Isaiah 63:9 - In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Stress is an everyday occurrence in our lives. It can be a “good” kind of stress like getting a new job or having company over for dinner. However, it can also be a “bad” kind of stress like losing a job, not being able to pay your bills, or having a flare-up of chronic pain.
But there is also a third kind of stress, and it’s called “secondhand stress”.
Have you ever been at the airport waiting for your flight and a guy at the end of your row of seats is on his phone and obviously stressed out? You can tell by his voice and body language.
So, can you catch another person’s stress like you can catch the flu?
The answer is yes. Stress can be passed on through things like facial expressions, the sound of their voice, odor and touch.
It’s hard enough to avoid getting stressed when you’re in difficult circumstances, but you can also get stressed just by being around someone who is stressed or by watching something stressful on TV. What’s on TV then can become another example of secondhand stress.
Distress is another concern. This is when you’ve experienced stress on a daily, lengthy time period. This kind of stress has negative effects on the body. Examples are: stomach aches, muscle tension, headaches, raised blood pressure and mental effects such as anxiety and depression.
Hbr.org in their article, “Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress,” tells us what Secondhand Stress is and how to keep yourself from being caught in it. Some of their suggestions include change your response by having a positive mindset about stress. Another idea is to inoculate yourself against stress by thinking of three things you can be thankful for in your day.
In the Bible verse above we see that even God was distressed as the Israelites were distressed. He feels what we feel. You’re not alone in your distress. God’s love and mercy can lift us up away from anyone’s secondhand stress and place us back onto green pastures of the heart and mind.
Ecclesiastes 2:21-23 – What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
I didn’t like what a friend told me. He said that I must like stress because you certainly have enough of it.
“I don’t like stress,” I said to myself. But was there truth to what my friend said? I did some soul searching and decided to write down all the stresses in my life.
Some stresses were small things:
Then there were the big stresses:
I thought back to what my friend had said about liking stress and I still didn’t agree, but I decided when confronted with a small or large stress that I would take a deep breath and walk back from it and not let it ruin the good things I was experiencing.
In order to find out if we’re a stress addict we must take a look at what stress has to offer. Stress releases those “fight or flight” activating hormones into our body to get through a tough spot. It releases energy that can cause a temporary high. Once your body gets used to this feeling, the body craves more. So you take on that extra job when there really isn’t any time for you to do it. You take on a task at work and are on the job habitually building up overtime. The upside of this scenario is that the overtime when bring in more money.
But stress takes a toll on our body. The brain will continually demand more of those “feel good” chemicals in order to maintain the same stress level. Soon we become addicted to those chemicals.
Talkspace.com in their article, “Can You be Addicted to Stress?” suggests ideas on how to calm your stress level down like meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, working out, and guided imagery.
Take a look at the Bible verses above. You can see that even in Bible times people got stressed out. And as it says, what do we get for all our grief and pain? It’s meaningless. We may feel like we’re making a true contribution to society, but it isn’t worth the damage it does to our relationships and to our bodies. Even at night our minds don’t rest. It’s time to reexamine your life to see if there are areas in your life where you’ve become addicted to stress. We start to like stress and that’s why so much of it is in our lives. It’s time to stop the stress and relax.
Psalm 18:4 – The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
All of us at one time or another feel overwhelmed; some more than others:
However, as stressful as these circumstances are there are others who have their stressors with them through each moment of the day:
Huffingtonpost.com, in their article, “How to let go of Overwhelm,” provides some signs that you’re overwhelmed such as:
You feel like you have no inner space, you experience constant pressure, and there’s no fun in your life.
Some of the ways we can combat overwhelm are having the courage to stop what you’re doing, let go of some things, and commit to less stress. You can find the rest of the list in the article above.
Feeling overwhelmed can leave you spent; all done with life; or simply not wanting to try any more. When you feel like that, take a look at the Bible verse above and you’ll see that the writer of the Psalm felt like death was entangled around him and not just a small flood, but torrents of destruction can cause us to feel overwhelmed. When we feel like that, we can know that God will be with us through it all just as he was in the verse above. So, take a deep breath and ask God to take away the feelings of being overwhelmed. He will send you peace from on high and dash away this feeling of being overwhelmed.
Psalm 73:26 - My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
We all make mistakes from time-to-time, so why is it so difficult to admit when we’ve blown it and then move on?
I think people with type “A” personalities have a hard time when they make a mistake because they need to do everything perfectly.
But what they don’t truly grasp is that by pretending to be right all of the time, it pushes other people away.
It’s great to strive to do a good job, but we can’t always do that whether we’re a type “A” personality or not.
> Sometimes we need a little help.
> Sometimes we’ve taken on too big of a job for one person.
> Sometimes, we set ourselves up for failure by trying to not only do the job perfectly, but in record time.
A lot of time, the type “A” personality is under a great deal of pressure. They have a reputation to uphold, but that’s not the only reason. They may have parents who expect them to obtain to a certain standard. After all, when the parents were younger they were able to handle the pressure and reach success. Type “A” has to reach it, or they fear their parents won’t love them.
And let’s not forget that holding yourself to a high standard doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As long as type “A” doesn’t think that they’re better than everyone else, and they’re willing to ask for help when they need it. True success isn’t a one man show. It takes a collection of people working towards a goal.
Whether we have a type “A” personality or someone else we know has one, how can we help them avoid failing and get a better shot at reaching their goals? Take a look at the article, “How to Set and Achieve Goals Based on Your Personality Type,” on fastcompany.com. One of their thoughts is finding and commiting to a goal isn’t the problem. It’s reining them in to ensure that what they’ve chosen is reasonable. Also, they have trouble letting go of a goal when it’s a bad fit, they let one goal take over their lives until it hurts others.
Also remember, you always have someone who can strengthen you if you fail and will be with you through success or failure. God will always be your strength.
Isaiah 59:14 - So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.
Watching bad news unfold can cause our physical and emotional pain to increase.
We’ve certainly had a lot of bad news lately. At some point though, we may need to curb our viewing of the news especially if we find ourselves obsessing over it. It’s so easy to do, because we have instant access through our computers and cell phones to news that is happening right at the moment it happens. Then, as we become emotionally involved in the news, we can feel our muscles tighten and bring pain to our body and to our mind.
But it’s not just what’s happening around the world or even in our own towns and cities. It’s also how we speak to each other about what’s happening. I’m not trying to judge someone. We all can fall into being drawn to a negative news story and make it seem worse than it is when we talk about it to our friends.
But watch out.
It used to be that people took care with how they used their words whether on TV or off. But now, the gloves have been removed and people blurt out what first comes out of their mouths without thinking before they speak. The anger they feel over what’s going on oozes out of their mouths defaming whoever they are talking about.
What happened to common courtesy and respect for the other person? We pass around gossip quite easily whether it’s true or not. And isn’t that what the news media in a way also does? If they hear of a story that they think they can write about, they jump on it. But they don’t just report the truth of what’s happening. They twist and turn it and blow it up to be more than what it really is. And then the headaches start, followed by stomach upset and pain quickly spreads throughout our bodies.
Cnn.com, in their article, “Too Much Bad News Can Make You Sick,” talks about the damaging health risks that come with watching bad news such as lack of restful sleep, anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems to name a few. The article also posts a video showing how we can’t avoid stress, but we can manage it with suggestions in the video on how to do just that.
Justice truly is being driven back and truth has stumbled in the streets and onto our TV where honesty doesn’t ever enter. It has to start with you and me. We may not be able to prevent what those in the news say, but we can certainly ask the Lord to put a guard on our mouths also that we don’t twist the truth and cause someone pain in the process.
Ephesians 4:2 - Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Patience. Don’t you just hate it when a voice comes over your phone telling you that you have an eleven minute wait time for your call to go through? I know I do. I get impatient when it’s not just eleven minutes that go by, but even one minute to wait. There’s something wrong in that, I instinctively know. But I still find my aggravation growing as I hear, “Please continue to hold for the next person available.” And while I’m waiting, they’re playing Christmas music. Like that’s supposed to help me be patient.
The Christmas season is full of waiting.
But what about the people whose job it is to put us on hold? Do you find yourself lashing out when someone finally does come on the line? It’s not just this example that shows our impatient reactions.
What about waiting in line at the store? Do you look ahead of you and think that if only the clerk worked a little faster you wouldn’t have to wait?
Waiting and impatience seem to go hand-in-hand. And though during the Christmas season, with all the joy it holds, it may seem strange that your impatience grows as each day grows closer to Christmas. And how can we be an example to the world for why we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas when we act no different than those who only celebrate Santa Claus and presents?
Womansday.com has some ideas on getting rid of Christmas impatience in their article, “31 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas.” Here’s a couple: Schedule a break. Take one day or even one afternoon off and take a drive out into the country. Another example is to seek the out-of-the-way cashier. Find a courtesy counter or service desk to pay for your items.
Choosing some of the examples in the article above and trying them out may be just what you need to find some Christmas patience. Take a look at the Bible verse above. We are supposed to be patient and bear with one another in love. And, yes, that means during the Christmas season we are to be even gentler with those around us; even the clerk at the register checking out your gifts.
Christmas is a wonderful season if we let it be. Let’s remember to have Christmas patience, and it will help us enjoy the season more.
Mark 5:26 - She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
But sometimes you can’t get the help you need.
It’s one thing to become stressed when battling chronic health issues or emotional pain, but it’s another thing to battle the billing mess you face when seeing your care provider.
Perhaps you thought that you were covered, because you have a primary and supplementary insurance. But even with this you battle a billing mess because, like my mother, you have to pay hundreds and sometimes over a thousand dollars every quarter to your insurance company, not to mention your deductable.
So here you are. You need to make an appointment with your health provider, but if you do the bills, with all the stress they carry with them, sometimes blocks you from making that appointment.
What do we do?
Do we go to the doctor or therapist regardless of the bills stacking up? Or do we try to “suck it up,” and pretend you’re okay and stay home?
First, you may not be aware that if you have a low enough income you may qualify for extra help such as Medicaid.
Second, sometimes your doctor or hospital has programs where they may be willing to cover the costs for you, or at least they may work with you on a payment plan.
Third, in regards to the option above, most hospitals state that they will not turn away anyone who is in emergent need for treatment regardless of their ability to pay for the services.
Here are some other ideas on how to pay for medical bills from creditkarma.com in their article, “Planning to Pay Medical Debt With a Credit Card? Weigh Your Options First.” The article tells us that everything is negotiable and make sure you have accurate billing. You don’t want to be paying for a service or medical supply that you didn’t get.
Another great resource is from moneyunder30.com’s article, “What to do When You Get Medical Bills You Can’t Afford,” includes suggestions on how to deal with collection agencies.
There should never be a block to receiving medical care because you can’t afford it. But that’s not how it is. And even when you can afford it at first, you can become like the woman in the Bible verse above who spent everything she had on doctors. This calls for wisdom and that wisdom can come through God in any of the suggestions in the articles above. He can take your need and provide the opportunity to receive care without it becoming a billing mess.
Psalm 107:29, 30 - He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Every year when Christmas comes around there are many things that need to be done: shopping for gifts for family and friends, baking and entertaining or attending parties, and going caroling and finding excitement while visiting those who are homebound.
Every year birthdays and anniversaries come along. There are many of the same opportunities for excitement just like there are for Christmas. And, it’s a fun kind of stress when your birthday comes along and you’re the one being blessed.
Every year there are other kinds of good stress such as getting a new job. In this situation, there’s the chance to meet new people and set new goals.
All of these are good kinds of stress.
For each of the categories above, there’s the chance to smile and feel excited about life. Yet, there is also the chance to cause you to become stressed out. Will you buy the right gift for Christmas or birthdays? Will you have the right words to say to your new employer?
You see, the tables can get turned as each person reacts differently to life situations. What is your tendency? Do you see events in only a negative way or are you unsure that you’ll measure up and so you place extra chairs at the table of stressed out?
First, let’s take a look at the different meanings of the words excitement and stress:
As you can see, excitement is more of a positive situation and emotion, whereas stressed is not only negative, but can result in being so troubled that you feel you are in danger.
How do we remain excited about life without letting ourselves become stressed out? Stress is an inevitable part of life, but the trick is to realize that a little stress can be a good thing as long as we don’t let it get out of control.
Irishtimes.com, in their article, “Anxious or Excited? How to Find Your Stress Sweet Spot,” talks about learning to redirect stress into motivation and excitement rather than anxiety and fear such as exchanging, “I’m stressed,” with “I’m excited.”
Ultimately, if we do let excitement turn into being stressed out we can find ourselves feeling like we’re in real danger. Let’s not let our excitement turn into negative stress, but focus on the joyful part of a situation instead of worrying about a negative outcome.
Also, take a look at the Bible verse above. Just like sailors going through a storm are glad when they are guided safely through a storm, so can we be glad when God guides us through the waters of being stressed out to the safe haven of peace.
2 Kings 20:6 - I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.
In past posts I’ve written about the stress a patient goes through while battling chronic pain or an illness, but what about the other people in their lives? What do they go through when they are on the other side of the road?
Chronic health conditions cause obvious anxiety to the one going through them. But have you ever thought about what a patient’s family and friends go through?
Let’s say your loved one receives the worst of news and they are diagnosed with a fatal disease. Sometimes the patient is even given a time line for how long they will live. Maybe they’ve been told that they only have seven months to live.
The whole family now gets involved trying to make the best out of what time they have left. Perhaps a family vacation is planned or the patient decides to take everyone for one big shopping spree.
They offer hugs and consolation.
They are told how much they are loved.
They are told how hard it will be without them.
But they also laugh together.
Talk about happy memories and funny stories.
And show just how much they love the one who is about to die.
They walk beside the person who is dying and then the stress begins to pour on them because they only have so much time left with them. The stress is difficult as the patient is taken to one appointment after another.
The family drives them to their treatment appointments.
They offer to pick up prescriptions and food as they need it.
They hold them tightly as never before all the while wondering is this visit the last time they will see their loved one alive?
So, they’re all walking from the light into a dark tomorrow. But then the unimaginable happens. They are at a doctor’s appointment to review the growth of their disease. The doctor has a smile on his face as he gives the news – the treatment has been going so well that they now have one to three years to live and perhaps even longer.
The patient and their loves ones are now both on the other side of the road in remission. So how do you figure out how to live your life now? In whatnext.com’s article, “You’re in Remission: What’s Next?” it provides suggestions on how to live your life, because getting back to a normal life is challenging. A few of their ideas include keeping your expectations moderate in the beginning; don’t expect your life to be the same as it was before treatment; and how to cope with your new normal.
Take a look at the Bible verse above. King Hezekiah was very ill and was about to die. He asked God for forgiveness and God believed he was truly sorry and added fifteen more years to his life. God does sometimes extend our lives. Don’t just be fearful of the amount of time your doctor says you have to live. Things can change and you’ll find yourself on the other side of the road in remission.
Ecclesiastes 5:17 - All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.
You turn on your computer and then step away to get something from the resource center at work. When you come back, though, you aren’t greeted by a computer screen showing your latest emails, but with an error message.
Three of your emails weren’t sent yesterday and you’re new emails have been unable to download, because your computer lost connection with the internet.
Okay. So you calm yourself down knowing that, thanks to your smart phone, you can check your emails there. So you switch to your email app on your phone ready to take notes on your emails for later responses.
But wait. Your phone can’t access the internet either. That shouldn’t matter. You should be able to connect to your mobile data. Yet you can’t.
“Here we go again,” you think. “How much time will I have to use up with technical support?” And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, as you look around the room, you see that everyone else is up and running. Why isn’t your computer connecting?
Frustration. Life can get frustrating quickly when you’re blocked from completing tasks you normally are able to do. Or perhaps it’s the long line at the grocery store check out. It could also be the commute home, where you come to a dead stop as another delay is added to your day.
Frustration can add to our stressful days and we can become angry quickly. How do we let go of that frustration?
First, when you do have to call IT or go directly to the one who has the task of dissecting computer glitches and error messages; don’t be the person who starts yelling at their fellow employee. After all, it may be his job to try and get to the bottom of your problem, but he’s not perfect and sometimes he has to check with other sources to find the answer. So don’t take it out on him.
The same applies to grocery clerks, waitresses, pharmacy workers and yes, even the receptionist at your doctor’s office. All of these individuals are just trying to do their job, and it’s unfair to begin a tirade at them when it’s not their fault things are running behind.
Second, try to remember that people are also waiting on you to get a job done or need the paperwork you can’t complete because you’ve had a delay. You can be the reason for someone else’s frustration. Let’s see if we can’t find a way to let go of the tension that’s building up inside you.
You’ll find some ways to cope with frustration in the article, “Frustration – 8 Ways to Deal with It,” on life-with-confidence.com. Here’s one of their suggestions:
One of the things that you can ask yourself is, “What’s working in this situation?” Not everything is always going wrong. You can always find something that’s going right. Take a look at the rest of the article and you’ll find some ideas that you can apply to the difficulties you are facing now which are making you feel frustrated.
After all, you don’t want to end up like the people the Bible verse above speaks about. You don’t want to live in your darkened frustration, affliction or anger. In the end it may take away all the joy in your life, and the good things that God is blessing you with that you can’t see.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.