Remember that moment when Bruce Banner suddenly morphs into the Incredible Hulk? His pupils start glowing; pretty soon his shoes are splitting off his expanding green feet.
Perhaps if my favorite blouse was ripping at the shoulder seams, my own stress identification would be a bit more astute. As it is, sometimes my husband sees my inner Hulk-ette beefing up a lot sooner than I do. (Irritating.) Can you hear me growl, “I’M…..NOT…..STRESSED!”
When I’m under stress, as much as I hate to admit it—people get a completely different me.
What’s the deal about knowing I’m stressed?
- Unmanaged high stress → burnout → depression. In short, identifying stress means we can manage stress before our stress manages us…and the people we love.
- Remember that “these three remain: faith, hope, and love”? Well. Speaking for myself—when stressed, I’m particularly vulnerable to unbelief, being unloving, and discouraged—hopeless.
- Knowing I’m stressed puts me on the alert in the battle of my mind, to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I’m no longer a victim of my stress; I’m headed toward being the victor. It helps me love better, believe more, and renew my mind and hope.
- If you’ve been following A Generous Grace for any length of time, you can see in posts like this (on both listening to our hearts and preaching to them) and this (on the hidden art of Christian grieving) that I believe honesty in our emotions before God is an opportunity for authentic faith—and eventually, authentic worship.
- It helps us develop a proactive prescription for stress that starts from filling our “soul holes” all the way up to our healthy coping mechanisms—rather than our knee-jerk reactions, which are typically much less healthy.
- It minimizes our anxiety as we no longer must deny our stress (which, uh, statistically adds more stress), and acknowledges that stress is normal. It’s not a sign we’re weak or not leaning on God. Perfection belongs to God. None of us is invulnerable.
What does the “stressed” me look like?
As this site states, stress isn’t always bad. It can help you stay focused and alert, and even save your life. But sustained stress can cause significant damage to our minds and bodies—and, I’d argue, our souls.
So let’s get down to it. Consider both your actions and your body’s own symptoms: What does the “stressed” you look like? (These questions are intended as starters—not at all exhaustive lists.)
Though many of these have negative connotations it’s important to be aware of, stress is a part of life—and some ways of dealing with stress are completely within the range of normal, healthy, and loving.
|o Exhaustion||o Never enough sleep||o turning to food, drinks, other substances for comfort|
|o fatigue||o Nail-biting||o increased or decreased exercise|
|o Overeating||o Jaw-clenching||o racing heart or breathing|
|o Loss of appetite||o Crying||o Facial tics|
|o Not eating||o Skin sensitivity; hives; eczema||o hair loss|
|o Insomnia||o Digestive issues|
|o disorganized||o Indecisive||o counting calories|
|o Hyper-organized||o Domineering||o creating endless to-do lists|
|o Distracted||o seeking control in systems you’ve developed||o brain kicking into high gear under pressure|
|o Forgetful||o black-and-white thinking||o hypervigilance|
|o apathetic||o task-driven||o brain “pinballing”, unfocused|
- Emotionally and socially?
|o Less gracious with self or others||o Aggressive||o self-denying|
|o bending over backwards to please||o Competitive||o accepting more blame than truthfully belongs to you|
|o Utterly drained by social interactions||o Passive||o angry|
|o slightly depressed||o Overcommitting||o Craving solitude|
|o worrying, trying to think through every possible risk and/or solution||o Reclusive||o Overanalyzing|
|o critical; skeptical; distrusting||o selfish||o Terse; defensive|
|o feeling like you’re not enough||o overachieving; procrastinating||o Overreacting; oversensitive|
|o working constantly, unwilling to rest||o Complaining||o Overspending, or reining in expenses|
|o devoid of motivation||o submissive||o Whining|
|o struggle to meet with God||o Full of fear||o submissive|
|o crying out||o Denial of stress or worry||o angry|
|o journaling constantly||o turning to certain spiritual disciplines||o inadequacy|
|o distant||o sheltering in favorite verses||o apathetic; devoid of motivation|
|o Unmotivated||o distrustful, skeptical||o self-denying|
|o blaming||o self-loathing/-punishing||o dwelling in past sins, regrets, and failure|
|o driven||o silent||o self-gratifying|
|o demanding; entitled||o broken||o prayerful|
More questions about the stressed you
- How do I seek equilibrium when I’m stressed? In what areas do I tend to overindulge—and in which ways could I stand to embrace God’s rest, and practice a little of His compassion on me?
- What lies do I tend to believe when I’m stressed, about myself, others, or God? “I’m not doing enough.” “If I can just figure out what I should do, I’ll be good.” “This is not my problem.” “This is not my fault.” “This is entirely my fault.” “If only I had [insert regret]!” “I am so [insert adjective].” “God feels ___ toward me.”
- What truths in Scripture directly address the lies I tend to believe? How will I keep these truths accessible?
- Who are “safe” people I can turn to in my stress?
- If I don’t address my stress, who might pay the consequences?
- Often, we tend to resort to our usual “soul holes” (discussed here) Tim Keller identifies as comfort, security, approval, or power. Where are my default sources of fulfillment? What are legitimate—and illegitimate—ways I tend to do this?
- What “stress relief prescription” might a compassionate friend offer me in this situation?
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