Have you had a stressful week? If not, Mary Carmichael, writing in this week’s Newsweek will give you a few reasons: “If you aren’t already paralyzed with stress from reading the financial news, here’s a sure way to achieve that grim state: read a medical-journal article that examines what stress can do to your brain. Stress, you’ll learn, is crippling your neurons so that, a few years or decades from now, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease will have an easy time destroying what’s left. That’s assuming you haven’t already died by then of some other stress-related ailment such as heart disease.
As we enter what is sure to be a long period of uncertainty-a gantlet of lost jobs, dwindling assets, home foreclosures and two continuing wars-the downside of stress is certainly worth exploring. But what about the upside? … We’ve blamed stress for a wide variety of problems, from slight memory lapses to full-on dementia-and that’s just in the brain… Sure, stress can be bad for you, especially if you react to it with anger or depression or by downing five glasses of Scotch.But … in some circumstances, it can be good for you, too…. As Spencer Rathus puts it in Psychology: Concepts and Connections, “some stress is healthy and necessary to keep us alert and occupied.” … [infact] Janet DiPietro, at Johns Hopkins University. [says] “… most people do their best under mild to moderate stress.” Carmichael goes on to explain, “The stress response-the body’s hormonal reaction to danger, uncertainty or change- …help us survive, and if we learn how to keep it from overrunning our lives, it still can. In the short term, it can energize us, “revving up our systems to handle what we have to handle,” says Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist at UCLA.”
Well, my stress levels went up this week, first on Monday, I was chopping wood and missed and cut the top of my thumb off and spent 3 hours in casualty. Then on Wednesday someone sent me an email asking me to check my Body Mass Index (BMI) on the National Health website. I did, and for the first time ever, I now have a clinical assessment of my body mass index. All I will reveal is that I’ll be spending longer in the gym in future. In each case the stress was good for me. On Monday it got me to hospital singlehandedly… and on Wednesday it got me on the ski machine for an hour and a half. I know my goal if I want to survive, mentally and physically. But what about spiritually? How do we survive spiritually? How do we test our fitness here as well? In just the same way – under stress. The Apostle Paul wrote about it to the Romans, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
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