By Jackie Agnew
Today we live in a fast-paced society that seems to be placing more and more demands on us with each passing year. People are hurrying everywhere, and they’re often rude and short-tempered. Many people are experiencing financial stress, marital stress and the stress of raising children. There’s often mental and physical stress on the job caused by overwork. Many times this type of lifestyle causes health problems—adding even more stress.
The word stress was originally an engineering term that referred to the amount of force a beam or other physical support could bear without collapsing. Today the dictionary’s definition of stress includes “mental, emotional, or physical tension; strain, distress.” This is a condition most of us are all too familiar with. Almost everyone is under some kind of stress—it’s a normal part of everyday life.
Our bodies were created to withstand a certain amount of daily pressure, so when we push ourselves beyond our limitations, we begin to experience problems. Are you pushing yourself too hard? Many people live in a perpetual state of overload—always on the verge of collapse. They keep stretching themselves to the limit like a rubber band…until one day they snap.
A rubber band has an amazing ability to be stretched to its maximum length and then return to its precise original form, but how many times can it do that without weakening or breaking?
Let’s say you’re working around the house and break a rubber band while trying to stretch it around something. You can’t find another rubber band, so you try to fix the broken one by tying the ends together. Sometimes in our daily lives, we stretch ourselves beyond our capacity, and we snap like the rubber band. We think we’ve fixed the problem by simply tying the ends back together. But soon we fall into the same behavior that caused us to break down in the first place.
When a rubber band you’ve tied breaks again, it usually breaks in a different spot. So you tie the ends together in another knot. In our daily lives, when we keep stretching, breaking and “tying the ends back together,” we begin to feel as though we’re tied up in knots—inside and out!
The solution seems simple – get rid of those things that cause stress. That may work for a while, but it’s not the final solution. It’s impossible to totally eliminate all the stress from our lives. Our only answer is to adjust our perspective and change the way we respond to the inevitable stresses of everyday life. Over time with repeated exposure to stress, our lives begin to resemble that worn-out rubber band. Exhaustion—both physical and emotional—begins to take its toll. When stress depletes our bodies, our immune system weakens, and sickness (even depression) can set in.
Ignoring the signs of stress will ultimately cause burnout. You simply can’t continue to overwork your mind, emotions and body without eventually paying the price. Who sets the pace in your life? Do you let the pressures and stresses of everyday life drive you toward burnout? Are you stressed from trying to keep up with everyone else? Are you living under the stress of competition and comparison? Are you a perfectionist with unrealistic goals?
I believe we can live stress free even though we live in a stress-filled world, but it might require some radical decision making. If your life has become a rubber band all tied up in knots, it’s obvious that a change needs to take place. Begin to adjust your perspective. Seek peace and set a slower pace for your life. Respect your body. Treat good health as a priceless gift. Don’t waste the energy life has given you on stress. Save it for living and enjoying life!