Stress, like drugs, can be addictive

FAITH & REFLECTION -- Jesus said not to, "... worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will...

FAITH & REFLECTION — Jesus said not to, “… worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). That is quite a hit at North American culture, isn’t it? What concerns us more than diets and dress codes?

The Lord was not recommending that we eat sloppily or dress shabbily. Quite the contrary. He was teaching that life is more than food, drink and clothing, and that lives characterized by an unhealthy overemphasis on these will tend to be stressful lives.

Later in the same chapter Jesus advised His listeners to consider the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. He indicated that the birds are well fed and the flowers are beautifully clothed.

What Jesus was really saying was, stop stressing and worrying. This also runs counter to North American culture. Our stressed out, overly busy lifestyles are something that we wear like badges of honour, rather than recognizing that they are problematic. This is because stress, like drugs, can be addictive. In fact, researchers report that stress releases not only adrenaline, but also a feel-good chemical called dopamine. They add that this is why “adrenaline junkies” become workaholics.

In 2014, a survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reported that more than 60 per cent of Americans feel habitually stressed and more than 25 per cent of those experience extreme and continual stress. The results of chronic stress and worry are dramatic, with physiological, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual impact.

There are steps that can be taken to alleviate stress. Taking short breaks during work, as well as significant breaks like vacations are very beneficial. This is called “unplugging” for a while.

Regular exercise and learning to relax is essential. During my busiest weeks, I try to take more time, rather than less, to think and meditate upon Scripture verses that I have previously memorized. It is time well spent and I typically reengage with greater clarity, enjoyment and energy.

Self martyrdom (assuming that everything will fall apart without our engagement and efforts) is unnecessary and ineffective. Self focus is unhealthy, possibly even narcissistic, but self-care is necessary and properly employed is not selfish, but profitable to us and those we interact with.

I remember reading somewhere that fog, 100 feet deep, made up of 60,000 million drops, and covering seven city blocks, can cripple traffic for hours, resulting in accidents and death. However, condensed that fog would fit into a common water glass.

Jesus invites us out of the fog and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … .” (Matthew 11:28).