Here is some extra information on stress that I have found helpful. I am no doctor or counselor, but these are some observations and lessons I have learned as I have taken the journey of experiencing stress, anxiety, burnout and depression. The original source for some of this is Dr. Swenson's book, Margin, but I have edited, eliminated, added, reworded, etc. Even though plagiarizing is faster than creativity, I still want to give appropriate credit!
What is Stress?
Stress is the response of our bodies to any demand that is placed on it. These demands can be positive or negative and can be things such as:
And there is so much more. And they are all so intertwined. So unavoidable. It's easy to see why Jesus says in the world we will have tribulation! And why He has to be our source of peace.
- Work - new job, shift change, competition, toxic environment, etc.
- Change - family, career, location, health, stage of life, etc.
- Expectations - financial, prestige, appearance, athletic, etc.
- Relationships - new ones, demanding ones, broken ones, etc.
- Illness - ours or others
- Lack of control - over anything I don't like, threatens or affects me
- Traumatic events
What are it's symptoms? (Besides losing your stripes?)
When stress is not properly or successfully dealt with, there are symptoms that show up in our lives. Thankfully, our body has an alarm system. There are emotional symptoms, physical symptoms as well as behavioral and spiritual symptoms. As I plunged into burnout and depression, I experienced alarm bells ringing in all four areas.
These are likely to be stress's first effects...and we know them well. For me, emotional withdrawal, worry and anxiety, and not wanting to make decisions are key indicators I am not handling stress. Here is a short list of emotional symptoms.
- Easily and inappropriately angered
- Negative and critical thinking
- Hard time making decisions...even normally easy ones.
- Emotional withdrawal
- Increased worrying
Sometimes we don't connect these with stress, but they can serve as good flashing lights on our dashboard. I experienced many of them and they became more pronounced as I progressed from anxiety to burnout to depression. They still serve me as regular indicators when I am not handling stress well.
- Cardiovascular issues - high blood pressure, fast pulse, chest pain.
- Tight muscles - back, neck, head, etc.
- Digestive problems - nausea, diarrhea, ulcers, etc.
- Inability to rest...tiredness...and insomnia!
- Teeth and jaw issues...tight, grinding, etc.
- And more!!
"What our mind and body experience, our behaviors often express" (Swensen).
- Change in sleep patterns - often an early and obvious indicator
- Poor eating habits - it could be loss of appetite or habitual eating
- Physical withdrawal
- Inappropriate reactions/behaviors
For me, burnout and depression also manifested itself spiritually in what has been called the "dark night of the soul." It was a strong sense of abandonment by God. He still existed but He seemed so far away and unresponsive.
In some of my friends, because of a misunderstanding of the gospel, I've seen an insatiable need to perform, to be right, to be perfect. Or I have seen it go to the other extreme - just giving in. I'm curious - when you have not handled the stress inducing circumstances of life appropriately, what effect do you see in your walk with God? Leave a comment.
How is stress different from anxiety, burnout, and depression?
Stress: Remember stress is the response of our body to demands. We see this response in various ways.
Anxiety: I am anxious when I am believing that at any moment things will become horrible and helpless. Stressful circumstances do not have to cause anxiety (Philippians 4:6,7). When my anxiety became extreme, I experienced panic attacks. I share such an experience in Chapter 1 of my book, Lay it Down.
Burnout: This is when you have significant stress symptoms in all areas. You have a significant "I" centeredness..."I can't...I dread...I don't care...I hate it...I don't want to." You also lose your motivation, energy, ability to be productive and to make decisions. Psychosomatic illnesses are common. One day I knew I had cancer. The next day I knew I had a brain tumor. Panic attacks mimic heart attacks.
Depression: This is when you are absolutely sure that things are horrible and helpless. All my thoughts were uncontrollably dark, negative, black. There was nothing positive. Nothing.
Back to the blog...
This is where I will begin to uncover the hidden inner breeding grounds of stress...where it can simmer and we are always living with our unique symptoms of stress and we just feel stressed out, or where it can grow, metastasize, and rear it's ugly head in the form of anxiety or burnout or depression.
Walk with me...and lets compare notes. We need each other. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov 27:17). I think you will be surprised at how spiritual this journey will be.