We’re stressed out, and that negatively affects our health, which contributes to even more stress. This spiral is not headed in a good direction. So what does stress do to us?
Stress can cause us to eat too many unhealthy foods. It can prevent us from falling asleep, and even staying asleep. Stress can also assist in us lashing out in anger at our spouse, coworker, or friend. We can feel anxious, nervous, and lack motivation at home or work. Other common symptoms are fatigue, depression, sadness, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Does that sound like you? Angry yet apathetic; anxious yet depressed; keyed-up yet tired; overwhelmed and sad. Each of us has probably felt this way at times, but what do you do if “at times” is becoming all the time?
What role does faith play in stress? A recent Pew Research Center Religion and Public Life report found almost 71 percent of American adults identify as Christian. If 71 percent of adult Americans identify as Christians and if 75 percent of all adult Americans identify with stress, then Christians are not immune from stress. How can this happen to people who claim to follow the words of Jesus: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)
The dictionary defines stress using a variety of images: mental tension, worry, anxiety, strain, and/or pressure. If you Google images of stress, you’re confronted with pictures of unhappy, overwhelmed people, ready to explode. How did life become so stressful? How can we break out of the stress vice of our culture and find peace? Like the frog slowly boiling in the pot, we need to realize the water’s getting hotter and the time has come to jump out.
A body under stress is living under Red Alert. Stress hormones surge through the blood stream, activating bodily systems such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, respiration, and digestions. The head pounds, the heart races, the jaw clenches, hands shake, and pores sweat.
Chronic stress puts a tremendous strain on you physically and psychologically. Constant waves of adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone) supercharge your systems, burning up resources and leaving you shaky and depleted.
As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life. As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis. For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal. Some people can’t imagine their lives without lower back pain or headaches or bouts of hyperventilation or wearing a nighttime mouth guard for teeth grinding.
We were created with a stress response that was meant to help us recognize and escape danger. We were not created to stay stuck in that stress response. Getting stuck produces the danger of breaking down physically and/or psychologically.
God is our creator and protector. Does this mean we will never have times of stress? No, but God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress. When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul did, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
If you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, The Center is here to help. Contact our admissions department at 1-888-771-5166 to have a confidential conversation with a specialist, and determine a plan to live your life with joy, hope and happiness.
 Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow (May 12, 2015). http:// www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing- religious-landscape (accessed October 10, 2015).