Counselor’s Corner:Taking Care of Yourself When You Have Chronic Stress
What is chronic stress? Any stress in your life that is persistent and ongoing with no-end in sight. Examples of chronic stress could be drug-addiction in family, emotionally unstable or mentally ill family, a disabled or sick child, and any caregiver role that you might be in. Minor stress in comparison can consist of more manageable types of stress such as car repairs, paying for your child’s education, or getting through the holidays with your in-laws. The difference with minor stress and chronic stress is that with minor stress, there is relief eventually coming. With chronic stress, you don’t know when or if relief will come. Chronic stress left unchecked can develop into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The first key in recovering from chronic stress is becoming aware. Becoming aware of how chronic stress has affected your life, and becoming aware of what action steps that need to be taken quickly before the onset of negative symptoms.
What are some of the symptoms of chronic stress:
□ Decreased immune functioning
□ Overreaction in small matters
□ Anger, frustration, irritability
□ Women-hormonal imbalance
□ Gastrointestinal issues-bloating, diarrhea, upset stomach
□ Decrease in libido
□ Back pain
□ Frequent headaches
□ Difficulty concentration and remembering
□ Easily startled
□ Not at ease, feel hyper-guarded
□ Cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure
□ Difficulty staying or falling asleep
□ Feel helpless
Stress that is persistent and ongoing has a far greater negative impact on our overall health. Chronic stress can lead to atrophy in the hippocampus part of the brain and can later develop into dementia.
Chronic stress can lead to premature death, stroke, and cancer. Chronic stress actually kills our brain cells! The American Psychological Association reported on a study of chronological ages versus physiological ages related to stress. Their findings were startling-women who cared for disabled or sick children for years were 10 years older physiologically. We must be active to eliminate what stress that we can, and to manage the stress that is chronic in our lives in a healthier manner. Chronically stressed individuals are literally in a fight for their lives and for survival.
Reflect and ponder: Do you have any chronic stress in your life? Or perhaps you have multiple, chronic stressors in your life? Are you ready to implement changes in your life to save your life?
Self-care is imperative to develop and incorporate into your life if you have chronic stress. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, but in fact it could prolong and save your life. You must realize that because you have dealt with chronic stress, you are now different. You may have to grieve the loss, the pain, and the trauma that the chronic stress has caused you. You may not be the same person that you were before the chronic stress was a part of your life, but like the Apostle Paul who continued in his ministry even with the “thorn in his side,” I believe we can too! We just need to balance our lives differently with a lot of self-care.
Self-care tips for chronic stress:
1. Know your limits. Know when enough is enough for you. You may not be able to go and do like everyone else, you may need more times of quietness and solitude with the Father. I have learned quietness is my friend. A lot of noise and big crowds do not do well for me any longer, but one on one relationships are great for me. Do what is best for you! If you are not able to attend a funeral because it heightens your stress levels, don’t go and maybe instead send a card or flowers. If going to a loud social gathering would cause you more anxiousness, don’t go but instead do something that you would enjoy.
2. Exercise. Exercise decreases stress, anxiety and depression. Even walking can have benefits to your health.
3. Detach emotionally from people in your life who drain you, use you, manipulate you, or add little to no value to your life. Detaching in love is something that only God can give you the strength to do. There may come a time in your life where you need to “cut your losses” in a relationship. If you have received more pain in a relationship than it may be time to detach. Detaching does not need to be permanent, just until God has restored that person to a right relationship with Him and the two of you can then have a healthy relationship. Detaching emotionally says, “You are now responsible for you own life and I will no longer fix, rescue, or enable you in anyway.” Detaching emotionally means your problem is no longer my problem.
4. Do things for your enjoyment. Cultivate lots of time for fun, laughter and relaxing.
5. Have alone time with the Father, often! Learn to soak by just sitting before the Lord and listening to worship music. You can even soak in a warm tub filled with Epson salt and play worship music as you do.
6. Simplify your life. Cut out all non-essentials in your life and cut down the things in your life that are only Holy Spirit led. You will find that God does not want us running and jumping here and there, but often He has just being still. Stillness in the Lord = Peace.
7. Rest when you need to. Chronic stress has your body working overtime so when you need to pull back and rest-do so! It is not your job to convince others of your walk. Your true friends will stick by you and will understand your boundaries and when you need to take a break.
MEDITATE ON THESE SCRIPTURES:
Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is a t my right hand, I will not be shaken.