Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it. It is not nervous tension but the wear and tear of life. Stress describes the effects of the body's reaction to pressure.
The source of stress is called the stressor. It can be physical, social, or psychological. The mind interprets It as pleasant or unpleasant. The following are some stressors:
Change in work responsibilities, working hours or conditions, change in living conditions, financial status, residence, school, church activities or social activities, a child leaving home, trouble with the in-laws, a spouse who begins or stops work; starting or finishing school, trouble with a boss, family gatherings, vacations, the Christmas season, a minor violation with the law, marital separations, loans, the death of a spouse or family member, jail term, personal injury or illness, marriage, being fired from work, pregnancy, sex difficulties, an addition to the family, outstanding personal achievement, etc.
Eustress and Distress
Stress does not have to be totally avoided, for it is essential to life. For man to survive in his environment, he must constantly adapt himself to any demand made upon him. He has to resist anything that threatens his existence. He may be fully relaxed and asleep, yet he is still under some stress. A man's heart must continue to beat and pump blood, the intestines must continue to digest the night's dinner and the muscles must continue to move the chest for respiration. His brain continues to function even when he dreams. Only a dead person is completely free from stress.
Stress can either be extremely pleasant or unpleasant to the individual. If it is extremely pleasant, giving the individual a euphoric feeling, the stress is called "Eustress." But if it is very unpleasant, the person is in a state of "Distress.'
Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP)
Before we can see why stress is bad and how we can cope with stress, it is important to know why some individuals are more prone to stress. Have you heard of Type A and Type B behavior patterns? Type A personalities are people who are more prone to stress; consequently, they are more prone to heart diseases.
These are people who are extremely competitive. They strive to reach the high goals they have set for themselves. They are often impatient, restless, and hyper-alert. Type A people feel they are always under the pressure of time and under the challenge of responsibility. Their face muscles are usually tense and they are so committed to their vocation or profession, that other aspects of their lives are relatively neglected.
Characteristics of TABP
Basic Insecurity: Studies reveal that deep within the TABP is the sense of insecurity. Thus, he continually needs self-assurance and self-conviction to capture the respect and admiration of his peers and superiors, not necessarily their love or affection. The Type A person needs to achieve a lot and this leads to exhaustion and depression.
Studies also reveal that many coronary heart disease patients are very aggressive, ambitious and strive compulsively to achieve goals for power and prestige.
Aggressiveness: People arc not born with aggressive behavior. They learn these behaviors one way or another. Parents play a significant role. If parents are aggressive, children will model this behavior.
People with aggressive or Type A personalities were asked to complete a survey. One of the questions asked about the treatment they received from their mothers and fathers. Men who were more Type A men said their fathers were severe and physically punished them often. Instead of feeling guilty, these Type A men felt resentful towards their fathers. Women who were more Type A also stated their mothers physically punished them often.
Aggressive people are often frowned upon, but TABPs have a need to be aggressive. As a result of striving for the best, they earn prizes, promotions, salary increases, bonuses, plaques of appreciation and other forms of recognition. Thus the aggressive person's need is fulfilled and he is stimulated to constantly pursue further success.
Hostility: Hostility comes in three forms-greed, envy, and jealousy. It stems from feelings of rejection, frustration and humiliation. So hostility is an attempt for "I" to overpower, "I" to get what "I" want.
Basic insecurity, aggressiveness and hostility are the characteristics of a TABP person. So this behavior is stress prone. Stress is self-induced. The Type A person thrives in a stressful world. He struggles hard and his heart often pays the price.
Why is "stress" such a hot topic? It is because studies reveal that people who have more stress are more likely to have health problems. Some illnesses that are caused by stress include heart problems such as heart attacks, hypertension and migraines. Severe stress can affect the immune system, decreasing its ability to fight off the invading bacteria in our bodies. Stress runs people down. Studies reveal that run-down people suffer more from allergies, cancer, etc.
What To Do If You Are Type A
To deny the existence of these underlying forces and characteristics of TABP is like being an ostrich that buries its head in the sand. It would surely help the Type A person if he faces and accepts reality. Self-awareness, coupled with introspection, facilitates one's growth and maturity, change and adaptability.
To resolve the problem of insecurity, it is absolutely necessary for an insecure person to anchor himself deeply to a higher, omnipotent being called God. The Type A personality must make God the center and end of life. God's Word must become the rule of his life. In it he finds assurance and comfort, guidance and counsel.
Security is further enhanced as the Type A man or woman makes a personal inventory of the capacities and qualities ht or she possesses. They should take into account the privileges and opportunities they have enjoyed, the honors and blessings they have received, as well as the achievements and services they have rendered. Such an appraisal produces a good feeling within, the feeling of self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence.
There is also security in recognizing and accepting the limitations of self, its liabilities and weaknesses. It frees the Type A person from undue pride, arrogance and recklessness.
A person who is relatively secure is less threatened and defensive; hence, less hostile and aggressive. As he becomes more confident and assured of himself, his struggle becomes less chronic as does his hard-driving lifestyle. Gradually the Type A person relaxes and tends to be more flexible.
Another issue that a Type A person needs to resolve is his attitude toward life which is reflected in his work as well as his relationships with other people. He must see the loveliness of life in the beauty of the world he lives in, the humanity of man and the providential outworking of his experiences. What is needed is for him to pause for a while and take time to observe and appreciate God's book of nature, to relate to others and get to know them and review God's leading in various events he has gone through.
Moreover, the Type A man must know how to live one day at a time. Instead of filling the day with memories and deadlines of tasks to be done, he must make room for unexpected events and surprises. He must allow sufficient time for each scheduled task but he must realize that some jobs are of less importance or demand and they should be postponed.
Two famous cardiologists have said that to "hurry sickness," remind yourself that life is "unfinishedness." They say they have seen many patients who are seriously ill, yet still they want to believe that they can finish all that needs to be done by the end of the day. The tasks they need to complete supercede their sicknesses. "Of course," the doctors go on to say, "these people can be jumping from high buildings, taking poison or putting a bullet through themselves because what they don't seem to realize is when they are dead, everything is finished. A dead man is a finished man; there is no more time to complete tasks!"
Patience is often a trait of character that the Type A person must develop. He must ask God to help him take life in its stride; to face a crisis or any turn of events calmly; to be tolerant with others and accept them as they are; to take time out to enjoy life and help him take control of his life instead of being controlled by his environment.
So, if you are a Type A individual, you must know how to rest and relax, even for a brief period of time, at regular intervals. Relaxing can take the form of exercise, meditation, hobbies, arts, music, special projects, play and other activities or perhaps through an occasional fantasy. Visualize yourself as a relaxed, flexible individual who enjoys life at its best. By God's grace, you can re-engineer your behavior pattern!
How To Cope With Stress
Some events that bring about stress were listed above. Life events may either he pleasurable or traumatic to a person. Many of the events listed bring pain to an individual and his significant others. Yet, it is important to remember that the sooner the event is faced and accepted, no matter how painful its realities may be, the better. However, faith and hope, courage and patience are needed. Adjustments to normalcy are made easier when these elements are involved.
Many people try to run away from their problems by resorting to fantasy and denial, liquor and drugs, rationalization and projection, but the problem remains within. No one can really run away from his problems. When such escape mechanisms are used, life becomes more complicated and more problems arise.
Setting of Goals and Priorities
In view of the changes brought by life events, the person may at times get confused and lost, not knowing what to do next, where to turn to. This calls for focus of goals and priorities, clarification of needs and values. What does the individual really want to achieve, both in work and in life? How can such goals be attained? How much time is needed?
When setting goals, four criteria are recommended. Coals must be (a) specific, (b) pertinent, (c) attainable, and (d) measurable. Goals should be set according to a person's needs and values, resources and opportunities.
Regardless of the goals established, a person must have commitment. Commitment turns into action. It adds meaning to life. And it is important to not be just committed to your goals; you must be committed to God for He knows what lies ahead and what is best for you. The Bible says, "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass ... In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
To one whose life is committed to God and His will, events will turn out to be an outworking of the divine purpose. "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." Therefore, whatever event may happen, the Christian will praise God and be thankful.
When the game becomes mon tense and stressful to the players, the coach usually calls for a "time out." Jesus Christ said, "Come apart and rest awhile." There must be time for rest and relaxation. God instituted, at the time of Creation, the Sabbath for man. Then He made it as a law, "Remember the Sabbath day."
Live One Day At a Time
God, the Father, knows our needs and will gladly give. God also knows our tomorrows and will take care of it. Past is past and is not much use except for the good experiences and lessons it has taught us. Let God take care of the past too. What is real is what is now. This is what God wants His children to enjoy. And by His grace, anyone, even those with Type A personalities, can re-engineer their behavior patterns and learn to live Cod-centered lives.