Ending the Reign of Stress in Your Life

SONY DSCA recent milk commercial shows a crying, distraught cow watching her best friend (a young girl) going to school.  The idea of emotional cows may seem ludicrous, but research actually shows that cows have best friends and do get stressed when separated from them. This unusual fact about stress helps illustrate the far-reaching impact of stress even beyond human uniqueness.

While a stressed-out cow may have little meaning for your own over-stressed life, perhaps the following facts about stress might.

Symptoms & Causes of Stress

Everyone knows that stress impacts physical, mental and spiritual well-being. But do we really realize the extent of its control? 

Symptoms of stress

And those are just the symptoms, not the actual causes. Here are just some of the causes:

Causes of Stress

When we consider the distance stress will take to rule our lives, should we not also consider the great lengths we must be willing to go to if we are to end its reign?

Drawn Tight

The term “stress” comes from the Latin word “stringere” which means “to draw tight.” Can you relate to a feeling of being drawn tight, perhaps as tight as you think you can go, as tight as you’ve ever gone before? Most people can.

Do you even remember NOT feeling that way?

Sure, we find moments of relief watching mindless television, tweeting, or shopping with friends. But the source of stress always awaits our return, ready to tighten the strings once again.

And stress’ domain seems to be growing, doesn’t it? Even in a culture with all we want continually, easily and readily at our fingertips, more people seem chronically over-stressed. Even kids and teenagers experience stress well beyond what their maturity level can handle. Why does stress seem to be getting worse when we have so many ways to relax?

This month we’re looking at stress’ reign in our lives, and we’ll consider the idea that perhaps stress grips so tightly because we let it, and maybe we live with the consequences of stress simply because we fail to create and implement habits to prevent them.

Want to change? Want stress to be a healthy part of your life instead of a fascist dictator? Want to feel like you’re running on smooth terrain instead of wading through thigh-deep mud?

Let’s get into the details of stress in our lives with the goal of finding permanent solutions. Let’s get at the root causes of stress rather than simply treating the symptoms and numbing the consequences of living chronically high-stressed lives. Are you game?

DISCUSSION: What exists as the root cause – going beyond symptoms – of stress in your life?

19 thoughts on “Ending the Reign of Stress in Your Life

  1. This is a really thought-provoking question. For me, a root cause of stress is when I feel like I have so many tasks to accomplish. I have this intrinsic need to check things off the list, and quickly get overwhelmed with too many unfinished tasks. I'm not sure if this points to some deeper issue. It definitely illustrates my own selfishness in regards to my time.

    Ironically, I am also stressed when I don't have enough down time to recharge, especially time to read and learn.
    My recent post Two Keys to Building Successful Relationships

    • I used to be obsessed with checking items off a "to do" list, Chris. Over the past 5 years, I've grown less obsessive of this. I've taken a "do what's due next" approach that has relieved that area of stress in my life tremendously. And, I totally get the stress over not having enough down time too. Again, that has come with "practice" so to speak, with realizing who I am and what my needs are in this area and not comparing myself to others and thinking I need to be like them. For me, all of this comes from a fear of letting others down and not being viewed as responsible and productive.

  2. I look forward to this series! I know I tend to get stressed and when I stop to reflect on the cause it always comes back to me not trusting God enough. I worry about dead lines, only to realize I'm not trusting God to help me and provide the way.

    The ways I limit God with my lack of trust is astounding!

    • Trust in anyone but God truly isn't enough. That's what I just got done writing about for another post, David. Lack of faith increases my fear, and the result is more stress. It's all about focus.

  3. Stress comes when our lives are tied between where we are and where we feel we need to be and our "string" is being stretched too hard. The problem of the stretch is where stress leads to one of two outcomes: first, the string snaps under the strain because we refuse to let our grip go; or secondly, we do let go of what is causing the stress in our lives and reevaluate our desire to be attached to what caused the strain. Letting go is taking ownership too! Holding on to the point of snapping means ownership is at the other end of the strain. We have a choice to make – engage in the tug of war or walk away. There is no victory if our persistence is over powered by the resistance that causes the string to break. Who was at fault? (Okay that is pretty deep even for me! But hope you get my take.) THANKS Kari!

    • Pretty deep, coach. The idea of taking ownership is HUGE. I tell my boys this all the time. Also, the idea that sometimes we do need to let go and walk away is equally huge. The challenge is knowing when to do each of these. Looking forward to other's response to this!

  4. I think what causes me stress is when I think I can not meet someone's expectation whatever that might be. It gets more stressful if I think I can not do anything about it to be able to ever meet the expectation.

    • I find that the problem with expectations is that we often don't know exactly what they are as well as the fact that they often change based on mood. Plus, there's the idea that no matter what, we cannot meet the expectations of some people because they're too high for us or simply unreasonable. I have to be careful at being on both end of that equation.

  5. Good thoughts and questions, Kari. Stress is inevitable and even needed, but numbing ourselves to it instead of addressing it causes bigger problems–internally and externally. I have done it way more than I care to admit. I procrastinate in taking care of something because I fear the outcome or sometimes even the question. It's a mess. I'm learning! Can't wait to read more from you on this. Thanks.
    My recent post How to Keep Your Grace Gains

    • Procrastination is a sure sign of stress, Jason, or at least the attempt to avoid it. And, you hit on a key… fear. This is the focus of tomorrow's post, but I feel like fear is the root of all stress because it's the opposite of faith and because we over-stress because we fear. Looking forward to hearing more of YOUR thoughts on this!

  6. I've found when I rely on my self instead of God, stress and worry quickly creep into my life. Thinking I can do things myself can be a false root cause I have. Thankfully we have a God who loves and forgives us. Good post!

  7. Hello Kari,

    I found when we do not trust fully in God and His word, stress quickly comes into our life. Whenever I feel stress coming into my life I turn my attention to God and also do some practical things like exercise and relax. Great post!

    • A focus on Him definitely results in decreased stress and increased peace, perfect peace, actually. Interesting to note also that He doesn't expect us to just do nothing either but gives us activities that help relieve stress as well as make us stronger. Thanks, Dan!

  8. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. Many of us wear and tear the stress in their day to day life. Stress is all around us, it is quite common. To lower the stress choosing any type of physical activity will helps a lot. Laughing is another helpful and cost free medicine to lower your Stress levels.

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