We know that stress can affect our physical, emotional and mental health. But so often we overlook the spiritual effects of stress. Our spirit absolutely can suffer from the effects of too much stress and the negative consequences of that are rarely covered by conventional medicine and therapy. But the mind, body and spirit are all connected and if you only focus on two of the three, it is about as good as having a two legged stool. That stool simply cannot stand on its own and won’t function in the way that it was intended without that third leg!
So let’s look at how stress can undermine our spirit.
The Bible gives us a definition of what the different elements or “fruits” of the spirit are. Galatians 5:22-23 says:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.
The different facets of the human spirit are the same whether you are from the Christian faith or not. We are all spiritual beings and we all possess those spiritual characteristics. It is from our spirit that we love, where we find our peace, our patience, our kindness towards others, our goodness, our loyalty and faithfulness, and our gentleness and it is this spirit that is the root of our self-control. When subjected to stress, the human spirit deflates and you are left feeling unfulfilled, lost, empty, overwhelmed and downright stressed out!
Chronic stress can wear away at our spirit. Think about the last time you were stressed out. Were you as kind and loving to your spouse or children as you would like? Probably not. Were you joyful or filled with peace? That would probably be a big no as well.
Below is a list of some of the spiritual effects of stress:
*Difficulty expressing love-during periods of stress, we experience a reduction in our ability to express and feel love. We usually snap at and are irritable towards those closest to us.
*Lack of joy-this is particularly true with longer periods of episodic stress and chronic stress. It is hard to be joyful when you are continually stressed out.
*No peace-stress is the opposite of peace, and so when stress is present, there can be no peace.
*No patience-when stressed we tend to be much more impatient with others.
*Less kind and good-there was a study done that showed that when under stress, people were much less likely to help out another person in need. Empathy, caring, kindness and goodness are all reduced in the presence of too much stress.
*Less gentleness-because we tend to me more short tempered, and more easily irritated and angered, the ability to be gentle becomes a challenge.
*Lack of self control-when we are stressed, especially once we go past our stress tolerance threshold, we lose self-control. This leads to overeating, spending too much money, smoking too much, drinking too much, taking drugs, gambling and more.
So what can you do to reduce stress and reconnect with your spiritual self?
- Learn to say no on occasion and know that it is okay to do just that! Often we feel guilty saying no, and wind up with too many obligations and too little time. But, we don’t have to say yes to everything that comes along! Allow yourself to let go of the guilt and know that you can better serve God and others when you take the time to renew yourself!
- Prayer and meditation are powerful ways to take some quiet time to connect with God, the Universe, Source….whatever you call universal consciousness and to also reconnect with yourself! Both prayer and meditation are known stress reducers, and often we do not engage in these as often as we should (I’m guilty of this at times too!)
- Get away from technology for awhile! When you are already stressed out it is easy to just sit on the couch, watch some television, watch a movie, or spend time on the computer. Instead opt for things that will lift your spirit! Turning on some soothing music, read a book that is inspirational or do something else to nurture yourself. There are times that, women especially, feel like they should focus all of their time on family, friends and ministry needs…..but in order to keep the stress at a minimum, we must nurture ourselves as well!
- Spend some time in nature! Notice the glory all around you and you can reduce stress by taking time to enjoy such amazing creation and to appreciate all of the amazing things that nature holds!
- Make sure you get enough rest! When we are short on sleep, our stress levels are going to rise….and we run the risk of opening ourselves up to illness (not just colds and flu, but chronic health problems).
- Eat well. Eating a lot of packaged and processed food can actually make stress worse, and that certainly won’t help your spirit! Eating whole, real foods will nourish your body giving it what it needs to better manage stressful situations.
- Stress management can help to not only reduce your stress, but rejuvenate your spirit. Make sure to take the time to manage your stress every day.
Taking time to reduce your stress works for your body, your mind and your spirit and so it’s important to take the steps that you need to keep yourself healthy on all levels! And it’s a necessary part of reversing the spiritual effects of stress as well.
So what is one thing that you can do to reduce your stress to keep your spirit healthy? Leave a comment below!