Stress emerges in the oddest ways. Of course, parenting of any kind provides an ample amount of stress on the body so this post is in no way specific to adoption although stress is a familiar part of the experience.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is defined as “the brain’s response to any demand” but the most common stress-inducing demand is change, which could be “positive, negative, real, or perceived.” The body systems that are most often affected by chronic or long-term stress exposure include the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems as well as lowered immunity. The feeling of stress or anxiety is often uncomfortable already, but when physical symptoms enter the picture, stress can seriously alter your lifestyle and quality of life.
While I have a decently high tolerance to physical pain and sickness, my mind is extremely susceptible to anxiety about my health, which makes the physical symptoms of stress difficult to deal with. For example, when my stress levels get high and I’m feeling bouts of what I should logically diagnose as indigestion associated with my stress, my mind instead goes to stomach ulcers or ventricular spasms. I have never experienced either of these ailments, nor will I likely experience them in my lifetime, and yet these become the only plausible diagnoses for my discomfort. And while I may be able to ward off this paranoia for a day or two, by day three if the symptoms have not improved, I open my WebMD app, which I am convinced has doubled the number of known anxiety disorders in the 21st century, and realize that not only do I have stomach ulcers or ventricular spasms, but a rare complication which will likely result in my imminent demise. This in turn does nothing but raise my anxiety levels which exacerbates the stress symptoms to a level which eventually brings me to the doctor’s office only to find I have a particularly stressful outlook on life.
Hello. My name is Amanda, and I am a hypochondriac.
While I might be unique in my neuroses, everyone deals with bouts of stress from time to time, and we all process it in different ways. My husband, who has a bit of ADD, tends to fixate on a hobby or activity when he feels the tensions rise. Lately, his hobby of choice has been rigging up a kayak to become an avid yak fisherman. He has spent what I have calculated to be over twenty hours working on setting up his kayak in the past two weeks, even though his kayak hasn’t been delivered yet. And yes, some of this can be explained by excitement, but as his wife, I can tell there’s more to his need to fixate than anticipation. At other times, when he is feeling tense, he will tend to disengage a bit during conversation and will check his phone or tablet almost like a nervous tick. In all, I believe he processes stress much more effectively than I do, but the fact of the matter is that stress, although it is a natural response our bodies were given in order to react and survive in dangerous situations, was not intended to have a daily presence in our lives, and if it does begin to demand an extra seat at the dinner table, then something is out of balance which may need to addressed.
A Bible verse a friend of mine reminded me of just this week is Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” This is a verse I committed to memory years ago which the Holy Spirit has certainly triggered in moments of high stress. Simply put, there are too many stressors involved in parenthood to handle on our own, especially because we were not designed to do anything alone. Genesis 2:18 could not be any clearer when it says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” In this specific instance, God created a helper for Adam, the man the verse was referring to, but in the broader sense of the verse, we need to acknowledge that God has placed suitable helpers in our lives as well. Spouses, friends, mentors, parents, pastors, and small group leaders who are seeking after the Lord are all people God has placed in our lives to help us process the tough things in life. Along with these friends, God entrusted us with the Holy Spirit who is commonly referred to in scripture as “The Helper.” Romans 8:26 says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” I know in times of stress, my ability to process my feelings and emotions is severely compromised, so I praise God that the Holy Spirit prays on my behalf for the things I don’t even know how to pray for. I’m amazed at God’s foresight, having created us himself, that he knows our nature so well, and came up with an answer for literally everything, which is almost always to rely on him.
Today, before you do anything else, pray for God’s insight into your heart. Ask him to hear the groanings of your heart that may be holding you back from living a life free of anxiety and stress. Remember, we weren’t designed to handle this stress on our own, so why don’t we fight our anxieties preemptively with the power of our almighty God today.
Verses to Consider:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. –PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. –MATTHEW 11:28-30
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. –ROMANS 8:11
A Prayer for Your Day:
Lord, you know I’m tired, and yet my blood pressure seems to always be rising because of all that is required of me. Sometimes I just want to quit because this is so hard. I know that you promise perfect peace to those whose minds are steadfast and trust in you (Isaiah 26:3), so help me to trust that you have already found a way to complete all the tasks you have set before me and that you will guide me through every step. Remind me that I was not designed to be alone, so when I desire to withdraw and disengage with those you have entrusted me with, call me back to those you have called to help. Help me to be fully present by fixing my mind on you (Heb. 3:1) and on things that are greater than the temporary stressors of this world (Col. 3:2).
Be with me today and help me to identify and address the stressors that are controlling my life, for the only one who should have control over my life is you.
In Jesus’ name,