We live in a stress-filled world, and it is very difficult to escape from the stress of everyday life. Our bodies are not built for the 24/7 level of stress so many of us experience. We have the stress of juggling the pressures of work, of finances and paying the bills, of the needs and demands of our kids, of family issues, and the interrupting phone calls. Then on top of all that is the stress created by the added information overload we are all exposed to. Eventually stress will wear us down and make us vulnerable to all kinds of physical and emotional problems. I talk with people whose doctor has told them that their adrenal system doesn’t work anymore. It’s just plain worn out. Their chronic stress from dealing with life has taken that toll on them.
When our lives are filled with fear, worry, and anxiety over a period of time, or we are living an overwhelming stressful life, what will eventually happen to us are these additional things. The parts of our brain that handle memory and learning, in particular, the hippocampus, will age more quickly. An aging hippocampus means it is shrinking in size. When it does, our memory begins to fade, and our brain slows down. Histamines have been released, which causes inflammation which works against a healthy mind and body. Cortisol, the stress hormone, builds up in our system, causing us to struggle with sleeplessness and fatigue–all of which are detrimental to our health.
One researcher described the effects of chronic stress this way. Imagine a runner getting ready to run a race. When he hears the judge say to the runners, “On your mark!” he gets himself in place for the start of the race. Then the judge says, “Get set,” he tenses every muscle in his body as he prepares for the releasing command “Go!” When the judge fires the starters pistol, or says “Go” the runner explodes out of the starting block and expends every bit of energy to run the race. But what happens if there is no “Go” signal given? The runners are left in the starting blocks, their blood coursing with adrenaline, their bodies fatiguing with the strain of preparing for the race that never comes. No matter how good they are in shape physically, within a very short period of time, they would quickly all collapse there on the starting line from the strain of staying in that “Get set” position.
The problem is that today we live in a “Get Set” world. We are like the runners in the blocks waiting, but no “Go” signal is ever given. Our worries and anxieties never let up and the stress on our bodies makes our immune system so weak that research tells us that close to 95% of all major illnesses can be linked to chronic stress. This is not the way God meant for us to live. Paul tells us that when we renew our minds, and center our thoughts on the right things, we “will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Phil. 4:7). What a promise!
Question: What is your primary stress point?