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Health & Healing

Me, My Stress, and I

Lessons from Dr. Legree on dealing with all the stress we carry.

We have all had moments where we feel stressed. Whether it’s your kids, your job, or this pandemic, stress is a normal and natural part of our lives. But did you know that long-term stress can be harmful to your body? Pour a cup of tea and let’s chat because some of the stress you are experiencing is a direct result of the company you keep — your young children aside — and if not put in check, your stress can send you to heaven to meet Jesus a little sooner than you were expecting. 

When stress is a daily norm for you, it can lead to headaches and even migraines, heartburn, depression, insomnia, a weakened immune system, an increased risk of heart attacks, decreased fertility, high blood pressure, muscle aches, and a decreased sex drive. This is not an all-inclusive list either. Let’s be clear: stress is a demand for change within your body. By recognizing how stress works, you can start to make healthy and positive adjustments to your current relationship with it. Keep in mind that this will ultimately diffuse into the relationships you currently have with others.

Now, please do not misunderstand me… some stress in life is normal. Balancing work and family with marriage and career, amongst others, is an example of normal stress. However, what I am trying to get you to see is that chronic stress is not only abnormal but harmful to your overall health.  

I mean, let’s be real, if not put in check, chronic stress can be detrimental and lead to chronic medical conditions and even death. I am sure you have known directly or indirectly of a young person dying from a heart attack, aneurysm, or stroke. Did you know that chronic stress can decrease your immunity and increase inflammation throughout your body? In the wake of COVID-19, no one can afford to have decreased immunity, particularly if there is something you can do about it. All that said, which relationship are you currently in that is causing you long-term stress? In other words, take a moment to think about which relationships can kill you. God has put too much in you and has called you to a purpose. That purpose is not to be taken out of here by the stress of a draining relationship, you hear me? Your life is worth much more. If you can’t cut them off with the quickness, establish boundaries so that person can’t cause you the type of stress that can kill you.

Are you hoping to lose a few pounds or start a family? Your stress might just be the reason these things may be a challenge for you. Chronic stress will lead to elevated levels of cortisol (a naturally-occurring steroid hormone that plays a key role in the body’s stress response) within the body. When cortisol is chronically elevated, it can lead to excessive weight gain in the abdomen, increased blood sugar, and an increased risk of infections because of a decline in the normal functioning of your immune system. Instead, you have an influx of what is called oxidative stress, which is an elevated level of disease-causing free radicals throughout your body. Chronic stress can also lead to depression, chronic fatigue, and anxiety. If you are normally a pretty sharp person but find yourself not as on point as you used to be, it could be stress. If your memory isn’t what it used to be or if you are trying to start a family and it’s just not working for you, again it could be stress. We need to manage our stress so that our stress doesn’t manage us. If stress is ongoing, we will unquestionably become exhausted. The exhaustion alone will prevent any ability that we have to make adjustments to the relationship between ourselves and chronic stress.

So, how can you improve your relationship with stress? Focus on your mind, body, and spirit.

  1. Start with the mind. First and foremost, start with prayer. Some scriptures can help you get through your moments of stress. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Also, Luke 12:25-26 says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” In addition to giving your troubles to God, talk to someone about it. This can also be a trusted friend, family member, or an impartial, non-biased therapist. There are a few virtual options out there as well. If necessary, do your research on medication such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication in addition to aligning yourself with the Word of the Lord. Find that Bible, dust it off, and fill yourself up with God’s Word, which is your armor against the daily battle we all face called stress. It’s okay to not be okay all the time. 
  1. Secondly, the body.  If you have not had an annual examination, if you do not “know your numbers,” if you do not know your family history in terms of illnesses, and if you do not have all your questions answered to date about COVID-19 and the vaccinations available, then you’ve got some work to do. Also, depending upon your age, if you have not had the appropriate screening examinations such as a mammogram and a colonoscopy then you are really behind the 8 ball.
  1. Finally, your spirit.  Since He is the Alpha and Omega, managing your stress starts with God and ends with God. So, as you have to take care of your mind, you also have to take care of your spirit. Your soul must be grounded in love and truth and peace. This begins with the relationship you have with yourself and secondarily the relationship you have with God. Do you pray and talk to God daily? Your faith must be heavily rooted so you can tap into it and draw strength when you are physically and mentally at the brink of exhaustion and can’t simply go any further. Try God. Trust me. He catches me every single time I fall (and lately I’ve fallen a lot)!

There is work to be done, sis, to attain a better relationship with your stress and ultimately a better relationship with yourself. But, I know you can do this. It’s just going to require a little bit of work. Don’t wait too long to build a relationship with yourself and more importantly to strengthen your relationship with God. HE is always present and waiting with open arms.

To hear more from Dr. Legree visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

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