Your thoughts may be indifferent, or they may be colored with feelings and emotions. These feelings may be pleasant or unpleasant, joyous or sad, serene or angry, loving or hateful. Such feelings gave flavor to your thoughts and arouse responses from various body systems. These responses, in turn, may be beneficial or harmful either to a specific organ or to your body as a whole.
Say, for example, that you are a young lady and in need of a dress. You spend hours searching for your dress at the department stores until there it is, just the style and color you have been dreaming about. The price is right, and you happily take it home, looking forward to wearing it on your next date. Your boyfriend arrives to pick you up, and as you greet him, he says with a happy smile, “My, you look gorgeous in that beautiful dress. It suits you and I love it.”
A warm glow comes to your cheeks, and you feel happy and contented. That new dress made your day.
Now change the scene just a little. You are wearing a new dress as you greet your friend at the door, but instead of expressing pleasure at seeing you in your dress, he remarks: “What on earth made you buy a dress like that? The style is awful, and I hate that color.” Now, how do you feel? Dismayed, ashamed, resentful, angry?
You can see those thoughts arouse emotions, which evoke responses that are either beneficial or harmful to your body and mind.
ADAPTATION TO STRESS
You are watching a program on television when it is abruptly cut off and an announcement is made that there has been a severe earthquake in the place near your family. Houses have collapsed over a wide area, and an unknown number of people have been killed or are trapped under houses.
Your family has just moved to that place. You try to call them by phone but cannot get through. The lines are all busy. Your head pounds, your blood pressure goes up, and you have a knot in your stomach.
The news of the earthquake and your perception of it have triggered in you the alarm response. As you wonder what to do, the phone rings. You pick up the receiver, and your family tells you that they are safe. What a relief! You can feel your muscle relax, your headache and knot in your stomach disappear, and soon you are back to normal.
But the scenario might be different. The phone lines in your family’s place are down, and no calls are getting through. The hours go by, and you finally decide to get some rest, but when you go to bed you cannot sleep.
You get up the next morning tired and anxious. Since it is impossible for your body to maintain this emergency response for hours and days, it adjusts. Your blood pressure drops, but it is still above normal. Your heart slows down, but it still beats a minute faster than normal. Your stomach keeps working, but you have trouble digesting your food. Anxiety triggers the alarm reaction but at a lower level.
When the stress response is severe, your body’s ability to adapt is short and may last for hours, or at the most, days, but your body’s adaptation to a chronic state of mild tension may last for days, weeks, or even months.
However, any amount of tension above normal will eventually lead to functional loss and later to structural damage.
Your body’s ability to cope with stressful situations depends on a number of factors. One of the most important of these is physical and mental well-being. If you are physically fit and mentally alert, your ability to adapt to a stressful situation will be much greater than if you are physically debilitated and mentally depressed.
As long as we live in this world, there will be many, many times when we must endure stress. What can you do about this? Here are few simple suggestions.
- Don’t become disturbed.
Most stress responses are due to one person reacting to what someone else has said or done or not done. But you should remember that no matter what somebody says to you, it cannot affect you unless you allow it to. The fact that someone calls you a liar does not make you one. Nor are you fool just because someone calls you a fool. But if you respond like a fool, then you are a fool.
In most cases, what other people say about you disturbs you because either your feelings or your pride are hurt. When this happens, don’t respond immediately. Take your time and think the situation through.
- Don’t react hastily.
If what that person said is true, then be thankful, even though it hurts. Do your best to correct the problem. On the other hand, if the other person’s statement was false, don’t react hastily and trigger your own alarm reaction, for that will only hurt you. Instead, take time to think.
Perhaps you have inadvertently given a wrong impression. If so, maybe you can correct it. If the statement was a blatant untruth, ignore it. It cannot affect you unless you allow it to.
- Don’t blame others.
If the fault is yours and you accuse someone else, you will only make matters worse. If you remain calm, you will find it easier to cope with the situation.
- Don’t blame circumstances.
See if you can find the real cause of the problem, and you will be more likely to think of an appropriate solution.
- Don’t blame yourself.
If you made a mistake or if the problem was your fault, blaming yourself will only lead to discouragement. Whatever has happened has happened. Face the situation and seek a resolution.
- Talk to someone.
Share your concern with a good friend or counselor. He or she may help you to gain some very helpful insights.
- Don’t demand too much of yourself.
If you are expecting more than your time and abilities permit, see if you cannot rearrange your program. Set priorities. No one has time to do everything.
- Make a schedule.
If you are one of those people who run from one job to another or who never have time to let go, making a schedule will allow you to have time for work and times to rest and relax.
- Don’t despair.
Hopelessness is destructive. Take one day at a time and do your best. This will give you self-worth under the most trying circumstances.
- Learn to relax.
So-called “nervous tension” is really muscular tension due to too much nervous stimulation. There are simple ways to relax, the most important of which is physical exercise.
- Get regular exercise.
Moderate to vigorous exercise has been found to reduce muscular tension and provide a feeling of well-being.
- Take time to sleep.
Lack of sleep is a prime cause of fatigue. Fatigue, in turn, reduces emotional control and tends to produce stress-provoking situations.
- Resist bad feelings.
Anger, hate, frustration, jealousy, and revenge are self-destructive, stress-producting emotions. Banish them from your mind.
- Put your trust in God.
If you truly believe in a loving God, take your problems to Him. Put your trust in Him. He has promised to help in every kind of trouble.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember Him in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.” Proverbs 3:5,6
The contrast of emotions consists of two, the good and bad, when there is love its contrast is hate, tranquility is frustration, contentment is discontent, courage is fear, hope is anxiety, faith is distrust, forgiveness is resentment and these bad emotions all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death.
The Scriptures have well expressed the formula for stress control. King Solomon, one of the wisest of all mortals, said, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
References: Vol. 1 Family Medical Guide, To health & Fitness, Mervyn G. Hardinge, M.D., Dr. P.H., Ph.D, Harold Shryock, M.A., M.D. In collaboration with 28 leading medical specialists