Sidestepping Stress: The Stress-Health Connection

Walking in the fullness of the new you goes beyond eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest. To achieve and maintain true health, you also have to learn to handle the stress in your life. Otherwise, it will derail your other efforts, keeping you overweight, sick, emotionally bound, and quite possibly taking you to an early grave.

When you begin to get stressed, your body reacts physically by going into what is known as fight-or-flight mode. This stress response causes your heart to race, your breathing to quicken, your muscles to contract, and your blood pressure to rise. Your body is literally preparing itself to act in the face of danger, even if that danger isn’t physical. When you are in this state often, it wears your body down. Constant stress leads to weight gain, low energy, headaches, digestive issues, frequent colds and infections, premature aging, and a host of other problems. Over the long term, it can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and an increased cancer risk.

While the physical effects of stress are nothing to be taken lightly, high levels of stress also affect your mental well-being. Stress causes you to lose clarity and make poor decisions. In fact, we would venture that the worst decisions you have made in your life were made when you were under a great deal of stress. Stress causes you to have a sour mood and a quick temper, which lead to countless relational issues. There is no margin in your life when you are stressed, so you tend to overreact to everything and hurt the people around you.

Not to mention, stress hinders your spiritual life. Have you noticed that when you are overwhelmed and feel you have too much to do, your prayer life is one of the first things to go? Your time in God’s Word usually follows. This creates a vicious cycle. As your stress causes you to crowd God out of your schedule, you begin to lose the sense of his peace and presence—which you need more than ever when you are stressed. This loss causes even more stress, which makes you pull even farther away. Again, everything works together. No area of your life stands alone.

Think of stress as something that maximizes whatever is going on in the rest of your life. When you are under high stress, the negative in your life is maximized—health problems, emotional discontent, spiritual distance, relational tension, and the list goes on. On the other hand, when you are managing your stress levels well and keeping them low, the good in your life is maximized. You are able to achieve better physical health, you are more emotionally stable, you have more mental clarity, and you are more invested in your relationships with God and other people.

Knowing stress is a common condition of humankind helps bring it into perspective. Click To Tweet

Still, stress is an unavoidable part of life. You are never going to get away from it, so you have to learn to manage it. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). With this in mind, consider these two truths about stress:

  • There is no such thing as a stress-free life. From the average person on the street to the president of the United States, everyone deals with some level of stress. As long as you are on this side of heaven, you are never going to be able to eliminate stress as a constant companion—but you can learn to manage and minimize it.
  • You are never going to get everything done. One of the greatest sources of stress is the never-ending to-do list. There is always going to be another meeting to go to, another list to shop for, another budget to prepare, another doctor’s appointment to squeeze in, another deadline to hit, another load of laundry to wash, another bill to pay—you get the idea. If you are like most people, you could tick things off your to-do list twenty-four hours a day for a week straight and still not get to the end of it. As soon as you mark one thing off, something else appears in its place, right? Knowing that you are never going to get everything done helps relieve some of the pressure you inevitably put on yourself.

When you acknowledge these two truths, they bring a modicum of peace. They confirm that you are not alone. You are not the only one dealing with high levels of stress. You are not the only one facing challenge after challenge in your life. You are not the only one with a to-do list that seems impossible to manage. These things are simply part of living a busy life.

Knowing stress is a common condition of humankind helps bring it into perspective. The difference between those who allow stress to eat them alive and those who stay cool under pressure isn’t the actual level of stress they are under but how well they have learned to deal with its presence.

– Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson

The above excerpt is from p. 162-164 of The New You: A Guide to Better Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Wellness.

With your copy of The New You, you will come away with specific strategies on how to lose weight, get more sleep, lower stress, nurture better relationships, connect with God and much more! Anyone who wants to trade in the frustration of average living and less-than health for the hallmarks of the new life God promises will find The New You an effective personal guide for the journey.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyHealth, Leadership