Stress is a normal part of contemporary busy lifestyles. We all have our share. Ignore it, and it will take years off your life. Accept it and deal with it creatively, and you too can turn your stress into success.
How can you do this?
First: Realize that some stress is actually helpful. It provides you motivation. For instance, if it weren’t for the stress of having to pay your bills, you may not want to go to work.
Second: Be aware that stress is only troublesome when it continues for too long or if there is too much of it at one time.
I read recently about a ten-ton bridge that had been serving a community very well for over fifty years. During the course of those years, it had carried millions of tons of weight. But one day the driver of a logging truck ignored the ten-ton load limit sign. The bridge collapsed. Life is like that. All of us can carry our ten-ton load day after day, year after year, but only one load at a time. Overload us and we collapse too.
You may be familiar with the research Thomas Holmes has done on stress. He found that too much change at one time was the greatest cause of stress. An accumulation of 300 or more “life changing points” in any one year may mean an overload of more stress than an individual can carry. On his scale, the death of a spouse equals 100 units, divorce 73, marital separation 65, marriage 50, and so on.
Third: The next step in turning stress into success is to recognize symptoms as early as possible.
As mentioned in our previous Wisdom Note, Fred Stansberry talks about “stress-related diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart and respiratory diseases, migraines, allergies and a host of other psychological and physiological dysfunctions, which are increasing at an alarming rate in our Western culture.”
Other symptoms of stress have been listed as, “fibromyalgia, tense muscles, sore neck, shoulders and back, insomnia, fatigue, boredom, depression, listlessness, dullness, lack of interest, drinking too much, eating too much or too little, diarrhea, cramps, flatulence, constipation, palpitations or heart skip, phobias, twitches, restlessness and itching.” This list sounds like the side effects of many modern medicines.
Fourth: Identify causes. As already mentioned, change is one of the chief causes of stress. An accumulation of life’s everyday annoyances can also build up a significant level of stress, perhaps even more than one single traumatic event. As the old saying puts it,
And put us on the rack;
You can sit upon a mountain,
But you can’t sit on a tack.”
Whatever the cause of your stress is, identify it so you can do something about it.
Fifth: Seek a practical cure. I will expand a little on last week and provide you with 10 ways to turn stress into success.
- The starting point to turn stress into success is to lighten your load. Eighty percent of the cure can come out of writing down all your cares and responsibilities in order of priority, then eliminating the least important.
- Remember that Superman and Superwoman exist only in comics and films. Everybody has a breaking point, so recognize yours and call a halt before you reach your limit.
- With stress comes pent-up feelings. Get them “off your chest” by sharing them with a trusted friend or counselor. This brings immediate relief and helps you to think and plan more objectively.
- Stop fighting situations that can’t be changed. As one father told his impatient teenager, “If you would only realize and accept the fact that life is a struggle, things would be so much easier for you.” Learning to live with and get on top of struggles is what helps us grow and mature.
- Try to avoid making too many major life changes during the course of a single year.
- Remember that Superman and Superwoman exist only in comics and films. – Yes, this is repeated for good reason.
- If you hold a resentment towards another person, resolve your difference right away. As Ephesians 4:26-27 puts it, “And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.“
- Make time for rest and relaxation. Learn to “come apart” and rest a while before you come apart completely.
- Watch your diet and eating habits. When under stress, we tend to overeat, especially junk food which increases stress. A balanced diet of proteins, vitamins, and fiber, with minimal white sugar, caffeine, too much fat and carbs, alcohol, and nicotine is essential for limiting stress and its effects. Also, be sure to get plenty of physical exercise, which keeps you healthier and helps burn excess adrenaline caused by stress and its accompanying anxiety.
- The ultimate answer to turning stress into success is to learn to trust God and live in harmony with his will for your daily life. Philippians 4:6-7 says it this way, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
God’s peace comes through accepting and trusting God with those circumstances that can’t be changed however difficult they may be. Perhaps this is what Christ meant when he spoke of taking up our cross daily and following him. Certainly, He fully accepted His cross and trusted his situation to God and, thereby, was totally vindicated.
Jesus summed up how to turn stress into success in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”