Getting to the Root Cause of Stress

398165_2008If you were to take the time to map out all the reasons for stress in your life, you’ll likely discover one main root cause. Yes, stress really is that simple.

What is the root cause? Fear. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, we’ll realize that when we’re overwhelmed by stressed, we’re really acting in fear.

Fear of failure, Fear of letting others down. Fear of being let down. Fear of sickness and death. Fear of being controlled. Fear of not having enough money. Fear of kids rebelling or getting hurt or failing or embarrassing you. Fear of missing opportunities. Fear of making wrong choices. Fear of loneliness. Fear of mediocrity.

Oh wait, those are MY fears. Those are what cause MY stress. But maybe you can relate?

Unable to Wait

1078872_44288931As I thought more about the fears causing my stress, I realized at the heart is my inability to control people and events. And nowhere is this reality more evident than in my inability to wait for God.

Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers says there are three temptations that derail believers trying to wait for God to speak into their lives.

  1. The temptation to demand and immediate answer.
  2. The temptation to give up.
  3. The temptation to just “do something.”

When I think about the times I’ve given into these temptations, I realize they happen because I believe one of my fears is about to be realized. And in my refusal to wait, I’m usually just trying to save myself from that fear. At the same time, I’m allowing my feelings to control my decisions as well as rationalizing and justifying why I can stop the waiting.

The odd thing is that when I give in to these temptations, when I let fear get the best of me, I end up increasing my stress and allowing fear to gain more of a foothold.

How to Finally Overcome Stress

No fear in loveOne of the best stress relievers and probably one of the least pursued is quietness. We sometimes make stellar attempts at quietness on vacations only to return to chaotic lives. While times away have their place and value, it’s really a habit of quietness that addresses fears and derails stress.

As Sorge notes, we have to remember three important points about quietness. It’s does not mean silence, it’s not instant, and it’s easily lost. Quietness must become a habit in order for it to truly alleviate stress.

My own journey to a less stressful life reflects the truth of what Sorge says about quietness. In fact, as I learn to practice quietness, my fears lessen, which in turn reduces stress. Sure, life continues to generate stressful situations and seasons, but they are no longer flavored with fear.

Instead, I am experiencing “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) by seeking Him through:

  1. Reading Scripture: Simply reading the Word of God and letting it live and breathe within me on a regular basis.
  2. Praying Often: A regular conversation with my Creator transforms stress and overload into times of experiencing Him more.
  3. Seeking Input: Godly influence of those who’ve been where you are and are where you want to be is invaluable.
  4. Pursuing Health: Being physically healthy makes a tremendous difference in not letting fears take control.
  5. Simplifying: The simpler the life, the more likely quietness becomes a transformational habit.

As quietness increases and fears subside, as stress no longer rules and reigns, my inner atmosphere increases in peaceful consistency and reliability. And as this happens, I’m experiencing a transformation that only God could orchestrate.

DISCUSSION: How does fear impact your stress level? What are you doing to overcome that fear?

Join the Book club discussing Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge by leaving a comment below. You can also read more reflections on this book from Jason, Sarah, Dusty, TC, Glynn, and Joell.

GUEST POST INVITATION: For the month of April, my focus will be on guest posting. This will include some of my own guest posts, promotion of other’s blogs and guest post featured on Struggle to Victory. If you are interested in either writing a post for this blog or having me write a post for your blog, please contact me via email. There are still several slots available on the calendar.

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18 Replies to “Getting to the Root Cause of Stress”

  1. Pretty sure you just wrote about me!
    I'm so guilty of this. Too often I make decisions based from a spirit of fear instead of a spirit that belongs to the King of Kings. I forget how much God loves me and I try to save myself or my loved ones when what I really should be doing is trusting God.

    I've found that the things I worry about the most are the things I'm trusting God with the least and when I realize that (on a frequent basis) I know that I've demoted God from His thrown and I need to step down from the place I was never meant to be.

    Loved your post! Keep it up.

    1. Glad this resonated with you, TC. For me, this realization came when a friend told me that the biggest mistake she made when raising her two boys was to parent them out of fear. That one statement totally changed how I approach stress in that it alerted me to the role that fear plays. So thankful she was transparent enough to admit this to me.

  2. Kari,
    It is no doubt that all my stress is driven by fears I have. Usually those fears revolve around things I absolutely care the most about in the world. Things that are so hard to give up control of(as if I have any control at all anyway). I know all the things you mention will help with those fears but love drives the desire to protect that which we love so much. We have to trust those things we love so much to God. When our son went to war it was hard to get to the point where all we could do was lay that burden that haunted our minds into God's hands. Without doing so we would not have survived.

  3. I was going to start this exactly the way TC began. Too much of my life was defined by fear. Way too much. I completely agree with your list for seeking Him and realizing how His perfect love can remove our fear. I can't even begin to tell you how much better life is now that my fears have been minimized. Great post Kari!
    My recent post Share a Story – Shape a Future

    1. Amazing how people connect when you speak from the heart, isn't it? Only God can do that! I read once that the opposite of faith isn't doubt, it's fear. That fits for sure with what we're talking about, don't you think?

  4. You post hit me too. How helpful to know what the root is so it can be pulled out again and again. For it starts small as all things do and if left to grow will over take everything that comes our way. Fear has a stubborn root system but prayer loosen the soil so we can pull it out. I think doubt is rooted in fear and going deeper fear is rooted in self which is why we start our sentence, "I am afraid this or that may happen to me or someone else I love, I is the strongest root there is. Other roots grow from it that are so unhealthy. When we depend on Him, only faith can grow and from that all of the other good shoots can grow. Good post Kari, really good.
    My recent post IT'S OVER

    1. So true, Betty. So much branches off that root of fear in our lives, including a focus on self. As we are vigilant in pulling out that root through prayer, God replants His Spirit in us, which allows us to grow in new and healthy ways. Thanks, Betty!

  5. This post is right on the mark. My big ones seem to be the fears of not getting things accomplished, not achieving "success" as I define it for myself, and not making enough progress fast enough.

    Over the past several months, God has been doing a work in my heart about slowing down and simplifying – not trying to accomplish so much. I am drawn to nature in order to experience that quietness, which is why I often take hikes and walk outdoors.
    My recent post What Art Remains Inside of You?

    1. Truly get where you're coming from Chris. After spending the past 5 years simplifying in ways similar to what you describe, I realize more of what God meant for me in this life, and it wasn't to hurry and rush and complete my "to do" list. Getting outside in nature helps tremendously. What else are you doing to make this paradigm shift? Would love to hear more about it. Seems like the more I simplify, the more I want to simplify.

      1. I’ve come to recognize the most important thing I can do on any given day is to spend time with my family and give my wife a break by taking care of our son for a bit when I get home. This comes at the expense of some other things I would be trying to accomplish, but I’m helping bring down her stress level.

        As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also about intentionally discarding items that are no longer useful to us. I’m working on small sections at a time, and clearing out stuff that we no longer need or value.

        In addition, when I’m hiking, I love to take creative photos. It is one of my creative outlets, and helps me center my attention on God’s beautiful creation..
        My recent post What Art Remains Inside of You?

        1. You're learning the importance of saying "no" to the good in order to be able to say "yes" to the better and best. Coming from a wife's perspective, your choice to put your wife first is HUGE not just for your marriage but for the example you're setting for your son. Definitely a better decision there. Another aspect I noticed that stands out is that you're doing small things that will eventually add up to make a huge difference. You're focus in this way will definitely create a life of value because you understand the importance of seemingly small things. Hope you are documenting this process. Wish I had done that more!

  6. This is a powerful statement: “Quietness must become a habit in order for it to truly alleviate stress.” Relying and waiting on the Lord renews us and allows us to move into what God has called us to do. Great post and thoughts!

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