Are you stressed out? We’re beginning a new series on Stress this Sunday November! Stress was our 3rd most asked for series topic from our annual Message Survey after forgiveness and anger. Be watching for the print version of our Message Survey to be in programs soon. Or to take a short, anonymous online survey, just click here.
Since stress is such a huge topic, we will tackle it on Sundays over the next five weeks plus I will keep lots of information on this blog. We’ll start now with what is stress, what causes it and how does it affect us.
We generally use the word “stress” when we feel that everything seems to have become too much – we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.
Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses get you going and they are good for you – without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when the stresses undermine both our mental and physical health they are bad. We will be focusing on stress that is bad for you.
What are the causes of stress?
We all react differently to stressful situations. What one person finds stressful another may not at all. Almost anything can cause stress and it has different triggers. For some people just thinking about something can cause stress.
The most common causes of stress are:
- Bereavement (loss of anything)
- Family problems (conflict, misunderstanding, divorce, etc)
- Financial matters
- Job issues
- Lack of time
The following are also causes of stress
- Becoming a mother or a father
- Conflicts in the workplace
- Driving in bad traffic
- Fear of crime or loss
- Losing your job
- Noisy neighbors
- Too much noise
- Uncertainty (awaiting laboratory test results, academic exam results, job interview results, etc)
It is possible that a person feels stressed and no clear cause is identified. A feeling of frustration, anxiety and depression can make some people feel stressed more easily than others.
How we respond to stress affects our health
1. We do not all interpret each situation in the same way.
2. Because of this, we do not all call on the same resources for each situation
3. We do not all have the same resources and skills.
Some situations which are not negative may still be stressful. It’s because we think we are not completely prepared to cope with them effectively. Examples being: having a baby, moving to a nicer house, and being promoted. All are wonderful things but are still sources of stress.
It is important to learn that what matters more than the event itself is usually our thoughts about the event when we are trying to manage stress.
*How you see that stressful event will be the largest single factor that impacts on your physical and mental health. Your interpretation of events and challenges in life may decide whether they are invigorating or harmful for you.
A persistently negative response to challenges will eventually have a negative effect on your health and happiness. Experts say people who tend to perceive things negatively need to understand themselves and their reactions to stress-provoking situations better. Then they can learn to manage stress more successfully.
Some of the effects of stress on your body, your thoughts and feelings, and on your behavior:
Effect on your body
- A tendency to sweat
- Back pain
- Chest pain
- Childhood obesity – researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published a report in Pediatricsin October 2012 explaining that a number of stressors from parents can increase the risk of obesity in their children. Lead researcher, Elizabeth Prout-Parks, M.D., said “Stress in parents may be an important risk factor for child obesity and related behaviors. The severity and number of stressors are important.”
Examples of stressors include mental health problems, poor physical health, financial strain, and trying to manage in a single-parent household.
- Cramps or muscle spasms
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fainting spells
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Loss of libido
- Lower immunity against diseases
- Muscular aches
- Nail biting
- Nervous twitches
- Sleeping difficulties
- Stomach upset
Effect on your thoughts and feelings
- Feeling of insecurity
- Problem concentrating
Effect on your behavior
- Eating too much
- Eating too little
- Food cravings
- Sudden angry outbursts
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Higher tobacco consumption
- Social withdrawal
- Frequent crying
- Relationship problems
Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress listed above can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.
How do you respond to stress?
It’s important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feels familiar even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll.
Another problem is that often our ways of coping with stress can be unhealthy, unproductive and compounds our problems.
The first step in reducing stress is recognizing that you have stress and how it may be affecting you. The next step that we will look at in the next blog post is our responses, good and bad. Then future blog posts will examine some practical strategies.
Two of the best overarching strategies of dealing with stress is first, our attitude and second our support system. Our faith will hugely impact both! That is why I want to encourage you to pray, asking God to help you and speak to you and attend the series Less Stress. We cannot handle stress alone, thankfully we don’t have to.
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