As women, life can come at us from all directions: from family, from work, from the world around us, even from inside of ourselves. We may often feel overextended, overwhelmed, and frustrated. We worry about everything, from our finances and the future to strange weather patterns and the food we eat. We struggle with change and new experiences (even positive ones). We are responsible for children or our own parents (or both). We have concerns about morality, personal safety, terrorism, and the uncertainties of life. Not only do our minds feel the spin and worry of a rushed life, but our bodies fall victim to these influences as well.
Cumulative stress can affect every area of our lives, compromising our thought processes, our emotions, our physical health, and even our spiritual lives. When stress turns to anxiety and depression and risky ways of coping, we can find ourselves in spiritual crisis.
But most of us think that only people in high-stress jobs like air traffic controllers, emergency room doctors, and stock traders experience stress and need to learn calming techniques. But, people struggling up the success ladder, service workers, women (especially working mothers), young adults, the unemployed and underemployed, the elderly all experience stress. Women between the ages of 45 and 55 experience the highest levels of stress of any group. This is usually because they are often working, involved in their communities, and still parenting children while also caring for their aging parents.
Children especially are feeling the negative effects of stress at even earlier ages today. They are overwhelmed by homework, after school activities, social pressures, safety issues at school and in their neighborhoods, as well as imminent changes in their bodies. They are even affected by their own parents’ stress.
Change is one of the most powerful sources of stress in our lives, whether it is good change as in a promotion or a marriage or a birth or a negative change as in an illness or divorce or death. Change affects us when it is present and sometimes even when it is not. We can feel stress when we are in a routine, stuck in a job we don’t like, or waiting for an opportunity to come. We may be impatient with ourselves when internal change isn’t happening or not happening fast enough. Change can then be a relief to us, relieving one kind of stress, even though it will bring its own stress.
Stress can not only raise blood pressure and put undo pressure on our hearts but it also can contribute to urinary tract infections, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders, fatigue, and even disturb normal menstrual cycles.
Chronic stress can begin to erode our concept of self. We can lose confidence in our abilities and strengths. This can erode relationships with others and with our trust in how the universe works. We can lose our ability to laugh or find humor in the world. We stop being creative and finding joy in living. Further, we can become so embroiled in stress that we start to pull away from people emotionally and spiritually. We find it difficult to trust others. This lack of trust isolates us even more and can even cause us to pull away from spiritual resources that could help us, such as clergy, teachers, or prayer groups. Some of us even begin to blame God for our circumstances and further cut ourselves off from powerful spiritual tools such as prayer or meditation.
Regardless of the source of our stress, we all need to learn to relax and calm our racing hearts and minds. Managing stress can help us rediscover who we are as human beings and how our lives intersect with others. Successful stress management can help us strengthen or even regain our spiritual lives.
About The Author:
Janie Franz – Senior Editor, comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and a degree in anthropology, she has written thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications.
She has five novels published with two different publishers, co-wrote two wedding how-two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox, and self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine (www.refrainmagazine.com), is a book and music reviewer, and was a radio announcer, a booking agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.
Her latest book, Sugar Magnolia, is a contemporary romance about the music and industry and can be found at Muse It Up Publishing.