Stress can be a mess! Stress is one of those things that each of us deals with, or has dealt with at some point or another. It’s actually a normal physical response to things that frighten us, alarm us, cause us to feel threatened or takes our lives off balance. In some emergency cases, stress can save our lives by allowing us to kick into defense, such as in the case of preventing an accident. Stress goes to the core of our physical, mental and emotional state and can hurt if not kept in check. Triggers can be anything from financial woes, spiritual/emotional problems, loss, health issues, concerns about the future, job struggles, relationship challenges, children, parents, spouses and everything and everyone in between. The symptoms or side effects can be anything from headaches, chest tightening, “funny” feelings in the stomach, hives, dizziness, sweaty palms, dry mouth, nervousness, anger, hostility, irrational behavior, poor judgment, mood swings, appetite changes, digestive problems, insomnia, crying, irritability, depression, increased heart rate, and so on and so on and so on.
Lately, I’ve heard of too many people I know and love grappling with the effects of stress courtesy of this thing called life. It saddens me, and in all honesty, is a personal stress trigger when I see those I care for under the influence of stress. I despise the harmful, hurtful, hindering effects of stress! I really do! (Now let me take a deep breath as I type, so I don’t start feeling all “funny” in the stomach because I’m becoming stressed thinking about what others are going through.)
So what do we do about it? Glad you asked, because I don’t have all the answers. What I do know, is that in 2002 I became ill and was diagnosed in 2003 with a disease called Hyperthyroidism which lead to Graves Disease which lead to a potentially fatal Thyroid Storm which lead to the doctors and me not knowing if I was going to come out of this whirlwind of medical madness alive or altered. One of the key factors I had to avoid and MUST avoid to this day is stress. Why? Because stress is a mess! That one single experience and the years following have taught me many lessons, some of which I’m still in “class” digesting. I learned what was important. I learned who and what pushed my buttons. I learned how stress can lead to life-threatening illness. I learned how stress can stop you completely in your tracks. I learned what stress does to the spirit, soul and body. I learned how stress can try to tear apart families. I learned how I am responsible for doing whatever I have to do to preserve this precious life God granted me. I learned the power of the word of God over stress. I learned how some human beings are assigned as angels on earth to help each other during stressful times. And I learned that a life of stress does not have to be my final destination.
How to handle stress:
• Know what God says about you, and the problems you’re facing. His scriptures ALWAYS have an answer to your situation. Use it before you lose it (by lose it, I mean lose your mind.)
• Take a break. Vacations, naps, times of rest or reflection are key to coping with stress. Light candles. Have fun. Go to a spa. Take a day off. Read a book. Laugh at a joke. Exercise. Learn a hobby. Play a sport. Cook a meal. Volunteer. Do whatever you have to do to step away from the situation so you can see things clearly and deal with them rather than them dealing with you.
• Know your personal stress triggers. When you know what pushes your buttons you are then charged with avoiding them, or addressing them quickly, and healthily when they arise.
• Say NO. Sometimes overdoing it isn’t the way to do it.
• Pray. God knows, hears and cares. Talk to him about what you’re dealing with so that His spirit can speak back reminding you of Who ultimately has the final say-so…even over stress.
• Let nothing or no one steal your sleep. Commit to giving yourself the rest you need. You deserve it.
• Surround yourself with positive people. Nothing positive comes from negative. Be with and around people who can uplift you.
• Surround yourself with positive influences. Listen to inspirational music, place notes, memos, “post-its” or whatever you need wherever you need it to keep your thoughts on things that are Godly and good.
• Seek spiritual and professional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
• Don’t disconnect. When you’re facing tough situations stay in touch with those who love and support you.
• Speak on it. Don’t bottle up your feelings or emotions. Deal with them in a healthy and proactive way.
• Remember your resume. Think about all the other things in life you’ve overcome knowing that what you’re in now can and will soon be over.