Torch, Fall 1984

When we experience stress, we are experiencing a situation which requires the body to adjust. The situation may be real or perceived, and it may be physical or psychological . Regardless of the nature of the stress, the body's response is the same - to prepare to do something, to move . The heart beats faster and harder, the blood pressure goes up, the perspiration rate goes up, muscle tension increases , and greater amounts of fat and sugar are released into the blood to fuel the anticipated movement. Sound familiar? Most people feel this way when they have to give a speech, or take a test, or meet the new boss . Stress is what is experienced when the phone rings in the middle of the night, or a child runs into the street, or when one is asked to sing a solo at the state ladies' meeting . Stress and its effects are not always so obvious, however. The stress of a poor self-concept, an unfulfilling job, selfish love, unmet needs, and unfinished work is just as real , and the effects can be just as devastating. High blood pressure, chronic headaches, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, and aggravated menstrual cycle discomforts are often the results of these lingering types of stress. So, how can we prevent stress from becoming a destructive factor in our lives and in our families' lives? We need to know and honestly evaluate ourselves and our stressors. We all have been given diverse personalities and abilities as well as experiences and training. What may be stress for me may not be even noticeable for you, and vice versa . The process of becoming aware of our particular stress producers must be directed by God-given discernment energized by the Holy Spirit. Determine which stressors are avoidable and begin developing ways to eliminate them . Many of us are our own worst enemies when we create avoidable stress through the bad habit of procrastination. We add today's challenges and tasks to tomorrow's . I recommend incorporating a planning time in your morning devotions . A scheduled routine for the predictable, daily tasks will result in a more effective and God-honoring day. As we plan with Him in the morning and pray our way through the day, we can experience freedom from the bondage of procrastination and the accompanying avoidable stress. Just like procrastination , many other avoidable stressors are the result of not obeying the Scriptures . Stress resulting from such things as gossip, jealousy, and selfishness will be successfully managed when God's Word is read and applied . "Search me, 0 God , and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts ; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23,24). Identify those causes of stress which cannot or should not be avoided or those which are beyond our control. Knowing which stressors should be faced requires much wisdom and prayer. Satan would be pleased to have us focus on the stress resulting from procrastination rather than deal with the stress of assuming a new responsibility or developing a new talent. As we get older, there is also the danger of avoiding stress as much as possible, resulting in the stress of boredom. Develop pos1t1ve , constructive strategies for managing your responses to stressors that cannot or should not be avoided. We must make sure we are as strong as possible physically, emotionally, and spiritually. All three areas are dependent upon an appropriate diet for good growth and development, and upon adequate and regular exercise for healthy living . We must systematically feed on His Word, be nourished by His love and the love of His people, and partake of the fruit of the earth in appropriate amounts and forms. We must do His Word, and not just hear it; we must share His love, not just receive it; and we must care for and exercise our bodies, not just feed them . Our bodies respond to stress by preparing for activity. Therefore, activity must play a key role in successfully dealing with stress. Often, however, a given, stressful situation does not provide an outlet for that needed activity, and so the body becomes "physiologically frustrated" - unable to do what it has prepared to do . So, how do we cope? We could find an activity outlet, that is, involve ourselves in some form of physical activity which can be a "release" for us. This may be walking , cycling, swimming, or other physical activities . It should be done on a regular basis, but should especially be done in "high stress" times. This should not be viewed as an "if-I-have-time" item; it must be a scheduled part of the day . Going for a walk in the middle of a solo, however, is not a viable stress management technique. Yet, a few deep breaths before walking to the podium as well as consciously contracting and relaxing major muscle groups, will provide welcome relief. A brisk walk later in the day will successfully complete your management of that particular stress . Stress is an opportunity for growth when experienced in the appropriate amounts and responded to with "active" management techniques. Knowing that God's grace is sufficient and that He is sovereign, every Christian can have confidence in a "good" and not "bad" ending . Dr. Pamela S. Diehl is associate profes– sor of physical education at Cedarville College. She received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and is women's tennis coach at Cedarville. 11