Stress is one of those unavoidable realities of life. It doesn't matter who we are, how old we are, where we live or what we do, stress is a part of all of our lives. We all experience stress in different ways, by different causes and at differing levels, but we all experience stress. We mostly associate stress with negative things like work, deadlines, accidents, injuries, or even problems in our relationships. However, stress is often in good things as well. From anticipating an event to experiencing something exciting all these experiences produce stress in our lives, bodies, and mind.
Tension and It's Toxic Effect on Life
Stress has become almost a badge of honor in our modern society. We carry stress in a very different way than those of ancient times or times before the modern industrial era. In the days of the first century, when Jesus walked the Earth, and Paul and Peter went out with the saving message of the gospel, stress was met with natural coping mechanisms. They had stress, but they also had rest and generally good exercise. They may face many episodes throughout the day that might create stress and cause the body to produce stress hormones, but then when they went in for the night, when the days work was done, they rested. Rest is the best antidote to the negative effects of stress in our life.
In our modern day, we don't rest from stress. We may work all day in a stress filled office and then come home and occupy ourselves with various technologies that keep our minds engaged resulting in stress hormones remaining at elevated levels. We then don't rest as our ancestors did. We stay up engaging in all this continued stimulation and then when we finally go to sleep it is only for a few hours. In our culture we champion it. We look at those who work themselves to the bone, or to those who do not sleep as some hero in our society. The truth is we are robbing ourselves of our natural mechanism to remove stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from our bodies. We are in fact living in a toxic lifestyle that is killing us. These chemicals remaining at high levels have a negative affect on our immune systems, cause fatigue, have increased negative effects on our cognitive abilities and lead to serious illness such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Stress can be destructive. Our bodies get use to prolonged high levels of adrenaline in our system. We become adrenaline junkies and we suffer from overload syndrome. In this state we suffer insomnia and other complications that rid our bodies of a natural remedy for lowering stress and stress hormones, that of rest. When we rest, our bodies produce natural tranquilizers that help us fight off the negative effects of adrenaline. To help our bodies produce these tranquilizers we need to maintain a few key areas of our life or we will find our self fighting panic attacks or even worse.
First as already stated, rest. Most importantly sleep. The mind needs extended sleep to recharge, rejuvenate. Eight to nine hours is what is recommended though if we are depriving our bodies of sleep is best to gradually increase the amount of sleep we get and not just try to start sleeping for nine hours a night.
In addition to sleep and rest we need to eat well and we need to exercise. Eating well makes sure our bodies have what they need as far as nutrition to stay healthy including our minds. Exercise helps to burn off excess hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. We also need to maintain a healthy spiritual life. Keeping the goal of Jesus before us will help us to keep life and its varying events in proper perspective allowing us to better manage worries and stress (Matthew 6:25-34).
The Loss of Pleasure
Our modern culture does not deal with stress well. We don't manage it often in a healthy way. Sometimes we even seek it out for the adrenaline high or as a badge of honor. In keeping our stress levels so high we are in fact over stimulated, that is what is causing the stress in the first place. With all of our electronics, gadgets and technologies we are constantly plugged into some form our source of stimulation. This is leading to a sharp increase in Anhedonia which is a loss of pleasure. We are mainly speaking of a loss of pleasure from our everyday lives. We have become bored and are seeking out that adrenaline rush. We no longer have pleasure in items that once gave us pleasure so week out new activities to prove we are still alive, to feel something. This leads to damaging behavior such as a trend in you people “cutting” themselves. They feel pain, they feel alive. This leads to extreme behavior and dangerous pursuits. Can lead to alcohol and drug abuse looking for that loss of pleasure to be filled. It can lead to sexual misconduct and other similar and damaging behavior.
We need to get our stress and stress hormones under control. We need to take time to rest, to meditate on Jesus and His word in a quiet way. We need time to unplug to not be stimulated to bring these overloaded stress hormones back to normal levels so that we can have pleasure again in our lives. We need to seek our joy out in God and build that relationship with Him.