Plainly put, stress steals your happiness and destroys your health. One of the best ways to combat body stress is a simple lifestyle change – connecting with others on a real, intimate level. In order to effectively resolve stress-starters and actively move past them, it is important to first identify the causes of this states of stress.
You don’t keep up with relationships. When you believe that you are “alone,” it puts the body in a cycle of chronic, repetitive stress responses. A recent UCLA study showed that feelings of loneliness trigger parts of the brain normally associated with physical pain, making relationships even more important to your overall health. Our culture prizes independence and privacy, but remember to cultivate relationships and the human connection whenever you can – get to know the person sitting next to you at church, turn off technology for a day to spend time with family or friends or volunteer in your community.
You are in unhealthy relationships. When you’re in a toxic relationship without good boundaries, you will stay in a perpetual state of fight or flight, always “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” If you are living with a troubled teen, mate who is unfaithful or parent who is difficult to get along with, your nervous system is staying in a state of stress. Get professional help to set clear, healthy boundaries in your relationships. If the other person refuses to honor those healthy boundaries, then you must take care of yourself by ending that relationship. Don’t let dogma, tradition, or others’ opinions deter you from necessary self-care.
You ignore stressors. When you are willfully blind about the stressors in your life, you are on a course for a health breakdown. Research shows that 85 percent of people don’t speak up or take action even when they know that something is terribly wrong in their lives, or in the world around them. There are a host of reasons why, but include fear of retaliation, disbelief that anything will change or distrust in themselves. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting. Toxic emotions and stress require you to start fighting for your own life. Don’t make “maybe it will go away” your mantra.
You don’t look for purpose. When you have a “song inside that has yet to be sung,” your nervous system feels frustrated, sad and unfulfilled. Many feel they work seemingly meaningless jobs, as if they are cogs in a great machine that could easily replace them or go on without their contribution. It’s important to find God’s purpose for your life, and then pursue that purpose with great passion to really connect you with the energy that created the universe. According to recent research by the Association for Psychological Science, having a sense of purpose can actually make you live longer – regardless of when you find that purpose. It’s never too late to find out why you are here.
After identifying some key issues as to why you’re experiencing chronic stress, it’s time to get out of the cycle and start using human and spiritual connection to move forward healthier and happier.
Connect with other humans. Good, healthy relationships are essential for the body. True, deep connection heals the nervous system. When you are in loving, nurturing relationships with other humans, your brain releases oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone usually associated with sex, childbirth and nursing. It is a God-given “glue” that holds you together through the hard times of life. However, healthy connecting doesn’t have to be sexual – it can be between any two people, or even a group that gives you a sense of belonging and purpose.
Connect with the truth. It’s about remembering that you are not all alone in this world. You came from God and are going back to God, and we are al in this human experience together. In the chronically lonely, cortisol levels shoot up higher in the morning than in those who feel connected to a group, and they never fully subside at night. Adopt the “tend and befriend” mentality when you feel lonely by reaching out to others and creating your own network of love and support.
Connect with your Life’s Purpose. Know that you have a purpose! That smile you give from a sick bed brightens the nurse’s day, who in turn is kinder to the doctor, who may save a life in surgery, who could change the world through heroic thoughts and deeds. You matter. Your special talents, gifts, and even your weakness all add up to the perfect tool in the hands of a loving God to make this world a better place. Find something to do in this world that suits you and brings you joy, and then go do it. It may not be your ultimate life’s purpose, but it will be a step on that path.
— by Dr. Pete Sulack
Sulack is Stress expert, writer and speaker, Dr. Pete Sulack is the author of “Fellowshipping with God’s Voice” as well as the founder of Matthew 10 Ministries and Unhealthy Anonymous (www.unhealthyanonymous.com) – a wellness support program that provides tools for healthier living.