In a World Under Stress: How Are YOU Holding Up?

Sister, I think that we all can agree that we live in a high-stress world.

Some would argue that it’s perhaps the most stressful time since having to fight off wild predators and fight for survival in centuries past.  However for many of us, we’ve become so used to living in a state of constant stress and agitation, that we barely notice it. We end up conditioned to think of anxiety and overwhelm as normal – or at the least, feel powerless to change our situations.

 

 

In working on one of the lessons in The Self{ish} Project, I reviewed a statistic that really drove home the price we’re paying for our hyper-connected, high stress, always on the go lifestyles.

 

According to the American Medical Association, anywhere from 75% to 90% of all visits to a primary care doctor are stress related (and numbers are escalating in other countries as well).  What does this tell us?

 

We’re paying an extremely high price for our lack of stress management, and in more ways than you may think. Below are just SOME of the ways this “stress epidemic” is harming us, and shows why it’s so critical to our long-term health to re-frame our relationship with stress.

 

Costs of Living Under the Weight Of Stress:

 –> Relationships are usually the first to suffer when someone is stressed. We tend to be less patient, more likely to snap at someone and are too busy to foster connection and show caring. No one likes a stress spouse.

 

 –> Also, how attentive are we to our prayers, performing good deeds, and keeping ties with companions and family when we’re moving at 100 miles per hour? Maintaining a high level of stress in your life usually impacts your spiritual life because you are less aware of the state of your soul,  and dedicate less time to staying in Allah’s pleasure.  

 

 –> Your physical health suffers, as stress has been conclusively proven to be a major root cause of many diseases. Stress also suppresses the immune system and the body’s natural healing mechanism.
 

–> Constantly laboring under stress and distraction can cause you to be less present to your loved ones and less effective in raising your children. You’re more likely to lose your temper or melt down in expected situations.

 

 –> Constant stress erodes your quality of life, keeping you in a cycle of anxiety, depression and excessive activity. You never get to just BE.
 

–> An increase in the number of Doctor’s visits (as cited in the statistic) and medication, because of the negative effect of stress on the body and mind.

 

 –> Sleep is dramatically affected by stress, which in turn brings about more stress and anxiety because you haven’t gotten the proper rest! This viscous cycle can lead to other, more serious health issues.

 

 –> Emotional health is a major concern, as the hormones emitted when we’re under stress can negatively impact both our emotional and mental health. We can become easily worried, burst into tears unexpectedly, and experience ongoing anxiety.  The emotional angst we feel can also impact our sleep patterns, as mentioned above.  
 

–> In our careers and in school, we pay for stress in the form of lost time and efficiency, as we’re more likely to make mistakes and waste when we’re tired or stressed out.

 

 –> Lost productivity is related to the point above. Many people think that stress drives them to perform, but in actuality you can only do so much when you’re frazzled and always chasing deadlines.  

 

 Tips to Break the Cycle

 

Now that you know how much of an impact chronic stress has on your life – it’s time to take conscious steps to break the cycle, InshaAllah. What that will look like is different for each person and situation, but awareness is the most important first step.  Below are a just a few of my personal stress reduction techniques:

 

 

One thing that personally helps me is to reflect on the fact that Allah is in control of everything, and He knows my intention. So knowing that, I do the best that I can in life, and try not to stress too much when I make a mistake, or if things don’t go the way I envisioned. I find that many women remain in a constant state of anxiety, because they are struggling for a level of control that simply isn’t possible. Let go. Pray. Act consciously.

 

 

Identifying items and activities that help you to laugh,  unwind, or shift perspective is a great way to inject some anti-stress medicine into your life at a moment’s notice. For me that looks like singing made up songs with my baby girl, reading a beneficial book while sipping on a warm drink, standing in night prayer, relaxing in nature, planning a new project, or arranging flowers. Find those small things that help you unwind – and do them the next time you feel stressed.

 

Get help. As women, we often feel as if we have to go it alone, and this just increases our feelings of stress and isolation. We are communal creatures, and despite claims that we can “do it all”… we will break under the pressure if we fail to cultivate a support system. This can be easier said than done, but finding people that you can reach out to for support and aid – either in your family, friends, or community – can truly be a life saver.

 

 

If you aren’t able to gain physical support, connecting with other women online or by phone can help you to know that you’re not alone, you’re not crazy… and yes, things can get better, InshaAllah. That’s one of the main reasons I created the Inner Circle (you can register for free) – a forum for sisters to feel comfortable talking about what’s REALLY going on for them, and receive support and feedback from women who can relate. No matter what you’re dealing with, there’s someone who’s been there. Never be afraid to reach out for support.

 

– In health and Iman

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