Stress will kill you. Google it. You'll see. And before it kills you, it will make you extremely miserable.
I think we can all handle short seasons (like a week) of high-octane go-go-go. But we can't do it all day every day without doing serious damage to ourselves. Even if we're doing things we LIKE, and we never get any rest, we're doing damage.
My own experience with stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout has motivated me to sort out how to live within the limits of my own human body, with the balance of work and play and rest that God designed me for.
Here's how I've learned to assess my own stress levels:
- How am I sleeping? If I'm waking up in the middle of the night, and having trouble going back to sleep, I'm overly stressed. That's the most common type of insomnia. Nightmares or repetitive thematic dreams are a tip-off, too.
- How am I eating? If I've lost my appetite, I'm buzzed up on adrenaline and stressed.
- Am I getting regular exercise that makes me sweat? Without it, I'm stressed.
- How are my moods? If I'm irritable and everybody else on the road is an idiot, I'm stressed.
- Is there any white space in my calendar? No? I'm stressed.
- Do I feel trapped and without choices? I'm stressed.
- Does my daily routine feel manageable? If I can't make headway and I'm overwhelmed, I'm stressed.
- Do I know what the next fun thing is? And is it happening this week? If not, I'm stressed.
- Do I have close friends/family who know everything about me and support me? If I'm hiding things emotionally, I'm stressed.
And here are the questions I ask to try to keep life in a reasonable place:
- Do I want to do this? For years, I couldn't answer this question honestly. I thought I wanted to. My sleep, eating, moods, etc., told a different story--one I didn't want to hear.
- How many things on my schedule are "have-to's" as opposed to "want-to's"?
- If I'm overwhelmed by "have-to's", why am I doing these things?
- Why am I afraid to stop doing things I know are hurting me?
- Do I believe that God won't love me if I quit?
- Am I trying to make other people (parents, friends, colleagues) admire me?
- Am I living beyond my means financially, so I have to keep running like a lunatic just to pay the bills?
- What do my close friends honestly think about the pace I'm keeping? Have I even asked for their help?
I'm going to link you up here with Tommy Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, speaking at Dallas Theological Seminary about his own experience with stress and depression. 30 minutes that can change your life. Here you go.