Stress can sometimes crush us. So why do we give it a chance?
We don’t always know we’re giving it a chance!
Everything around you is inter-connected: how you sleep, how you eat, the community you live in, the weather, your work day, bad conversations, good conversations, music, movies, books, family and friends, exercise and food . . . and the list goes on.
It can be stressful.
Stress. The word, all alone, brings an uneasiness. Stress can find it’s way in to everything I just mentioned, and yet it is seemingly invisible. We’re are just now learning how to measure stress. Did you know that simply having a “Type A” personality means you are at least as likely to have heart problems as a smoker or someone who has high cholesterol!? That’s bonkers.
Let’s call the heart "the engine of the body." Think of it like the engine of a car. The engine may be fine by itself, but it won’t work without the car. The engine won’t work properly if certain mechanisms are off. If you put the wrong kind of gas in it, that’ll ruin the engine, too! Your engine in-take matters. There are loads of factors that stress the car, and make the engine work harder.
Add stress to the engine . . . if it’s too hot outside, the engine is under greater stress, and so are the mechanisms trying to keep it cool. If it’s too cold . . . stress. If the road is bumpy . . . stress. If the car is hit by an outside force . . . stress.
So many unpredictable things that can happen.
Simply using a car the way it’s meant to be used means it is going to be bombarded by stressors. The same is true with the body!
Some “stress” is good. No doubt, it makes plenty of sense to break down muscles through exercise to make them stronger and more efficient when they’re given proper rest.
But doesn’t it seem like I’ve painted a daunting picture? Does it feel as if I’ve stated the importance of the heart as a muscle, and basically said there’s very little you can do to help it along because “anything can happen”?
Now, I want to get to the heart of the whole matter—pun intended: “It is all about the heart,” said Paige Benton Brown.
But I want to define the heart beyond the physical and tangible heart because what we’ve been talking about isn’t necessarily physical and tangible! Let’s define the heart as “who you are,” or “why you do what you do.”
It’s the engine . . . it’s why we get out of bed in the morning and what drives every decision we make all day long.
What is your heart like? What messages and downloads is it receiving every day? This is the place where stress enters. This is the place false voices take root and bad habits affirm false identities. There’s literally no way to address the biggest issues in your life without addressing the biggest questions.
If you don’t have solid answers to, “Why does that matter?” or “Who are you?” If you are not able to tell people what you care about, where you came from, and where you are going, you will be hard pressed to convince someone that your heart is well.
I believe that most self-help books, etc. will tell you how to relax, turn the mind off, and avoid stress...
But I also believe that isn’t ultimately helpful.
You need to think it through. You need to notice stresses and logically think through them. You have to process them. Avoiding them doesn’t change who you are, and it doesn’t change your ability to deal with stress.
We must not be surprised by life circumstances not fitting a neat picture we have in our head. We must not be surprised by our own feelings deceiving us. When we know who we are and have made decisions about how we are going to live, we can silence the voices that dictate so many of our destructive habits today—choices to stay in bad relationships, pursue careers we should never pursue, and on and on.
We want so badly to control our lives. But we can’t.
Yes, the facts are that it is important to pay attention to what we eat, our sleep, our exercise.
However, we have to acknowledge more than these. We have to acknowledge the part of life we can’t control. We can go on without acknowledging this truth, but it doesn’t change the fact . . . you’re still a human with limited understanding and limited control. Your choices matter, but the outcomes aren’t up to you.
Do you see how these truths directly affect “the heart” both physically and intangibly? How you respond to everything is going to be based on what you believe to be true. It’s not about greater effort, though greater understanding certainly helps.
It is about acknowledging truth.
Anything that attacks your heart has got to go . . . and sometimes attacks come from your own feelings! No one has ever said, “Oh yes, I do exactly as I please, when I please, how I please . . . always what I want, and life has worked out great for me!”
I’ll finish with some quotes, each of which could be unpacked for days on their own. I must circle back to the beginning, though, because I am afraid that if you read this far you might wonder, “How did we get here in a blog about stress?”
It’s no longer strange to speak about how your physical self has an affect on your intangible self and visa-versa.
The issue seems to be that most “self-help” (I always think that’s a hilariously-titled section) books speak about dealing with the intangibles of life by shutting the mind off and letting go. No one is telling you to think through the connection between what you can control and what you can’t.
Be wise here and understand the truths about heart health that go far beyond what you can control. Your response and understanding of those "uncontrollables" is necessary and wise.
Here are some helpful quotes from Paige Benton Brown, public speaker in Nashville, Tennessee:
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