“You need stress in your life!” That is what the National Institute of Mental Health says. “Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavor, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. A major challenge in this stress-filled world of today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you.” So teens: Are you up for the challenge? Do you see the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to become a more stable teenager? Are you learning to become more certain during uncertain times?
Violins and Dams
Think of yourself as a violin. When there’s not enough stress applied to a violin string, it produces a dull, raspy sound. Too much stress makes a shrill, annoying noise, or causes the string to snap. However, just the right amount of stress creates splendid tones.
Not a violinist? Perhaps you’re the concrete type. Hoover Dam, on the border of Arizona and Nevada, was finished in 1935 and towers 726.4 feet tall. As its builders knew, concrete gets stronger when it is compressed—when stress is added. To exploit this, the engineers behind the dam built it so that the weight of the water behind it presses against the dam, sealing the joints and making it stronger. Stress can actually strengthen!
According to the Encyclopedia of Good Health, “Stress is your body’s response to the things that happen around you. Stress is a natural bodily function.” But if it’s so natural, then why does it frustrate, confuse, agitate and demoralize? The answer lies simply in how well (or not so well) we control stress in our lives!
Notice the irony: Today you find yourself living in a fast-paced, push-button society of conveniences. Leisure-supporting lifestyles cater to comfort and often reject anything overly challenging or demanding. In truth, this kind of environment is fertile ground for out-of-control stress as we hand the reins of life over to technology and let others chart our course. Using shallow human reasoning, one might carelessly assume that this life of ease could and would produce happiness, a life free of worry and harmful stress. If so, why do 70 percent of U.S. teens in a recent study cite anxiety and depression as their number one problem—even ahead of bullying, poverty and gangs?
Test Your Stress
Stress can be simply defined as how we react physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to what’s going on around us.
There are basically two kinds of stress: positive stress—the constructive kind that pushes us to grow and perform at our very best, and negative stress—the destructive kind that debilitates us.
Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms of stress?
Physical: tension, fatigue, stomach problems or shakes.
Mental: forgetfulness, poor concentration, low productivity, racing thoughts or boredom.
Emotional: anxiety, depression, mood swings, temper outbursts or suicidal thoughts.
Spiritual: emptiness, hopelessness, lack of purpose or faithlessness.
If you are able to relate to some of the above symptoms, you’re not alone.
Far too often, we allow stress to upset life’s balance. When this imbalance occurs, your nervous system generates a coordinated set of physical actions in your body and adrenaline releases from your adrenal glands on a signal from the brain. When this happens, you experience what is popularly known as the “flight or fight” response.
The major negative effects of stress occur when an individual does not “fight” or “fly” but rather freezes up and does nothing to change his circumstances. In this instance, the chemicals produced by adrenaline are not used, and you stay in high gear longer than you should and begin wearing out quickly. Recognize this paralysis, and take action.
Channel Your Stress
The maximum water pressure at the base of Hoover Dam is 45,000 pounds per square foot. Imagine 45,000 pounds pushing against one square foot of your body or mind! Something has to give! Hoover Dam knows “when to say when”! It releases between 52,000 and 299,000 gallons of water a day. That water is put to productive use by cities and counties downriver.
How we react to and channel stress is key. At this critical point, one decides which way to channel the stress—in a positive direction or a negative one. Too often the latter wins out, and many seek the mind-numbing effects of alcohol, drugs and other faulty solutions to deal with their bouts of stress.
Let’s explore some constructive ways to handle and manage stress—ways that will make stress work for you rather than against you.
Live the Give Way
In order to completely overcome the most destructive stress and to gain control of your life spiritually, you must learn how by reading and applying the directions in mankind’s operator’s manual: the Holy Bible.
Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad” (New King James Version). An April 1985 Plain Truth article titled “Best Strategies for Beating Stress” comments: “What makes a person ‘glad’—positive, optimistic, have a constructive frame of mind? A constant, positive attitude and approach to life! Helping and encouraging others by your thoughtful words and receiving support from others are important.”
Herbert W. Armstrong described two basic ways of life: 1) the give way and 2) the get way. Which type of person do you think takes control of stress, and which type allows stress to control him?
In Acts 20:35, Jesus Christ said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Here’s another key! Our human nature tends to think only of self and self’s desires. This selfish lifestyle is consumed with self-pity and a why is this happening to me? attitude. Much of the harmful, negative, destructive stress and hysteria could be eradicated from this world if we would follow this basic, timeless principle, spoken nearly 2,000 years ago: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
One of the world’s foremost authorities on stress, endocrinologist Hans Selye, acknowledged this fact by saying, “If everyone loved his neighbor as himself, how could there be any war, crime, aggression or even tension among people?” If that sounds biblical to you, you’re right! (Matthew 22:39).
If you want to gain more out of life, then put more into it—and for that matter, put more into others; give! Learn how to harness the power of stress and channel that energy into a productive way of life. Take control of it and learn how to live a life of giving and service.
‘I Will Give You Rest’
The Apostle Paul stressed (pun intended), “Be anxious for nothing … and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7; nkjv).
It’s through Christ, our Passover Lamb, that we can have a relationship with God the Father, the Head of the Family. He’s in charge, He’s in control, and He knows just the right amount of stress to let us experience in this life; never giving us more than we can handle
(1 Corinthians 10:13).
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Teens, crises and out-of-control stress will intensify in this world around you and the coronavirus has been a revealing stress test for us all.
God is communicating. Are we listening? Are we accepting His wonderful invitation to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”?
Teens, make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you!
Sidebar: Examine Yourself
Am I generally happy, or irritable?
Am I happier giving things, or getting things?
Am I happier when my friends succeed, or when they stumble?
Am I honest with myself and others, or dishonest even in small matters?
Am I proactive, or do I react and wait for life to come to me?
Do I take responsibility for my decisions, or do I play the victim?
Am I correctable and seeking to change, or am I stubborn and always wanting my own way?
Am I more concerned with pleasing God, or pleasing human beings?
Do I trust God to handle crises, or do I look to man-made solutions?
Do I lean on God’s Word, or on my own understanding?
Answers to these questions reveal how you might be creating positive or negative stress in your life. Analyze what makes you tick. Prayerfully ask God to show you what He sees in your life. He’ll happily oblige you. Keep asking such questions. Stay curious and apply positive stress to yourself to be real, honest and learn to see yourself as God already does.