoms of stress
Mental and emotional symptoms
Loss of concentration
Anger and growing frustration
Weight loss or obesity
Loss of libido
Nervousness, sweaty or cold palms and feet
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Diarrhea, nausea or constipation
Weakness or apathy
Tensed or painful muscles
High blood pressure
Loss of or increased appetite
Biting of nails
Increased dependence on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes
Effect of stress
Untreated chronic stress can cause the following disease and disorders:
Cardiovascular disease, such as, high blood pressure, abnormal rhythm of the heart, heart attacks, and stroke
Sexual dysfunction such as loss of libido, premature ejaculation, impotency and lack of erection
Mental health disorders, such as depression, withdrawal from people, nightmares, and anxiety
Gastrointestinal disorders such as peptic ulcer disease like stomach ulcer
Menstrual disorders like irregular menstruation, amenorrhea
Obesity and other eating disorders
Hair loss and skin problems, such as acne
Management of stress
Stress can be managed in the following ways:
After creation, God in Gen. 2:2 “rested from all his work” although he did not rest because he was tired since he “neither faints nor is weary” Is. 40:28. The Israelites were commanded in Ex.23:12 to “rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed”. Even “the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest” Lev. 25:4 the Israelites were told.
Jesus also asked his disciples to take a rest when he said “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31
Rest is very important. You must understand that with or without you, the work must be done. It won’t take a long time and you will be replaced should you die due to stress. Do not postpone that holiday especially with your family or loved ones. Take it. Take time away from the city and admire the nature. Visit the stream or river just to watch it flow. No matter how important or influential you are, take time to play. So as rule No. 1, relax, take a rest.
- Eat well
In 1Kings19:3, Elijah was overwhelmed, depressed and withdrawn, typical symptoms of stress and he prayed and wished for death. While he went to sleep, “an angel touched him and told him, ‘Get up and eat’” 1Kings 19:5
God did not wake Elijah up to a sermon or a reprimand or a new assignment. Twice he woke him up to eat and sleep! Eating a balanced diet is essential in dealing with chronic stress. Oranges, banana, spinach, fatty fish, eggs, avocado, almond, carrots, milk, nuts, water, whole grain carbohydrates and others can help you counter the impact of stress. Avoid late night eating and cookies and potato chips if necessary. Avoiding Coffee or Caffeinated drinks after midday will be a great idea otherwise it will interfere in your sleep.
Alcohol depending on the quantity and timing can be a great contributor to more serious health challenges beside stress. Taking of alcohol in an ongoing stress condition contributes to more depression and makes it difficult to manage the stress leading to more health challenges. Remember, alcohol and drugs are bad companions when dealing with stress.
Regular exercise keeps your body fit and a fit body fight stress better. 30 minutes exercise 3 times a week will help. For married couples, sex as exercise is also a good antidote to stress. Stress we have said earlier decreases libido but your good marital relationship leading to intimacy will result to sex which releases the feel good hormone dopamine, and oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. (Sex as topic will be treated in future topics)
- Respect reality.
There are certain things, event and situations that we cannot control nor change no matter how we try. Admit this fact. Own up. What you can do, do it. What God can do, let him do it and what someone else can do let the person do it. Do not complicate things especially the things you have no control over.
- Talk to someone you trust.
This gives you the opportunity to cry, shout, laugh or think without being judged. In this way you look at your problems in a different way with someone who will respect you and your opinions without a feeling of condemnation.
- Guide your heart and your mind.
In Prov. 4:23, it is written, “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows springs of life”. Jesus again said: “Pay close attention to what you hear” Mark 4:24
What you permit to enter and settle in your heart will determine how your life will be run. The things you feed your eyes with, the movies you watch, the news and read and listen to, the books you read and the information you allow into your life will define your life positively or negatively. Today the social media and the world is filled with so much horrors. People post, share and keep gory images and videos not just to their detriment but also to the detriment of others.
- Seek medical attention
The minimum years a doctor spent in the university to study medicine is 6 years. Then there is the minimum one year internship making it 7 years. This they do just to be there for you when you are sick. Do not take that for granted. When do you need to seek for medical help? Seek for help right away if you:
-have suicidal thoughts
-are stressed and as a result you are using alcohol, drugs or substances
-feel you can no longer cope with life
There are always available resources to help you find a mental health provider. Only your doctor can prescribe anti depressives for you. Before you take any anti depressive drug, consult your doctor. Do not practice self-medication. Ignore that bottle or glass of alcohol when you are stressed. Do not inject that substance nor sniff it! It will ruin you for life!
Prayer is not what you do when all things have failed. It is what we do to keep all things from failing before and after playing our role. We all came from God and we shall return to him. Until you return to him, commit your ways and plans unto him.
Stress kills. Kill stress
I welcome all your reactions in the comment section.