It is not uncommon to hear people reference stress as illegitimate or something that is self-imposed. Others flippantly say that stress is real, but you just need to learn to deal with it, as if it was simply a papercut or the common cold. The medical field has long argued the legitimacy of stress and its devastating effects if left unaddressed.
Stress can cause feelings of fear, frustration, anger, or even numbness, which can lead to behavioral and mental health issues and increased risk for chemical and substance abuse. The pandemic exacerbated the situation by forcing people into isolation, thus limiting social interaction.
I recently read an article outlining several important ways to cope with stress. The No. 1 way to reduce stress is to minimize or limit reading, listening, or watching the news on television or social media. It is important to realize that stories are often sensationalized — regardless of the media outlet, and the information rarely reflects 100% of the truth. The stories are designed to grow the media outlet's audience in order to increase advertising impact.
I recently participated in a team building exercise at Truist Park with fellow corporate employees. A group of software engineers were placed in an escape room and given detailed clues to decipher. Each clue led to another opportunity to get out of the room and win the contest. It was entertaining and revealing to see how a fun exercise could generate so much stress, especially when a timer was involved. Once the group calmed down and began to thoroughly examine the details of the clues, they became proficient and actually enjoyed themselves on the way to winning.
In Matthew 10:16, we are told, "Listen carefully, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be wise as a serpent and gentle as doves." In other words, we must be discerning to what we see, hear, and read, and we must resist the temptation to react in a way that prevents or minimizes our ability to influence.
The power of influence is incredible, and we can dramatically diminish stress in our lives and in the lives of others if we are wise and gentle. I encourage you to make 2022 the year that you seek to understand before reacting.