Our focus this week has been on de-stressing our lives. How experiencing fun actually benefits our health.
You probably realize that food’s addictive. It’s as addictive as smoking, drugs or alcohol because it changes the body’s chemistry. Some believe it’s even worse because we can’t get away from food – it’s there at least three times a day staring us in the face. It’s in the vending machine, on television, magazines, the road you travel on. If you’re having a stressful morning, it’s easy to reach for the donuts in the break room. Angry? Those pretzels are therapeutically crunchy!!! Lonely? Reach for the phenylethylamine in chocolate.
Food is our comfort drug when we’re feeling stressed. You experience stress as a nurse, when you can’t do anything for that small child dying in the ICU, as an overworked teacher, when that popular teenager calls you a derogatory name behind your back and others laugh, or a social worker, wishing you had funds to purchase food for every poor family without. It hurts when we can’t protect others!
Self-medicating with food makes the pain go away, even for a short time. It changes our chemical make-up, providing pleasure, relaxing us. That’s a hard habit to give up. If you are a kind person watching injustice in today’s world, stress hits especially hard. You might even question God and wonder why He allows such things to happen?
God cares deeply. It breaks His heart when He sees suffering. But He allows us, just as He has since Adam, free choice; either loving obedience or self-destruction. I understand this. As much as I wanted my patients to become healthier, they had to want it more than I wanted it for them. Change starts from within. I watched as they chose health or destruction. It had to be their choice. The same is true of God. He wants us to choose what is best. Faith is trusting, even when we don’t understand why.
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9: 9,10
Working in a stressful environment with its power-hierarchy is also tough. Those who live in a world of luxury (think Paris Hilton) exist with little stress in their lives compared with those having six kids, working in a presssure-cooker environment, living paycheck to paycheck.
Neurobiologist, Dr. Sapolsky, studied a Kenyan baboon community for 30 years. Existing in a class system, the aggressive Alpha males terrorized the gentler males causing stress-related illnesses within the group; elevated blood pressure, heart problems and yes, even weight gain. But the Alpha males also dominated the food chain; they’d eat first, once consuming a deadly substance which caused disease and killed them off. The kinder males took over the community which then thrived due to a stress-less environment. This produced peace . . . and weight loss.
So how do we eradicate stress from our lives? We can’t totally, there’s good and bad stress everywhere. But we can take steps to control harmful stress.
Create a Strategy and Take Action!
- Exercise. Serotonin is also released through exercise! Bike, walk, play tennis, swim, go to the gym but discipline yourself!
- Warm relaxing baths or massage therapy. Have your spouse give you a foot or back rub.
- Take action to help others. Search for a job to help that less privileged mother, volunteer at a charity, cook a meal, read a story to that suffering child. Be pro-active.
- Have a cup of tea, enjoy the sunset and relax with music.
- Meditate. The closer you experience God, the more peace you’ll experience. Have Faith that His Way is Best.
- Laughter relieves stress. Laugh with your family, watch a comedy, have a date night.
- Remember you can’t live in a vacuum. Find someone to talk to, whether it’s a spouse, friend or pastor, we all need a support system.
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” Psalm 143:10
Success is within reach but you must want to take action to grasp it!