This is the first in a series of posts on stress, the causes and management in life, work, family, and ministry.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31
Stress is the response of the total makeup of an individual (spirit, soul, and body) to the push and pull of day-to-day living. During this process, chemicals called hormones are released by the body. They include adrenaline, noradrenaline (norepinephrine), and cortisol. These and their byproducts can accumulate in the system and cause various illnesses. If the rate of elimination of these hormones and their byproducts is less than the rate of accumulation, then illness occurs.
Stress is a major predisposing factor to a lot of illnesses and social vices. The irony is that very few people know that they are stressed. And those who know are ashamed to discuss it; even if they do, they are hardly understood.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue really is how to manage it.”
Extrapolating this a little further, stress is also like the pressure in a vehicle tyre: too little and the vehicle will not run fast and fuel consumption will increase; too much will cause the tyre will burst.
- Eustress: Which is a positive cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of hope, meaning or vigour, life satisfaction and well-being.
- Distress: This has a negative connotation. It is usually persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation.
Eustress, even though is perceived as positive, might become deleterious or harmful if it accumulates over time without respite.
Rev Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish preacher (1813–1843) who died from exhaustion at 30 years of age, said on his dying bed, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver. Alas, I have killed the horse and cannot deliver the message.“
The wife of John G. Lake died in South Africa from stress and malnutrition. Her children refused to become Christians because they said, “The God who couldn’t take care of our mother while our father was serving Him is not reliable.”
So Eustress might be psychologically beneficial based on the joy we derive from what we are doing. Physiologically, the consequences might have very grave effects over a sustained period of time.
Relating it to Ministry and Christians, it means that we might feel fulfilled that what we are doing is beneficial to the Kingdom of God and have a great expectation of a reward in heaven, but we must strike a balance because of our health, earthly responsibilities, and the consequences of premature death or prolonged illness like diabetes, cancer, and stroke on those around us, financially and emotionally.
Stress is known to cause health problems such as headaches, back pains, abdominal ulcers, hypertension, and anxiety neurosis. It can also result in breakdown in relationships as a result of transferred aggression and depression, excessive eating which can lead to obesity, alcoholism and the consequences, drug abuse, and sometimes suicide, like in Japan. Stress is also known to depress the immune system and can lead to various diseases from skin diseases to even cancer. Stress is also responsible for executive fatigue syndrome and burnout.
According to Melinda Smith and Robert Segal, stress management refers to the wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person’s level of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of improving everyday functioning.
Medical experts on stress believe that we should make the daily practice of stress management a priority in our lives. It can be likened to constantly bailing water from a canoe in rough waters.
In the next post, we’ll consider various causes of stress.
God Bless You.