How Stress Gives You Tunnel Vision and How to Deal with It
Janine is a twenty-seven-year-old who lives paycheck to paycheck. Janine works multiple jobs, is her terminally ill mother’s primary caregiver, and has battled depression for years. Janine has a difficult time sleeping, worries constantly, and always picks and chooses what bills must be late for the month.
Janine lays awake at night, stressed about her situation, and really wants to find her smile again. Janine’s mounting stressors have attributed greatly to her depression and leave her unable to get a good night’s rest, which results in her feeling sluggish, fatigued, and socially withdrawn.
Stress– the word in itself can make the hair on our neck stand up. Perhaps your palms are sweating if you are triggered by the spiraling effects of stress and what it has done in your life. Stress may leave you feeling defeated before your feet even hit the floor and it may keep you awake at night, dreading the tasks of the days to come.
Hans Selye said, “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” There will always be something to think about, something to worry about, and things that we cannot control; however, it is not so much about controlling our life as it is not letting the circumstances of life control us.
What instantly comes to mind when you hear the word stress? Is it a strong-willed child? A medical diagnosis? Past due bills? An important work deadline that must be met? Unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself?
Perhaps the stressors in your life are more long-term. Being the caregiver to a sick family member, paying off medical bills from a sick and hospitalized child, the loss of communication in your marriage, and career indecisiveness, are just a few of the many things that may be stressing you out.
Our minds are on a constant, sometimes-vicious cycle of trying to manage calendars, have a social life, check items off endless to-do lists, advance in our careers, raise respectful and driven children, and attend church regularly. We must also deal with constant curveballs – like broken down cars, leaking faucets, and sick children. Sometimes the unanticipated curve balls throw a wrench in your plans and leave you feeling defeated.
Stress Imprisons Your JoyOne thing that we need to be aware of about stress is that it can give us tunnel vision. Living a life of constant stress takes a physical, emotional, and spiritual toll on our lives. Stress leaves our minds on constant overdrive and unable to reach our emotional/spiritual destinations the way that God intends for our lives.
God wants the very best for us, and stress tends to consume our thought process, steals our joy, and often removes the ability the find joy in the mundane and live fully in the moment. Not being able to live fully in a moment often blinds us from the blessings that God has for us – often right before our very eyes. Stress can impact your relationships, emotional health, physical health, and overall outlook on life.
Symptoms of Stress
The signs and effects of stress may vary from person to person, however. Some physical symptoms include:
- Restlessness/inability to calm your thoughts
- Increased blood pressure
Stress can lead to physical and emotional tension. The symptoms of stress may differ in severity and longevity, however; the best way to begin your journey toward managing stress is to determine the major and minor stressors in your life.
If you are stressing the loss of communication in a relationship, it needs to be addressed. If you are stressing how to deal with a child’s behavior problems, it needs to be tackled/discussed. If you are stressing about what-ifs, it is important to take time to work through these festering thoughts before they expand.
Stress can leave you feeling helpless, but in a physical, emotional, and spiritual place that can spiral out of control if you do not work through these overwhelming thoughts and feelings.
Coping with Stress
1. Pinpoint the stress.
You can begin your journey toward emotional health by making a list of the things that are currently stressing you out. Too often, people let so many what ifs and potential issues run through their mind that their minds are on constant overdrive.
If your mind is never at rest and your body is not resting well, this leaves you irritable, fatigued, overwhelmed, and uncertain of how to manage your calendar, pour into your relationships and be confident in what God has called you to do. Pinpointing the stress is a great starting point.
2. Reduce stress when you can.
Of course, the stress of losing a loved one is unavoidable, but there are a variety of mounting stressors that can be pinpointed. If you are constantly stressing because of putting things off or trying to remember things to do and when they must be done, try making a list to avoid the constant replay going on in your mind.
Start by tackling one to-do list item at a time. Celebrate your victories instead of completing something big and then jumping right into your next goal. For example, if you have been working hard for a raise or to lose 5 pounds, take a minute to relish that victory.
Don’t forget to enjoy the little moments along the journey. Let your mind rest when possible. If you are stressing about a social event that you do not really need to attend or a toxic friend who continues to encourage you to engage in unhealthy behavior, maybe it is time to engage in an emotional “spring cleaning.”
It is important to surround yourself with people who encourage and want the best for you. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.” The same can be true for your coping skills. If you surround yourself with people who are pouring negativity, toxic behavior, and unhealthy stress into themselves constantly, it is likely to pour into your heart and impact you.
3. Find relaxing activities to reduce stress and anxiety.
Talk things out. Write your feelings down. Keep a notepad by your bedside table if you have a difficult time with replaying things that you do not want to forget. Workout to reduce tension. Practice yoga. Play with puppies. Paint. Eat healthily, but know it is okay to occasionally treat yourself.
Walk hand-in-hand with your spouse as you enjoy a sunset on the beach. Go hiking. Write a song. Build forts in the living room with your children and then watch a movie together. Let the spark of joy ignite that fire and passion from within rather than letting your to-dos, the what-ifs, and ongoing stressors take the driver’s set of your mind.
4. Surrender control to God.
While it is easier said than done, it is vital to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health to realize that God has beautiful plans for your life. Even when you are walking through seasons of sorrow and stress, like financial hardship; it is important to spend time in prayer, stay involved with your church, attend a Bible study, and serve others.
It is freeing to let God take control and ask Him to be the pilot of your life – He will take you to places that you never imagined possible. He does not promise perfection, however; He promised He will never leave you to walk the journey alone.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.–Psalm 9:9-10
My presence will do with you, and I will give you rest. – Exodus 33:14
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
Feed Your Heart the Right Things
While we often talk about how important it is to sleep for eight hours, eat a balanced diet, avoid too many bowls of ice-cream, and exercise to be heart-healthy, it is equally important to nourish your emotional health.
It is important to find supportive relationships, have people you can depend on and call when things feel stressful, and have someone who can help hold you accountable when you are letting things control you that do not deserve a stronghold in your life.
It is important to practice positive reinforcement – write down scriptures, prayers, and positive quotes to help you navigate the storms of life. Post them everywhere and recite them aloud!
Feed your heart the right things by taking the time to prioritize your relationship with Christ and be emotionally healthy. You can take this first step by scheduling a counseling session where we can work toward physical, emotional, and spiritual heart-health.
Winston Churchill said, “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.”
While there will always be something to think about, something to worry about, and things that we cannot control, we cannot let the circumstances of life give us tunnel vision. It is time to take the wheel and begin your journey toward emotional wellness.
“Tunnel of Trees”, Courtesy of Zoltan Tasi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Light at the End of the Tunnel”, Courtesy of Florian van Duyn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Spiral Stairs”, Courtesy of Mark de Jong, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tube”, Courtesy of Vladimir Kramer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License