What is stress?
Not that a pandemic is new in our history. Nor the emergence of many disasters at once an odd occurrence. War, plague, poverty, drought, fires, floods, and revolution, are nothing new.
However, the American experience has had relative comfort in most areas of our country, allowing a standard of comfort and convenience not known in previous centuries.
Then comes a pandemic few anticipated nor were prepared to manage. This period in our history colored by health fears, culture change, political quagmires, natural disasters, and social unrest, to mention only a few of our current matters causing global uneasiness, has created an atmosphere of intense stress—even for the most devout among us.
The pandemic is only one cause of stress.
Stress is our response to changes in our life. Each of us responds to situations in a different way. A nasty spider in the tub can be the cause of intense stress for someone and not an issue for someone else. Stress comes in many forms and is experienced in our environment, social life, our physical experience, or even in our thoughts and emotions.
Stress can be the result of both negative and positive events.
What happens when we experience stress?
The stress response
When we face a situation where we perceive a threat, our body responds quickly preparing us for fight or flight.
When facing stress:
- Our brain releases hormones that trigger emotional preparedness and alertness so that you can respond quickly and rationally.
- Our heart rate and blood pressure increase.
- Breathing becomes rapid and the lungs take in more oxygen.
- Blood flow increases to 300-400 percent.
- Our spleen discharges red and white blood cells allowing the blood to transport more oxygen.
- The immune system is dampened as white blood cells are redistributed.
- Fluids are diverted from nonessential locations including the mouth, causing dryness and difficulty in talking.
- Stress can cause spasms of the throat muscles making it difficult to swallow and fight infection.
Stress can make us depressed, angry, or lethargic. Everyone copes differently. In these times, pastors are particularly vulnerable to stress as they look to increase technological skills they never thought would be necessary, unless not for the present.
How can stress be harmful?
Stress left unmanaged, can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or even irregular heartbeats. Chronic stress may also increase or decrease the appetite creating nutritional risk. If someone has an addiction: smoking, drinking, shopping, gambling, or even exercise, they may cope through increased activity toward that addiction.
In addition, stress affects the way blood clots. Chronic stress can further impact women by interfering in menstruation. Stress can cause developmental problems in developing a fetus.
Unmanaged stress can lead to heart disease and atherosclerosis due to the sudden increase in blood pressure.
Advice you can offer your flock concerning stress management
“Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
By Reinhold Niebuhr
In a nutshell:
- Maintaining a positive/grateful attitude.
- Identify the stress and make a plan to reduce the stress.
- Learn to relax.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Find a support group with the church family or consult a health-care professional.
- Keep or develop a sense of humor during even the most trying times.
- Do something for others
A veteran social worker, award-winning author Linda Wood Rondeau resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband of over forty years and where she is active in her local church. Watch for the author’s newest release, Who Put the Vinegar in the Salt, anticipated in November 2020. Readers may sign up for the newsletter and announcement of actual release on the author’s website: www.lindarondeau.com. Readers may also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.