The Fifth Part of a Ten Part Series on Anxiety and Stress Which Began on February 23, 2016
- Time Limitations
How often have you planned a day filled with chores, tasks and activities, only to complete half of what you planned to do? When your time expectations are unrealistic, not even the best time-management system will help. We all have 24 hours a day to use; no more, no less.
We are limited by the number of activities we can handle at one time. I wish you could be the best, parent, spouse, friend, coach, business owner or employee, pastor, small group leader, or friend, but the truth is you never will be the best in all of these roles. You must choose a few areas in which to concentrate and invest your time wisely.
- Physical Limitations
We all possess a limited amount of daily physical energy. Once we exhaust our allotted reserve, we must replenish through rest, exercise, and proper nutrition. Our bodies warn us of physical limitations through pain. If we lift to heavy a weight, our bodies hurt. They cry out, “You overloaded me!” Likewise, if we ignore our bodies as it they cry out for proper rest, diet, and exercise, we will likely experience physical symptoms of stress. Life is a distance race, but all too often people live as if life is a sprint. We can push ourselves for short periods of time (and at times we need to), but not for weeks and months without physical consequences.
Experts report that our culture is plagued by sleep-deprivation. What does that mean? It means that most Americans live their lives with too little rest. Rest is even more necessary for those experiencing anxiety, discouragement, or depression. Brandon Peters, MD at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine speaks to this point:
“Not only can someone become cranky or irritable, but difficulty sleeping often contributes to anxiety and depression. Impairment of the frontal lobe of the brain may also interfere with higher level cognitive processes called executive functions. This can undermine judgment, critical thinking, relationships, problem solving, planning, and organization.
Peters, B. A. (2014). What are the Consequences of Sleep Deprivation? Scope, Stanford Medicine. 08/26/14. http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2013/07/11/what-are-the-consequences-of-sleep-deprivation/
There are four things a person can do to re-establish regular sleep patterns:
- Increase your sleep time by at least one hour. You need one hour more sleep than you think you need. For example, if you sleep for six hours, you actually need to sleep for seven hours.
- Practice a consistent bedtime routine. Establish a set bedtime each night, even on the weekends. After 7 p.m. refrain from eating high sugar content foods or drinking caffeine beverages.
- Give your body opportunities to rest during the day. Consider a short nap. To prevent a lethargic feeling, keep the nap less than 30 minutes. If you can’t nap, set aside a few minutes to relax your mind. Thinking on Scripture (not the passage you are preaching this Sunday), or listening to relaxing music is often helpful.
- Plan your monthly calendar to include some relaxed weekends. Say no to intense activities which threaten to invade those times. Scheduling requires work, but the physical and spiritual benefits are immense.
- Relational Limitations
When we overload our lives with too many activities and responsibilities, key relationships tend to suffer. Family members may complain that we do not spend enough quality time at home. Spouses may feel threatened and unloved. Children may have difficulties at school or church.
Stressful times tend to maximize irritability and minimize patience. As a rule relationship intimacy decreases as stress increases. Unfortunately, in our hurried lives we minimize the significance of relationships. Instead, we place value on accomplishment. Important relationships require careful attention on our part, for nurturing and care.
- Spiritual Limitations
Heightened stress affects our spiritual lives. Even though it is God’s continual desire that we remain close to Him, when overloaded we begin to limit the amount of time we spend with Him and in his Word. We neglect Him during the very time we most need Him.
Stress impacts all areas of our lives simultaneously. Consequently, when we feel distant from God and hopeless in our pursuit of Him, it may be time for a good night’s sleep! Remember our study of Elijah in the chapter on Depression? When he became discouraged to the point of giving up, God first ministered to him through food and rest. Then He provided the spiritual encouragement he needed to fulfill his service to God.
Paul encouraged the Philippians Christians to draw on God’s strength. He understood the human tendency to pull away from God when anxious. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God wants us to remain focused on Him. When the cares of life become too great, we need to bring our concerns to God in prayer.
Dr James P Porowski Licensed Psychologist Raleigh NC March 2, 2016