Stress, as graduate students know full well, can negatively affect our daily lives, relationships, and physical and mental health. For those dealing with much more than their share of minor, daily stressors, the effects can be severely debilitating. The Fox hit American Idol can attest to this: several contenders in the voice-competition show have collapsed on stage from their stress this season. Some of the fainting spells have been captured on video and can be viewed here. Symone Black, a sixteen year old contestant, was the first; she fell dramatically off of the stage during her performance, later finding it was because she was too stressed to eat or drink and was severely dehydrated. Jacquie Cera and Imani Handy also fainted during performances later in the season. Host Ryan Seacrest coined the term "idol bug" in reference to all of the fainting spells, vomiting, and emotional breakdowns seen from contestants this season and has labeled it the most intense season yet. But is the coveted title of "American Idol" (or anything, for that matter) worth becoming stressed over to the point of collapse?
According to Dr. Archibald Hart in his book The Anxiety Cure, nothing should ever stress us to this extreme. He emphasizes the role that stress plays in causing unbearable anxiety in the lives of the hurried individuals of today's modern society. While acknowledging the importance and place for medication and therapy, he offers simple and practical strategies to lessen stress and anxiety that average people can put into practice themselves. Dr. Hart covers things from increasing rest and relaxation quantities to altering relationship styles that tend to be stressful (such as fear of confrontation). Most importantly, the book gives us the necessary tools to overcome the unbiblical form of stress: worry.
Not all of us are feeling the pressure of following our dreams via a nationally-televised talent competition. Nevertheless, all of us at one time or another feel bogged down from the weight of our stress and anxiety. When we reach the point of physical collapse on stage, we know that our stress has reached an unacceptable level of intensity and something needs to change. Dr. Hart's book recommends that we deal with it long before we reach that point, however. No matter where we fall on the stress level continuum, it is important for us to effectively handle it in order to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. In addition, stress that results from worrying is sinful and equates to a "lack of trust in God and a failure to fully understand His plan and provision for us. It is clearly harmful to us and, therefore, displeasing to God" (p. 16). It saddens me that our media would use this these harmful effects of stress as marketing tools to hold viewers the way that Idol did. I hope and pray that those contestants who were sent home due to their fainting spells and the rest of us as well can learn to control our stress rather than to let it control us. God did not intend for us to live lives of worry but rather to "cast all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you" 1 Peter 5:7.