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So your finally Coping with Stress

You can never avoid all stress. But you can learn dangerous stress signals.
And discover how to overcome the bad effects of distress.


THIS is an age of stress and anxiety.

Stress is not new to human experience. But we live today in an especially fast moving world where rapid changes are taking place in every facet of society.

The strains and pressures of daily living in the 20th century are steadily building up. Those who can't cope try escaping through the use of alcohol or tranquilizers. Some end it all in suicide.

Stress affects everyone. It is a problem that concerns us all. We need to know what it is. How it affects our minds and bodies. How we can cope to survive.


What Is Stress?

Not all stress is bad.

Think for a moment. Whenever the body is forced to respond to a demand exerted upon it, there is a corresponding reaction of strain and pressure. This stress cannot be avoided and is vitally necessary throughout our lives. Athletes use tension at the start of a race. Inventors and artists have attained their greatest achievements during periods of stress. Mountain climbers have reached the highest summits by straining their bodies to the peak of endurance.

But when stress is not managed and used properly, it has a harmful effect on the body. Too much stress can damage the body. This unpleasant and destructive stress is actually distress.

Disturbed by distress, the body will suffer in some way. The list of consequent mental and physical ailments aggravated by stress is already long and increasing. They include: gastric or peptic ulcers, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental breakdown, migraine headaches, diabetes, allergies, colitis and temporary diarrhea.

Stress can lead to heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and suicide. That's why it has been called the "twentieth century killer." Stress may even be linked with certain forms of cancer, according to recent evidence.

The link between mental strain and physical health is well documented in medical journals. Uncurbed emotional stress increases muscle tension and biochemical changes in the body to the point that its defenses against disease are damaged. Researchers now believe stress creates conditions in which disease takes hold.


Are You Suffering from Stress?

People don't always know when they are under stress. Even though they don't feel tense and under pressure, their body nonetheless suffers from the effects stress produces. To determine if you're suffering from stress, Dr. Frank Finnerty some years ago listed the following questions to ask yourself: (From Family Health, Nov, 1974)

  • Do minor problems and disappointments throw you into a dither?

  • Do you find it difficult to get along with people, and are people having trouble getting along with you?

  • Do the small pleasures of life fail satisfy you?

  • Are you unable to stop thinking of your anxieties?

  • Do you fear people or situations that never used to trouble you?

  • Are you suspicious of people, mistrustful of your friends?

  • Do you have the feeling of being trapped?

  • Do you feel inadequate or suffer tortures of self-doubt?

Dr. Finnerty then commented that if you answered yes to most of those questions, you may be on the road to illness unless you learn to cope better with those situations.


What Causes Stress?

Any situation that upsets our normal and peaceful life can be stressful. Economic crises, energy shortages, earthquakes, bad weather, crime problems in our neighborhood, race riots and other chaotic conditions in the world can increase stress on our lives. As the world falls apart around them, people worry about the future and wonder where the world is heading.

Three major categories of situations in life can cause stress. One is where there is a loss — of someone or something. Losing a spouse through death, divorce or separation produces the greatest amount of stress. Losing a job, a source of income or a close friend also causes stress.

Another situation is where there is a threat of some kind. It can be a threat to a person's status at work or in the community, a threat to security and health because of sickness or age. When a woman sees her beauty fade away and a man loses his strength and vitality, a stressful situation develops. If a man sees that his lifetime goals are not likely to be achieved, that threat could also become a big worry to him.

The third situation involves a major change to a person's way of life. The change can involve marital status, health, type of work or responsibilities at work, or general living conditions. Drs. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe have discovered that major changes in one's life, whether pleasant or unpleasant, all take a physical and mental toll. If several major changes take place in a short period of time, including loss and threat situations, there is a high risk of falling ill.


Learn to Live with Stress

Since we cannot avoid all stress, we need to learn to live with it. We need to learn how much stress our individual bodies can take. We need to learn to manage our lives so that the bad effects from overstress do not permanently harm our bodies. Improving our health is the first coping strategy we can use.

I t is an established fact that reasonable exercise relieves tension. Dr. Hans Selye, a leading expert on stress, found that under exercised mice withstood stress far worse than those in peak physical condition. Building up stamina is a way to survive during periods of stress.

A few exercises in the morning are mentally stimulating. Exercise outdoors when you can to get more fresh air and sunshine. More outdoor living will counteract the tension of modern city life.

Since stress burns up energy and causes fatigue, eat regular meals of nutritious food and get adequate rest. Sir Winston Churchill took naps during the day to reduce tension and refresh his body.

Taking time out for relaxation is also important. When pressures mount up, our minds need a diversion — a change of pace or scenery. We can listen to good music, but it must be melodic and harmonious to serve as a tonic for jangled nerves. Much of the loud and raucous noise labeled as music today can only increase tension.

The modern scene is vividly described by W. Phillip Keller in his book Taming Tension. "If we insist on filling our homes with mad music, if we turn up the volume until our heads throb, if we play discordant melodies with their provocative beat . . . we are bound to generate some terrible tensions. We need not be surprised if our surroundings become electric and charged with chaos, stress, and out right hostilities"

Other forms of relaxation would include reading an inspiring book, or playing games with the family or friends. When a total change of environment is possible, take a trip to the park or an area of natural beauty where you can observe the creative handiwork of God. Whatever you enjoy doing and find relaxing can be an antidote to stress.

The mind needs "quiet times" for a change of pace. Some use hobbies as a form of quiet diversion away from people and problems. Meditation and prayer in a private place are highly recommended in the Bible.

King David of ancient Israel admitted his prayers were more effective when coupled with meditation. "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches" (Psalm 63:56).

Here's another important principle: Know your strengths and weaknesses and live within your means. Trying to be like someone else causes stress if your expectations are beyond your capability to achieve. Analyze your strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Don't take on more than you can comfortably handle. Be willing to say no when your time and energy are already in full demand.

Struggling to "keep up with the Joneses" will also cause endless stress and strain. The modern misguided and misdirected "rat race" is not worth your effort, energy and economic resources. The apostle Paul's answer was, "Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5, New King James Version).

He wrote to Timothy and said, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Paul learned that whatever state he was in — whether full or hungry — he could be content and satisfied with the thought that Christ was with him to provide the strength to see him through his problems (Philippians 4:11-13).