It has been known for a while now that stress makes people more susceptible to developing illness and disease. The study described in this article sought to discover exactly how stress influences physical health. They found that when one is stressed, the body's ability to regulate inflammation is reduced. They also found that cortisol, a hormone released when one is stressed, helps to regulate inflammation. However, long periods of stress negatively alter this hormone's ability to regulate inflammation. This decreased ability to regulate inflammation was also shown to increase the likelihood of developing a cold and other sicknesses and diseases. (Article link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546. htm)
Dr. Hart's book, The Anxiety Cure, was full of information about stress and anxiety, how anxiety affects us, and how we should go about coping with it. Out of all that information, he made one major point that has stuck in my memory. He said that we are designed by God for "camel travel," not "supersonic jet travel," which is how most in our culture live today. Because of this, our bodies are able to go at this pace for so long before they begin protesting in the form of panic attacks, sickness, disturbed sleep, negative moods, etc. While Dr. Hart did not go into great detail about how stress makes us more susceptible to sickness and disease, studies such as this one provide us with more information as to why stress contributes to the likelihood of contracting illnesses and developing diseases.
I guarantee that many of my classmates can relate to several points that Dr. Hart made in his book because all of us are trying to obtain a Master's in counseling, which demands a great deal of effort, sacrifice, and commitment. In order to succeed in graduate school, one must stay on top of deadlines, complete all assignments, manage time wisely, and plan ahead. Some of us are even trying to work and complete our degrees at the same time, which causes us to lead even busier lives than if our sole focus is our education. With demands such as these, we are sometimes tempted to rely on our own ability and strength to accomplish all that we need to. As a result, stress begins to creep into our lives so gradually that we hardly even notice it is a problem until it seems we have completely lost control because of it. We then begin to wonder, “Wow… how did I get here?”
I recently came across Isaiah 50:10-11, which is addressed to the Israelites who were then relying on themselves rather than on God. It says, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” Oftentimes, life will bring us many obstacles that will tempt us to rely on ourselves rather than on God, which will cause us more stress than we ever planned for. However, God makes it clear here in this passage that we were never meant to face our stress and cares alone, but we are to rely on Him and trust that He will help us through whatever life brings whether it be the challenges of graduate school, a loss of a loved one, a demanding job, etc. It is obvious that this world will not help us in managing our stress, but we have the help of One who will if we are humble enough to seek it. Only then will we avoid the panic attacks, diseases, illnesses, discouragement, and discontent that stress promises if we allow it to control us.