Truth #12 – Pressure can be productive, but stress is a murderer.
In Matthew 6:26, Jesus hinted at this truth (NIV):
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
No, we can’t. In fact, research shows it’s far more likely to take an hour (or a day, month, year, or decade) away than add one. We see this put pretty plainly in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV):
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Chances are, you began your focus on health and fitness due to pressure. That’s not only good, that’s natural. Each of us experiences pressure in our lives, and that pressure can motivate us to make great changes in our lives and to achieve grand aims.
Pressure can help us get where we need to go, but stress does nothing but get in the way.
Without pressure, most of us would be like a boat, adrift out in the deep ocean being tossed about by the rolling waves but never really getting anywhere unless the current happens to take us. Pressure gives us the capacity to move, be it pressure of our arm against an oar, the wind against a sail, or an engine’s propeller against the water. Pressure properly directed can give us impetus; we can use it to drive ourselves. Pressure can be productive.
However, we can easily allow pressure to drive us rather than the other way around. That’s called stress, and stress kills.
It kills the body. Between fifty and eighty percent of all human illnesses are caused in part by stress. These include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, asthma, insomnia, and eating disorders. Stress has also been linked to migraines, ulcers, respiratory disease, and even skin disturbances. Stress is a murderer.
It kills the soul. Stress is a major contributor to many psychological issues. If we fail to properly handle our pressure, if we let it build up into full-blown stress, it can lead to depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, passive aggression, and not-so passive aggression. Stress is a murderer.
Stress can even get in the way of our fitness efforts. In October 2013, Fitness Magazine published an essay by Joshilyn Jackson that detailed her stress over her weight and size. She overworked herself as she exercised, aggressively dieted, and loathed herself as she saw no progress whatsoever, no matter what she tried.
Her stress level went through the roof, and eventually, her doctor told her to stop freaking out. “You are fine,” her doctor said, explaining that she had good vitals and suggesting that perhaps she should just accept her weight and size to be what’s natural for her. For some reason, coming from a doctor, it clicked. She was fine. So, she took the advice. She stopped stressing out about her weight. She started buying clothes that she liked rather than what she “could squeeze into”. She embraced who she was and forewent the stress. Which removed a huge obstacle.
Jackson wrote, “Ironically, once I accepted myself as a size 14 — once I decided to believe that I was fine — the weight started to come off. Six months later, I’m down a dress size, my resting heart rate is 55, and I have new stamina to bolster my new attitude. My body feels better, and I feel better in my body everyday. I think the angry lady who took the weight as an affront and a personal failure and tried to beat it off herself would be frustrated with this rate of progress. I also think she wouldn’t have made any [progress at all].”
That’s the funny thing about pressure and stress. Pressure can help us get where we need to go, but stress does nothing but get in the way.
Now, a healthy fitness regimen can do wonders for your stress level if properly applied. Exercise has been clinically proven over and over to help relieve stress. Smooth, relaxing activities such as yoga (which can be strenuous, but in a focused way, which is the key) are also well-supported in their stress-fighting power by clinical trials. A good fitness regimen should help you let go of your stress.
At the same time, though, you work against yourself if you vent it all on the treadmill and then go refill your stress level on the scale. You can’t be so preoccupied by where you’re not that you can’t make the necessary progress to get where you’re going. You’ll literally kill yourself trying.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling pressure when I know something in my health needs attention. That’s wisdom. I must let it motivate me and then remember to set it aside. If I dwell on it, if I stew in it, I will likely see no improvement. I may even see deterioration.
I must take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and discipline myself not to focus on it. The previous eleven Healthy Truths will empower me to do this, but it’s on me to follow through. It’s on my shoulders, it’s my responsibility; but that’s just pressure. And I know, pressure can be productive, but stress is a murderer.
Originally posted 2016-03-18 08:00:03.