Summary: What causes stress, what are the effects of stress and what we can do about that?

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INTRODUCTION: What kinds of words come to mind when you think of the word, ‘stress’? Perhaps words like: anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, tension or chaos come to mind. Stress is defined in Webster’s as a ‘force that strains or deforms; mental or physical tension; urgency, pressure’. In his book, “Adrenalin and Stress”, Arch Hart suggests that stress is a result of anything that annoys, threatens, excites, scares ,worries, hurries, angers, frustrates, challenges or reduces self-esteem. What causes stress, what are the effects of stress and what we can do about that?

1) What are some things in our life that cause stress? I read that there are four major things that cause stress P.E.T.E.: People, Events, Thoughts and Emotions.

• (People) Family. What about the marriage stress? Learning to live together and share space. Learning to compromise, learning to solve conflicts like deciding whether the toilet paper goes over or under. Adjusting to each other’s little quirks or learning to be aware and sensitive to the other’s pet peeves like finding toast crumbs in the butter. What about raising children? Dealing with the high demands and the stress of getting them to school, practices or the babysitter on time. Dealing with the stress of all the different roles that parents have to fill like nurse, teacher, referee, problem solver, etc. Then there’s the stress outside of the immediate family with your parents, siblings or in-laws. Family can be stressful.

• (Events) Work. The stress of work would include your workload as well as dealing with our boss or co-workers. The high demands of productivity, the boss breathing down your neck, ready to critique your every move. Perhaps you’re dealing with the stress of an irritable or antagonistic co-worker. An estimated one million workers are absent on an average workday because of stress related complaints. Stress is said to be responsible for more than half of the 550,000,000 workdays lost annually because of absenteeism. Job stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry $300 billion dollars annually, as assessed by absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, medical insurance, etc. What if your work involves driving? There’s added stress. I’ve had a couple of driving jobs before. Driving can be a source of tension. We can be on edge just getting behind the wheel. What do you think road rage is caused by? Perhaps I’m stressed about something before I get into the vehicle so when you cut me off in traffic it becomes the straw that breaks the back and I snap. Work can be stressful.

• (Thoughts/Emotions) Things I cannot change. Sometimes the stress I’m under has less to do with outside circumstances and more to do with the battles already going on inside of me. Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Much of the time, our anxious thoughts have to do with something we cannot change. Are my anxious thoughts about something in my past that I can no longer do anything about? Are my anxious thoughts about something in my future that I can’t do anything about but wait? We get anxious and anticipate something negative about a future event and 9 times out of 10 it never ends up how we made it in our minds to be. It’s wasted energy. We can waste a lot of time stressing about things we cannot change. We also cannot change what others will think, say or do. We can be stressed over what others are doing or not doing. I can try to persuade someone to think, say and do differently but in the end when it’s obvious that someone isn’t listening I need to stop banging my head against the wall and conclude that people are going to think, say and do what they want and I can’t change that. I can’t force you to stop thinking bad thoughts about me. I can’t force you to change your opinion about certain things. I cannot control your tongue. I can worry and stress about these things but I need to let it go and stop trying to change what I can’t change.

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