The Stress Effect and Your Health
By Don Otis –
I was having dinner recently with a friend who works for our local power plant. He told me that half of his employees are on anti-depressants. Pharmaceuticals have become a way of like for many, if not most Americans.
When I went in for a treadmill test last year, a nurse asked me to fill out a form explaining which medications I was on. After I turned it in, she said, “Excuse me, I think you missed a section.” I didn’t miss the section; I just didn’t have anything to put in there. I asked her if this was unusual. She said, “Everybody is on something these days.”
Stress is a killer. Stress will tear you down physically, emotionally and spiritually. According to a new book, The Healing Code, stress is directly linked to 95 percent of all illnesses. Stress is linked to cancer, emotional disorders and even heart disease. The long terms effects of stress are enormous. As Christ-followers, we may believe that we should be impervious to stress. I disagree. As humans, we live in a fallen and broken world where stress predominates. The question isn’t whether we will have stress; it is how we deal with the stress.
If stress is prolonged, it weakens our immune systems. When our immune systems are unable to perform as God designed them, our physical defenses are unable to ward off sickness, disease and viruses.
Many of us live in a continual state of fight or flight, grabbing breakfast on the run, driving to work in stressful traffic, working through our lunch breaks, running kids to school or sports, committee meetings, small groups–you name it. We live hurried and harried lives. This lifestyle takes a toll on us. It saps us of our energy, keeps us from sleeping soundly and can even put pressure on our relationships.
Over time, this stress leaves us vulnerable to disease. But what can we do?
First, as followers of Christ, we lean into Him and on Him. He says, “Come unto Me all, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). He knows we worry and stress over life and He gives us hope in Himself.
The second thing you can do is to become active. I remember years ago when my father was in such depression that he was curled in a fetal position inside a room in my house for days. The room was dark. He refused to eat or to get up. One day I finally said, “Dad, I’m going to the running track and you’re going with me!” He did. I ran and he walked. It was the turning point for him. All of us feel overwhelmed at times. We just want to run away or medicate ourselves into numbness. Don’t.
When we exercise, we combat the stress in our lives, build our immune systems, and send oxygen-rich blood to our brains and extremities. The stress-effect will destroy us while the exercise-effect will help cleanse the impurities from our bodies. The more we elevate our heart rates through aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming, running, hiking), the more we build our heart and lung muscles. We also send the cleansing stream of blood pulsating through our bodies, which helps clean out our delivery systems.
Life is tough. Stress is toxic. God has given us avenues to overcome.
Don S. Otis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an ACE Certified personal trainer, the author of Keeping Fit after 40 and Whisker Rubs: Developing the Masculine Identity. He is the president of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity agency based in Canon City, Colorado.