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Series: Stress Busters (Part 1)

Episode: A Stress Free Life?

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These days, way too many of us are living under way to much pressure and stress. And that’s not good, so we long for an idyllic life living on a beach somewhere with not a care in the world. But that’s not realistic is it. So what’s the answer? How do we deal with stress?

Wouldn’t you just love to live a life on a beach somewhere? Not a care in the world, great weather every day, just relax and take it easy, a totally stress free existence, fantastic. Isn’t that what we all want or is it?

Stress. For most of us that word sends a shudder down the spine and why wouldn’t it? Who wants to be under stress all the time? And that’s what it feels like for a lot of us. So what is stress? It’s a state of mental or emotional strain or tension and my dictionary adds, ‘resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’ although I’m not sure that’s always the case.

Okay adverse and demanding circumstances can cause stress but sometimes there are other causes as well, we’ll explore some of them over the next little while on the program. And at the same time every adverse and demanding circumstance doesn’t always cause stress, different people react differently to the same difficult circumstance. Some will be crushed by stress others will seem to breeze through those same circumstances, there are reasons for that and again that’s something we’re going to be exploring over these coming few days.

But first what sort of impact is stress having in our world. Well a recent study conducted in Australia by the Psychological Institute and by the way I’m sure you’d probably find similar results no matter where you lived, well the study found out some interesting things about the reach and the impact of stress, here are the headline findings.

Twelve percent of people reported experiencing levels of stress in the severe range with young adults experiencing significantly higher levels of stress and significantly lower levels of well-being than the general population. One in three reported experiencing depressive symptoms with ten percent of these being in the severe range.

One in four reported experiencing anxiety with nine percent of these in the severe range. Young adults 18 to 25 reported much higher levels of anxiety and depression than the general population. Now although women reported a higher level of perceived stress than did men it didn’t lead to differences in their reported levels of anxiety and depression and well-being.

Those people experiencing family or recent relationship breakdowns and those separated reported much higher levels of stress and distress on all measures. Although if the relationship breakdown had occurred more than a year earlier reported levels of stress were about the same as for the general population.

More education and higher levels of income were associated with higher levels of well-being and lower levels of stress. Women were much more likely to identify family issues and personal health issues as sources of stress while men were more likely to be concerned with the economy and the political climate.

Thirty percent of people identified the workplace as a source of stress with younger people more likely to report work stress than older adults and finally the most effective strategies for managing stress were reported to be spending some time with friends – sixty percent, followed by listening to music – fifty-five percent and watching television just under fifty-five percent. The world’s answer to stress, although to me it seems more like sweeping things under the carpet.

Now in the US things appear to be much more extreme, seventy-three percent of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. Almost half say stress has a negative impact on their personal or professional lives and the cost to employers of stress related health care and missed work, wait for this, is estimated at around three hundred billion dollars a year.

No wonder we want a stress free life, that idyllic life by the beach is looking pretty good to a few of us right at this point but that’s just not realistic and in fact the reality is that a bit of stress in our lives is pretty much a good thing. We enjoy a challenge for instance and working under a bit of pressure sometimes helps us produce a better result. It’s like a guitar or violin, if the strings aren’t under the right amount of tension and stress the instrument doesn’t work the way it was meant to.

I know for instance after say a longish holiday, say three weeks off over Christmas, I’m looking forward to getting back into the cut and the thrust of work. If we had no pressure, no deadlines, life would be missing something and in any case sometimes we’re hit by circumstances that put us under a lot of pressure whether we want to or not.

Take Jesus, He experienced huge stress, Luke chapter 22 verses 39 to 46:

He came out and went as was his custom to the Mount of Olives and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into a time of trial’ then he withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw, knelt down and prayed. ‘Father if you are willing to remove this cup from me yet not my will but yours be done.’

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up, pray that you may not come into a time of trial.’

The fact that Jesus sweat was like drops of blood tells us just how severe his suffering was, this was stress and it only got worse from here as He was arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross. No, a completely stress free life isn’t a reality for any of us. Even the rich and famous, in fact you know sometimes especially those people suffer from enormous amounts of stress. Come on how many super stars have died from drug overdoses? What are they doing in that place to start with? What drove them to drugs? Well the pressure, the stress, their fame.

So sometimes stress is desirable, sometimes it’s unavoidable and sometimes we experience it because of our reaction to a particular person or set of circumstances. Perhaps you have something that’s nagging away at you making you anxious. You’re constantly worried about this or that and yet the Bible says ‘Don’t be anxious about anything’ (Philippians chapter 4, verse 6).

So what sort of stress are you under right now? Is it part of the normal cut and thrust of life which at the end of the day you kind of enjoy anyhow? That’s probably not such a bad thing is it? It’s manageable and you know with a few adjustments to your life you can pretty easily get things under control, then you’re probably in a good place.

But if the stress that you’re under feels like a huge burden, a heavy load that you’re carrying around 24/7, hey that’s not such a good thing. We’re not made to be under that sort of constant pressure and stress all the time and yet many people are living their lives exactly in that way.

That’s why we’re kind of kicking the year off with this series called Stress Busters because God has a lot of things to say about how to alleviate the stress that you’re under. Lots of practical, powerful things to say, hey why should that be a surprise to any of us? Because God cares so deeply about you, what you’re going through, what stress you’re under and the stepping off point for that is what Jesus said, we see it in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 to 30:

Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, learn from me because I’m gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Come on Jesus wants to lighten your load so over the coming days and weeks we’re going to discover what He has to say about your stress:

Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.

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