This is part 1 of a 5 part series. This series was written for my friends in the cardiac-rehab program at Valley Regional Hospital.
What is stress? Stress is force, pressure, or tension being applied to an object. The outside force is called a stressor. People experience stress as a physiological reaction when faced with stressors; when demands are placed upon us. Our bodies are designed to react to external pressures. When we are being stressed it is due to our internal reaction to external pressures. Our reaction is a good thing which God has designed because it helps us navigate in the world. Some stress is necessary and good because it creates a heightened awareness and a state of readiness when confronted with dangerous and challenging situations. Unnecessary stress, too much stress, or prolonged stress is not healthy. We need to know the difference between good stress and bad stress so we can reduce the bad stress.
We get “stressed out” in a myriad of ways: when we are overloaded with responsibility; when circumstances are against our favor; when relationships become difficult; when finances become problematic; when we don’t perform as we should; when we believe others expect more of us than they should or we are able; and so on.
Our body can be trained to react and respond appropriately to stressors. This is done by programming our mind. We can teach our “body control center,” our brain, to know specific external pressures are worthy of a response but other situations are nothing to get too excited about. For example, the first time driving an automobile can be a stressful experience. We can be tense, hyper-alert, experience loss of appetite, and perhaps even break a sweat. This is because we are not sure what to expect. Our body is placed on high-alert. After we gain experience with driving, we realize we know what we can expect to happen. We gain confidence. Our brain tells our body, “everything is going to be okay, relax, this is under control” (until, of course, we find ourselves in a new driving situation we haven’t experienced, like rush hour traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway in New York or being dangerously close to a semi-truck on the highway during wintry conditions). Overcoming being stressed unnecessarily is done by gaining an understanding and perspective of stress causing circumstances. Sometimes, just taking a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and reevaluate our situation is stress reducing. When we draw the deep breath, what we do is telling our mind to get a new perspective on our present circumstances.
Though the word “stress” does not appear in most English translations of the Bible, this does not mean the Bible does not teach on the subject. The Bible says a great deal about stressors, circumstances causing stress, and our reactions to those circumstances. The Bible provides instruction on how to respond to circumstances in a way to bring peace and rest from what troubles us. For example, the Bible provides pages and pages of detail on wholesome, peaceable relationships with others. The Bible teaches us a healthy perspective on material gain, possessions, and money. And, the Bible teaches about how to prioritize our life so the most important does not become overshadowed by things we can spend less time on or perhaps ignore.
Rather than present a lengthy dissertation on what the Bible teaches on every possible stress inducing circumstance, I will share a few stress relieving principles found in the Bible. Learning from these principles will give you a great start towards managing or removing unnecessary stress.
END OF PART ONE