Would You Pass a Stress Test?
What would you say is the primary source of stress in your life? A deadline in your job? Financial insecurity? A recent move? An unexpected health crisis? A difficult marriage?
If you’re having trouble evaluating potential life stressors, use the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory to get a better sense of what your current stress level might be:
If you did a “stress assessment” of your life and started to pay attention to your personal sources of stress, you may begin to recognize that stress is impacting your emotional, physical, and mental state more than you realize.
Some stressors are obvious and within your conscious awareness and would be easy for you to identify. Other stressors are more subtle, harder to detect and may have been accumulating over many years, requiring deeper reflection to determine their origin.
Stress Lives in the Body
Recent studies on the effect of stress on the body are, quite frankly, distressing. Prolonged or chronic stress triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, muscle tension, and digestive problems. Not only that, sustained periods of stress can also weaken the immune system, disrupt your sleep, throw your hormones out of balance, and decrease your ability to regulate your mood, leading to heightened feelings of irritability, anxiety, and depression.
To make matters worse, attempts at coping with stress often add fuel to the fire. Overeating, overspending, misusing alcohol, or isolating to avoid stressors only compound the exhaustion, fatigue, and feelings of powerlessness that keep you stuck.
Under the weight of stress, your prayers feel futile, your motivation plummets, and your outlook on the future feels bleak. It’s becoming more apparent that efforts to compartmentalize emotional health from physical health are failing. And ignoring the evidence of the mind-body-spirit connection has devastating effects.
Antidotes to Stress
Emotional connection within relationships is the bedrock foundation for brain development and the capacity to tolerate stress.
Simply put, experiencing emotional safety is the number one buffer against the toxic effects of adverse life events. Developmental psychologists now understand that being securely attached to a safe, caring person correlates with a strong immune system, which grants the ability to moderate cortisol and regulate your mood.
The primary way to begin addressing your stress happens in the context of healthy relationships.
Receiving emotional support from a trusted person allows your limbic system to relax, come out of fight-or-flight mode, and return to a relative state of calm because you no longer feel alone. In a world where schedules don’t have margin for meaningful relationships, stress levels remain high. This means that seeking and cultivating safe relationships will take intentionality and vulnerability. But in the long term, the effort buffers the negative effects of stress.
Another antidote to stress is to create a cohesive narrative that explains the origins and reasons for your distress.
In her book, The Deepest Well, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris notes that being able to speak about the hurts, wounds, losses, and fears people carry allows them to “make connections between the traumas of the past and the stressors of the present, so they can better recognize their triggers and manage their symptoms.” Your mind craves a reason behind the feelings you experience, so having insightful explanations and wise interpretations to the meaning behind your stressors is critical to health and well-being.
An equally important antidote to stress is to have wise guidance, practical tools, and coping mechanisms that help you metabolize stressful situations, difficult people, and existential questions plaguing you.
Common questions like, “What is my purpose in life?” “Why is God allowing this trial?” or “Do I matter?” arise in response to pain. And when left rattling in your head with no satisfactory answer, stressors can become heavy burdens that seem insurmountable.
We Want to be With You in the Weeds of Life
We know the critical importance that your mental and emotional health has on your well-being. That’s why Crossing Counseling created a podcast called With You in the Weeds as an antidote to the stressors you face.
Many of the life events listed on The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory are at the heart of the topics we cover, including how to manage your emotions, manage difficult people, create healthy relationships, resolve conflict, grieve losses, make sense of suffering, navigate parenting, and address complicated family dynamics.
Our counseling team will normalize your experiences, help you discern the reason for your stress, and offer wise and practical ways you can move towards greater mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health.
As you listen, you can be a fly on the wall and hear psychologically informed, biblically based discussions on topics that matter to you as you learn at your own pace and in your comfort zone.
Seeing your stressors like weeds in a garden is a metaphor that captures what it’s like to try to grow and be healthy while surrounded by the proverbial thorns and thistles of life. God sent Jesus to be in the weeds with you. Knowing this creates a sense of God’s indwelling presence while enduring life’s trials.
As we work toward health and wholeness together, we hope that you will let us be in the weeds of life with you!
The With You in the Weeds team consists of John Tinnin, MDiv MFT, Lynn Roush, LPC, Shay Roush, MDiv and Austin Conner, MDiv PLPC, who provide professional Christian counseling at The Crossing in Columbia, MO.
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