So many people I encounter are under the direct burden of stress.
Levels of general anxiety in the population today are as high as at any other time in the history of the world. And yet, as you read this you might be like much of the world, living in comparative luxury compared to others who cannot read this, and there are those historically who have faced much harder realities than we do today, yet possibly experienced less general anxiety.
These below are just four items on what would be a long list:
The Infection of Information
We are infected in this day with a plethora of information that has the impact of burdening us more than we are able to cope with. Information is killing us. And it isn’t even as if it’s a case of discerning what information is good from what isn’t good, it is just the flood of information that creates stress and manifests as anxiety.
Don’t just think about the ills of comparison through excess time spent on social media (though envy is a stressor). The problem is much more complex than that. It’s literally keeping up with the flow of information coming in that has an effect on our relationships with real people. Information as a priority, unfortunately, tends to trump people. The more tools and techniques we use to try and simplify our lives in this day the more our lives become complicated.
It’s because we have so much that we want so much.
There is a new addiction in our age, and it’s called the Fear of Missing out. And it isn’t just young people who are addicted; indeed, it is an irony that it is the over 40s who are most entrenched with Facebook these days.
But it’s not just the infection of information that burdens us with stress that overwhelms our capacity to relate with people.
Honesty with Ourselves and with God
This is a stressor that many people cannot stomach let alone reconcile. Even some espoused Christian individuals, particularly those who major on doctrines (information, again, over people!), cannot have an honest relationship with themselves or God, because they lack the courage of vulnerability to be truthful with themselves. They may bend out of context Jesus’ words, ‘the truth will set you free’ all the while refusing the Holy Spirit’s power that would heal them of their pride by giving them a continual awareness of it.
God blesses the obedient; those who will honestly journey with Him; those who have the capacity to fervently repent of their wrongful attitudes, for we all have them. I have found that the way God works with me is, my pride that refuses to be honest becomes a curse against the peace I could otherwise have in my heart.
If we cannot be honest with ourselves and with God, we will be severely limited in our relationships, and because we are not being honest about getting the log out of our own eye, it’s only a matter of time before some relationships shatter through conflict. Some relationships suffer such damage they become irreparable.
When we are honest with ourselves and with God, we see our pride, and how we are tempted to elevate the issues we argue about over the person, and completely miss the will of God.
When we’re honest with ourselves and God, God gives us the capacity to repent of our pride.
Being Aware of Emotional Indicators
Stress has an impact on us at a psychological level affecting the way we think and feel. Like all of what I talk about in this article, awareness is the key. As we recognise the feeling of stress and anxiety within us, we can choose to talk calmly to ourselves, to allow God to comfort us, even as we hope beyond the stressful present moment – ‘This, too, shall pass’.
This kind of stress is manifest in a particularly strong way when we are interacting with people, especially when we cannot control the situation, because we all like a modicum of control. And when we are stressed, more than ever, we demand control. If we hear God saying to us, ‘it’s okay, surrender your need of control to Me’ we can simply do something active in the interaction itself to surrender control. None of this is rocket science.
Getting the Balance Right between Activity and Being
Possibly the final frontier in reconciling stress is how far we skew the balance in our lives regarding activity versus being.
There is just so much to do in life. We often accept that without challenging it. Nobody is making us do this or that.
Many things that we choose to do we don’t have to do.
Very often the wisdom path is in saying no, which in the moment of saying it feels awkward and uncomfortable, but is the best remedy for busyness.
As we fight for the peace we could have in life we reduce our burden and deal with our stress.
Not enough being evokes anxiety; too much doing is stressful.