Turning Stress Into Success

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A "friend" invoices you for considerably more than his original quote. A family member takes seriously ill and is in the hospital for months. Responsibilities and expenses soar.

At the same time you're in the middle of a million dollar building program at your business for which you are responsible and your loan falls through.

The result? Stress!

I know because these things all happened to me in the course of a recent year.

Stress is a normal part of contemporary living. We all have our share. Ignore it and it will take years off your life. Accept it and deal with it creatively and you too can turn your stress into success.

How can you do this?

First. Realize that some stress is helpful. It provides motivation. For instance, if it weren't for the stress of having to pay our bills we may not want to go to work.

Second. Be aware that stress is only troublesome when it continues for too long or if there is too much of it.

I read recently about a ten-ton bridge that had been serving a community very well for over fifty years. During the course of those years it had carried millions of tons of weight. But one day the driver of a logging truck ignored the ten-ton load limit sign. The bridge collapsed. Life is like that. All of us can carry our ten-ton load day after day, year after year, but only one load at a time. Overload us and we collapse too.

It's the little things that bother us,
And put us on the rack;
You can sit upon a mountain,
But you can't sit on a tack.

Some readers will be familiar with the research Thomas Holmes has done on stress. He found that too much change at one time was the greatest cause of stress. An accumulation of 300 or more "life changing units" in any one year may mean an overload of more stress than an individual can carry. On his scale, death of a spouse equals 100 units, divorce 73, marital separation 65, marriage 50, and so on.

Third. The next step in turning stress into success is to recognize symptoms as early as possible.

Writing in Eternity magazine Fred Stansberry talks about "stress-related diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart and respiratory diseases, migraines, allergies and a host of other psychological and physiological dysfunctions which are increasing at an alarming rate in our Western culture."

Other symptoms of stress have been listed as, "tense muscles, sore neck, shoulders and back, insomnia, fatigue, boredom, depression, listlessness, dullness, lack of interest, drinking too much, eating too much or too little, diarrhea, cramps, flatulence, constipation, palpitations-heart skip, phobias, twitches, restlessness and itching."

Fourth. Identify causes. As already mentioned change is one of the chief causes of stress. An accumulation of life's everyday annoyances can also build up a significant stress level perhaps even more than one single traumatic event. As the old saying puts it: "It's the little things that bother us, and put us on the rack; you can sit upon a mountain, but you can't sit on a tack."

Whatever the cause of your stress is, identify it so you can do something about it.

Fifth. Seek a practical cure.

  1. The starting point to turn stress into success is to lessen your load. Eighty percent of the cure can come out of writing down all your cares and responsibilities in order of priority, then eliminating the least important.
  2. Remember that Superman and Superwoman exist only in comics and films. Everybody has a breaking point, so recognize yours and call a halt before you reach your limit.
  3. With stress comes pent-up feelings. Get them "off your chest" by sharing them with a trusted friend or counselor. This brings immediate relief and helps you to think and plan more objectively.
  4. Stop fighting situations that can't be changed. As one father told his impatient teenager, "If you would only realize and accept the fact that life is a struggle, things would be so much easier for you." Learning to live with and get on top of struggles is what helps us grow and mature.
  5. Try to avoid making too many major life changes during the course of a single year.

Remember that Superman and
Superwoman exist only
in comics and films.

  1. If you hold a resentment towards another person, resolve your difference right away. Never "let the sun go down with you still angry."1
  2. Make time for rest and relaxation. Learn to "come apart and rest a while before you come apart."
  3. Watch your diet and eating habits. When under stress we tend to overeat especially junk food which increases stress. A balanced diet of proteins, vitamins, and fibre, which also eliminates white sugar, caffeine, too much fat, alcohol and nicotine is essential for lowering stress and its effects.
  4. Be sure to get plenty of physical exercise. This keeps you healthier and helps burn up excess adrenaline caused by stress and its accompanying anxiety.
  5. The ultimate answer to turning stress into success is to learn to trust God and live in harmony with his will for your daily life. His Word says, "Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand."2

God's peace comes through accepting and trusting to God those circumstances that can't be changed, however difficult they may be. Perhaps this is what Christ meant when he spoke of taking up our cross daily and following him. Certainly he fully accepted his cross and trusted his situation to God and thereby was totally vindicated.

And so with us. If, like Christ, we pray and truly trust our lives to God every day, we too will turn our stress into success, knowing that, in the words of the poet:
'Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate man's will to strive;
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep man's will alive.
O'er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.

1. Ephesians 2:26. 2. Philippians 4:6-7.

Copyright 2001 by Dick Innes

2002 ACTS International. Used by permission.