Thinking about Stress
One of my favourite bits of the TV show the IT Crowd is about stress. We used this clip in a service a few years ago when we were talking about stress. (You can watch it by clicking here).
I guess most of us have heard about how damaging stress can be for our health and we may even have experienced struggles with being stressed or stressful situations and circumstances.
This week I was sent this link to a TED talk about changing the way we think about stress. I found it absolutely fascinating. In summary health pyschologist Kelly McGonigal was saying that it is actually how we think about stress rather than the stress itself that damages our health. What I found especially interesting was the bit that comes around 8 minutes into the talk where she talks about studies that have been done on the hormone produced by both men and women called oxytocin. Without getting too technical (you will need to watch the video for that!), Kelly was explaining that this hormone is pumped out when we get stressed and that it actually helps us deal with the effects of stress and literally strengthens our hearts. But what she also said was that its benefits are enhanced by social contact and social support - when we care for others and are cared for its effects are multiplied. So caring for others and being cared for are great stress healers.
She also said in the question that is posed by the moderator after she has finished speaking that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.
What strikes me about this is are a few things:
Firstly how amazing is God. If you believe, as I do, that we are created by God, how incredible are our bodies...that they come with in built stress healing mechanisms?
Secondly demonstrating care and compassion is a stress healer.
Thirdly if you are a Jesus follower, the things that we are called to are things that will make us healthier. Jesus followers are called to care for others, to pursue meaning not comfort, to be bold and courageous and these are the very things that help us deal with and recover from stress.
So maybe its time to look at stress differently and to remember that God has made us with in built stress coping devices, but that in order to release them, we need to do the very things he calls us to in the first place: connection with others, care for others and pursuing purpose and meaning not comfort.
P.S I am going to use a clip from this in our service this coming Sunday in the last part of our defying gravity series, it fits so well with what we will be talking about. Don't miss it - our service this Sunday is at 10.15am because it is a Big Story Sunday (last Sunday of the month).