Dr. Maria D. Reyes
One of the main problems plaguing people today is a high level of stress and poor stress management. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress levels of people all over the world, and 2020 is also stressful because of the presidential election and racial tension experienced in our country.
Many different things can cause stress, and when mishandled, it can lead to detrimental mental and physical health effects. There are effective ways to manage one’s stress, and it is not something that can be ignored. One’s life may depend on it.
What is stress?
“Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress [eustress] can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time [distress], it may harm your health.” (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm)
Stress is distinct from anxiety in that anxiety remains after a stressor (or a trigger of stress) is gone. Anxiety is associated with excessive worry and panic attacks. Stress can be chronic, a never-ending tension, or acute, only lasting a short time.
Common triggers of stress
There is the tension of upended routines, schedules, virtual learning and financial difficulties. There is also the tension of worrying about the virus itself, not knowing if it is safe to go somewhere or give a hug. This stress is communally experienced.
This is one of the top triggers of stress for people. When finances are unstable, people worry about paying bills and taking care of necessities. Bills keep coming in, and sometimes people are unable to meet the demands. Providing for one’s self or one’s family is a high charge for anyone, and that responsibility is stressful.
Spending many hours a week with people who are hard to get along with or working for a boss who overworks can be highly stressful situations. Another workplace scenario could be working for a boss who does not ensure job security or underpays.
Workplace stress is some of the hardest to manage because one is not able to do all of the normal stress-relieving activities at work, such as exercise, yoga, time with companions, being outside, etc.
Medical ProblemsWhen someone is diagnosed with a serious or terminal condition, stress increases and it can make the conditions worse. People do not know what to expect, what their future holds, how they will pay their medical bills, and how to keep up with treatment. It also can cause stress for one’s family.
Infidelity, betrayal, and high levels of conflict are some of the relational problems that can lead to high levels of stress. If someone does not have a strong support system, these relational problems can be debilitating. Relational problems can bring stress because broken relationships lead to broken and hurt people.
Natural disasters, abuse, combat, and major accidents can bring on stress, sometimes stress that lasts a long time or presents as post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative identity disorder. Trauma can produce severe amounts of stress because of the intense physical and emotional pain one has to endure in traumatic situations.
Changing seasons, moving to a new place, graduating, starting a new job, becoming a parent are some examples of transitions that can bring on a bit of stress. Transitions can produce stress because of the new things one has to learn and the old things one has to leave and the unknown of what is to come.
BusynessOver-Scheduling can lead to so much preventable stress. In America, schedules are filled to the max and overflowing, that is not how God intended life to be. He modeled rest with the Sabbath, but people think that it is necessary to tell their boss they can repeatedly work overtime, let their children do every extracurricular activity, or volunteer too much at church. This will lead to burnout.
Community or political tension
Racial violence and discrimination, elections, and polarized groups inundate the news and social media world today. It produces so many unique forms of stress depending on the people and the situation.
Common Signs of Stress
Stress can manifest itself in different ways for different people, but some of the most common signs of too much stress are:
- Poor sleep patterns
- Muscle tension
- Heart racing
- Lethargic or little energy
- “Brain fog” or difficulty concentrating
- Poor anger management
- Upset stomach
- Headaches or other body aches
- Sexual difficulties
The effects of stress on the body
Stress can lead to several physical issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic pain
- Recurrent migraines
- Recurrent gastrointestinal issues
- Lung disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Chest pain
The effects of stress on mental health
Stress can exponentially affect one’s mental health in serious ways. It can lead to deeper seasons of depression, higher and sometimes debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, manic episodes, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and suicidal ideation. This is another reason why it is invaluable to get stress in check.
Simple Stress Management Techniques
Ask for Help
If your stress is leading to serious mental health issues, among other things, it is vital to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can teach you ways to manage it effectively based on your specific situation. Another way to ask for help is to simply utilize the community in your life – close friends and family, church family, and spiritual leaders.
People will not know you are stressed and struggling if you do not tell them, and they will not always know how to help you unless you verbalize those needs. No one was made to go through the difficulties of life alone.
The number one thing recommended by doctors to people with medical issues exacerbated by stress is exercise. Take regular walks around a local park, down your street, or in the neighborhood. Work in more high-intensity cardio or low intensity, like yoga. Exercise can have unlimited positive effects on one’s body and mind because of the endorphins released. Make exercise a weekly priority to be able to manage stress.
Prioritize healthy rhythmsGetting your needs met and regularly meeting the needs of others helps to reduce tension and stress. Consider your physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational needs. Are those needs being met? What do you need to do to get them met? Consider the needs of your loved ones. What do you need to do to help meet them?
Whether it is silent prayer, the Lord’s prayer, praying a psalm, or singing, prayer is a powerful tool in the battle against stress. There is a peace that comes in the soul during prayer that is unexplainable. When is the last time you regularly spent time in prayer? How can you begin to incorporate it more into daily routines?
Meditation and mindful awareness
This could be Scripture meditation, listening to the Bible read over you, or sitting in stillness and noticing what is going on in your body and mind. There is no judgment in this practice – it is simply being present with yourself and with God, noticing what you see and feel. This practice can still a busy and loud mind. It can bring a sense of calm over you, almost as if you are releasing the stress built up.
Take a break from social media and the news
Two words come to mind…digital detox! This is an important practice to implement because it can do wonders in reducing stress and anxiety alike.
Follow up with your doctor
Continue taking your medication as prescribed and see your doctor regularly. They will be able to help treat any physical symptoms that you may have.
Christian Counseling for Stress Management
If you’re looking for additional assistance implementing effective stress management strategies in yoru life, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the other counselors listed in the counselor directory. We would be happy to help!
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