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?

Essential Elements of Vision Therapy

Many optometrists do not recognize when someone needs vision therapy. In fact, a person with vision problems can pass an eye exam with flying colors. This was the case with my son. I sensed we were missing something in his learning plan, but that something remained allusive until one of his teachers suggested I check into vision therapy.

Elements in vision therapy include the following:

  1. Comprehensive Vision Exam/Consultation: Before a patient begins vision therapy, an assessment by a qualified doctor takes place. This includes diagnostic evaluations identifying strengths and weaknesses with regard to visual coordination and information processing skills.
  2. Patient Conference with the Doctor: After the assessments, a doctor specializing in vision-related problems reviews and interprets the results. When vision therapy is recommended, a treatment plan is created with goals and expectations outlined. The patient must then decide whether or not to begin therapy.
  3. Weekly Therapy: Therapy sessions at the doctor’s office vary depending on each individual’s needs. Some patients have in-office therapy twice a week, while others have it once a month. Patients also often have tasks to complete at home to enhance the in-office therapy. The specific type and frequency of therapy depends largely upon an individual’s unique vision therapy needs.

This process works well within our spiritual lives too, if we’re open to it. This same sort of process can lead us to a place of preventing vision-related spiritual problems – such as double-mindedness, lack of or wrong focus, and absence of alertness or paying attention – that can plague our spiritual lives. After asking the question, Do you Need Vision Therapy, proceed to implementing the necessary elements.

Elements in spiritual vision therapy include the following:

  1. The Basics: Serving as an eye exam or vision evaluation for our spiritual lives, make sure the basics of regular fellowship, daily Bible study and prayer create the core of your spiritual vision health. (Colossians 4:2, 3; Acts 2:42) All other elements will be fruitless without these basics. Stopping regular practice of any of these habits leads to blurred spiritual vision.
  2. Consultation: A seasoned saint can provide the essential observations needed to make adjustments in one’s spiritual progress. Seasoned simply means more spiritually experienced and victorious in a particular area and maybe in general. In addition, regular accountability can help us see what we are blind to about ourselves. Talking out problems is often all that’s needed to find a solution. (Galatians 6:1, 2)
  3. Expert Advice: This can come through pastoral counseling, professional Christian counseling and Christian books. Some struggles simply need the experienced vision of a pastor or Christian counselor. Regularly reading good Christian books also provides expert advice that can be preventative as well as problem-specific.
  4. Practice: Vision therapy practice includes “homework” that produces daily application for growth. Spiritually, this means not just taking in the Word and hearing from God, but also “going into all the world” and practicing what God plants inside of you. (Mark 16:15)
  5. Continual reassessment: Realizing The Danger of Routine and Habit in Our Prayer Lives proves the need for continual reassessment in the life of a Christian. Just as someone receiving vision therapy will be reassessed by the doctor several times during and after therapy, Christians too much assess their habits and routines. Really, every area could benefit from regular, personal assessment in general. Check with the Holy Spirit daily in prayer and make a deliberate point of consistent personal assessment.

One final connection between vision therapy for the eyes and spiritual vision therapy lies with the power of choice. In either case, the “patient” must make the decision about whether or not to begin the recommended therapy. Just like the eye doctor makes the vision therapy plan very clear, God makes the plan of action very clear for clearing up and even preventing spiritual vision problems. With both, commitment and then follow through are necessary for improved vision.

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Do You Need Vision Therapy?

Humans possess over 15 essential eye-coordination visual skills. When a child under performs due to one or more vision-related deficiencies, they are said to have a vision-related learning problem. These problems are often misdiagnosed as ADHD, behavior problems and/or reading disabilities. This is what happened with our youngest son, who is now nearing the end of a 3-month eye therapy program to correct the deficiencies.

Throughout his therapy, I have done my best to understand not only his visual challenges but also the steps for correcting the problems (thank God they are correctable). In this process, God once again proved Himself to be an Everyday God who shows Himself in the details of life. To that end, the following points not only teach about common vision-related learning problems, they also help illustrate some of the common reasons for vision problems in our spiritual lives too.

Convergence Insufficiency

This involves eye-teaming skills, which is the ability to coordinate the two eyes together. Symptoms include eye strain, fatigue, poor attention and avoidance of reading. Words overlap when reading, resulting in double-vision. Many kids with this problem don’t know that what they are seeing isn’t normal, and as a result say nothing about the problem.

James 1:8 tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Just like convergence insufficiency leads to a child who struggles with stability (confidence) in reading, double-vision in a spiritual sense leads to avoidance of obeying God’s will. Like waves of the ocean, a double-minded man can be unpredictable and even volatile.

Accommodative Dysfunction

Eye focusing skills, such as the ability to focus for sustained reading and to shift one’s focus from near to far, fail to function properly with this dysfunction. Symptoms include miscalling easy words, complaints of headaches, tiring easily and poor attention and concentration when reading. Accommodative dysfunction is all about the inability to focus and results in blurred vision.

The Old Testament gives numerous examples from the lives of God’s people (the Israelites) of what happens when our focus moves from God to anything else. Psalm 1 also gets at this idea of focus telling us to be aware of the type of people we spend our time with for fear of them leading us down the wrong path. Blurred vision in our spiritual lives leads to fatigue at every level, inability to see God when He does speak to us and even failure to focus when we clearly know He is speaking.

Occulomotor Dysfunction

Occulomotor dysfunction involves eye tracking skills, which is the ability to point eyes on printed material and to move them from word to word. Symptoms include losing one’s place easily and needing a finger to keep one’s place when reading, slow reading, poor fluency and comprehension, inability to pay attention, and difficulty copying words. With this dysfunction, words appear to jump around on the page.

Luke 21:36 gets at the idea of constant alertness and paying attention since we don’t know the day or the hour when Christ will return again. Failure to have this alertness results in losing our way and wandering outside of God’s will, inability to pay attention when God gives us opportunity to move on His behalf, and struggle copying the example set for us by so many godly men and women. We jump around in life without any real focus or purpose when we fail to be constantly alert to the work God sets before us.

Vision-related learning problems affect more than just reading. My son’s ability to properly socialize, to keep focused in and out of school, and to enjoy much of life in general were compromised because of these dysfunctions. Vision-related spiritual problems have the same impact on our spiritual lives by negatively impacting our relationships, stealing our focus, and robbing us of joy.

My son needed vision therapy to correct his vision-related learning problems. Vision-related spiritual problems require vision therapy too. Next Friday, we will discuss what elements are involved with vision-related therapy.

DISCUSSION: What vision-related problems do you see in your own spiritual life?

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