Stress is a person’s physical and emotional response to change. It allows us to respond and adapt to changes and challenges in our environment. No one is exempt from stress which can come from either good or bad life events.
Most of the time stress can be dealt with by taking action or just simply making a few changes, but sometimes life situations and our emotions keep us from acknowledging and addressing the stress we feel. When stress is not dealt with, it becomes chronic stress that over time can be overwhelming and can endanger our physical and mental well-being.
Possible Effects of Stress
- Cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke
- A suppressed immune system
- Slow wound-healing
- Herpes outbreak
- Irritable bowel syndrome attacks
- Decreased interest in intimacy
- Asthma attacks
- Blood pressure elevations
- Increased chronic pain
- Psychosomatic complaints
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in eating patterns
- Teeth grinding
- Irritability or impatience
- Crying over minor incidents
- Dread of going to work or school
- Increased muscular tension in such places as the jaw, neck, back or shoulders
- Digestive problems
- Shallow breathing and/or constant sighing
- Cold or sweaty palms
How to Handle Stress
- Determine whether a concern is real or imagined. Many people are worried and anxious about events that may or may not ever happen to them. Try to relax and focus on today rather than the uncertain future. Take life one day at a time. Reassure yourself that God will take care of you no matter what happens.
- Make sure you are taking care of yourself.
- Get enough rest. Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep a day. If you are suffering from insomnia, let your physician and others know you need help.
- Eat well. Even if you don’t feel hungry, take time out to eat something to keep up your strength.
- Exercise. Medical studies show that physical activity can help lower anxiety. If you are healthy enough to exercise on a regular basis, do so. Brisk walks, running, swimming or other activities can reduce your stress significantly.
- Talk to someone. Don’t hold all your feelings inside. Talking with someone who will listen and not judge you will bring you relief. Seek out a friend, relative, minister or counselor. If your stress and anxiety are an ongoing problem in your life, schedule a regular time each week to vent your emotions and thoughts with someone you trust.
- Take action. Try not to let your feelings paralyze you into inaction. If there is something practical and wise that you can do to alleviate the problem or avoid potential danger, take action. Procrastination will only raise your stress and anxiety levels.
- Relax. Listen to soothing music. Take breaks often during the day to just close your eyes and breathe deeply. Reading scriptures and other inspirational material or listening to Christian speakers and teachers can change your focus and calm your fears.
- Have fun. Do something that you enjoy. It is good to get some recreation on a routine basis. Also pamper yourself occasionally.
- Take care of your spiritual life. Sometimes fear and anxiety result because of a neglected spiritual life. Prayer, devotional time and a re-dedication to spiritual matters can be stress and anxiety relievers. Spend time with God, His Word and His people.
- Seek and follow professional advice. You may need to see a mental health professional and/or a physician. Sometimes the help will come in the form of supervised medication to deal with your anxiety and stress. Many times counseling will help.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT
For more information or to set up an appointment with a Christian counselor to talk about how stress is affecting your life or someone you care about, call CounselingWorks at 972-960-9981.