How Much Stress Do You Have?
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… Proverbs 23:7, NKJV
It’s a well-established fact: how you get along with your mate can either keep you healthy or kill you, and I’m not suggesting that your mate kill you. It’s how you get along with each other that can drive your blood pressure over the top, producing hypertension, and, yes, eventually a heart attack. A three-year study done by the University of Toronto Medical School tracked 103 couples, each one of whom had one party who had hypertension. And what did they find at the end of the study? They divided couples into the “happily married” group or the “not-so-happily-married” group who argued and fought a lot. At the end of the three-year study, those who were happily married were spending more time with each other and were healthier, while those who were not so blessed had seen their blood pressure go up by an average of six points and were spending less time together.
It’s also a fact that couples who are happily married live longer, have fewer heart attacks, and are better adjusted than the not-so-happily-married ones. While doctors can’t write a prescription for a happy marriage, there is one, and you’ll find it in the pages of God’s textbook on marriage, the Bible.
When you follow the simple principles it lays down, treat the other as you would like to be treated yourself – don’t sleep on conflict, be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and slow to rebuke – it’s amazing how much less stress you have.
An article entitled, “‘Heartaches Can Cause Real Heart Attacks,” psychiatrist Van Buren O. Hammett contends that when there is anger or hostility in a relationship, every time you think of that person, your body reacts with anger, fear, or anxiety. He’s demonstrated that even talking about these sources of conflict when a person is taking an EKG will cause the needle to hit new highs, reflecting the stress your body is taking – and stress is a killer. Your heart is the most vulnerable to stress, but he says it affects every organic part of your system–a not very pleasant thought.
OK, how do you deal with emotional stress? You can medicate it–a lot of people do just that. “Better living through pharmacology,” but drugging it doesn’t remove the problem. You can operate on it. Heart surgery, angioplasty, or other procedures are wonderful when they are needed, but needless when you can change the way you think and live and subsequently eliminate the problem.
You can attempt to separate yourself from the problem which causes stress. Lots of people do this. They run, they divorce, they escape, but then cannot shake the stress because the person is still there. And hating the person is like taking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die.
There is a better way: releasing the hatred and anger, forgiving the offending person, refusing to practice “an eye-for-an-eye” which leaves you both blinded and wounded.
At Gloucester Cathedral in England, there is a Cloister-Garden, and in this lovely spot is an old sun dial with a message we need today. It reads, “Give God thy heart, thy service, and thy gold; The day wears on, and time is waxing old.”
It’s still true. While you can’t go back, you can’t retract angry words, you can go forward, and to go forward you have to rid yourself of the baggage of the past which slowly kills you.
As Winston Churchill once put it, as long as the present is at war with the past, there’s no hope for the future.
Resource reading: Colossians 3:1-17