Too Much Stress Can Mean Major Health Issues

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Too Much Stress Can Mean Major Health Issues

By American Counseling Association

stress ballIn today’s busy world, stress is something we all face to some extent, yet most of us have little understanding of what stress is or of the problems it can cause.

Stress is actually a combination of two separate things. The first is the “stressor,” the situation that triggers the physical and emotional reactions that we feel. It might be a family problem, a money issue or just that traffic jam on our way to work.

The second part of stress is our “stress response.” This is our body and mind’s natural response to a stressor, including increases in our breathing, heart rate, alertness and muscle response. It’s a reaction inherited from our ancient ancestors. For them, survival meant reacting quickly to threats they encountered, what we call the “fight or flight” response.

Back then, if the stress source was a wild animal or other life-threatening situation, that was a good reaction. But today’s problems are seldom so immediate or quickly resolved. Instead, we often face prolonged or repeated stress over which we have little or no control.

For many of us, repeatedly facing stressful situations can leave us feeling constantly nervous or exhausted, and can result in very real physical and emotional ailments.

It shouldn’t be hard to recognize when stress is negatively affecting your life. The warning signs can include changes in both behavior and physical well-being.

Stress-related behavioral changes might include sudden anger or impatience over relatively minor things. You might find yourself unable to relax, anxious almost all the time, sleeping poorly and experiencing sexual problems. Major changes in eating, whether no appetite or constantly overeating, are also common reactions. Excessive stress can make it difficult to make decisions or set priorities. You may make more mistakes or become accident-prone.

Physical ailments, such as frequent headaches and neck or back pain, can also be stress-related symptoms. You might find yourself suffering from frequent indigestion, diarrhea or constipation. Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or skin problems like acne or psoriasis can also occur.

Excessive stress is not a problem to be ignored. It has been linked to a variety of serious health and emotional issues. If you find yourself facing high levels of stress that are affecting your health or overall quality of life, seek help. Your family physician or a professional counselor can offer assistance to help reduce or cope with unhealthy stress in your life.

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If you are struggling with excessive stress in your daily life, or are beginning to notice symptoms of stress creeping in and impacting your functionality, even on a small scale, please do not ignore these symptoms.  CornerStone Family Services is equipped with counselors and coaches who can help you healthily deal with stress and develop a positive physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual lifestyle.  

Give us a call at 614-459-3003 to set up your first appointment.

Seven Ways We Can Guard and Repair Relationships

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Seven Ways We Can Guard and Repair Relationships

By Ray Ortlund

1.  Let’s rejoice in one another, because the Lord rejoices in us.

Psalm 16:3 sets the overall tone: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  There is excellence to admire in every Christian.  And it’s easy to discern.  Two questions into a conversation and the excellence starts appearing.

2.  Let’s create an environment of trust rather than negative scrutiny.

1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  Human eyes are not competent to judge human hearts.

3.  Let’s judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.”  And 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.”  In other words, love fills in the blanks with positive assumptions.

4.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s talk to, not about.  Gossip destroys.

Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”  The Lord didn’t say, “Go ask your brother his fault.”  Let’s man up and tell him his sin.  But let’s tell him to his face, rather than spread accusations around.

5.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s avoid blanket statements but identify factual specifics, offer a positive path forward and preserve everyone’s dignity.

“You are ___________” is too sweeping to be fair.  It leaves a person no freedom to change.  Better to say, “In this situation, when you _____________, that was wrong.  It would be helpful if, in the future, you would ______________.  What do you think?  And is there anything I can do that might help?”

6.  Let’s extend kindness.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another.”  That word “kind” is used in Matthew 11:30 when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy.”  So kindness asks, “How can I make this situation as easy for the other person as possible?  How can I make a positive response as easy as it can be?”

7.  When we wrong another, let’s admit it: “What I did to you was wrong.  I am sorry.  By God’s grace, I won’t do that again.  Is there anything I can do now, to make up for it?”

Where a wrong has been done, as the Bible defines wrong, an apology will help.  Reparations are also biblical and may be necessary in the case of a significant injury.  But evading the wrongs of our past only builds hypocrisy into our future.  And God cannot bless that.  But God will surely bless serious repentance.  When Zacchaeus vowed to repay the people he had defrauded, the Lord didn’t reply, “You don’t have to.  That’s water under the bridge!”  No, the Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:8-9).

One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible is between brothers who had been long alienated: “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).  God wants that beauty to reappear in every generation, as needed.

Praying for your spouse: The good, the bad, and the barriers

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Praying for your spouse: The good, the bad, and the barriers

By Cara Plett 

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my spouse to keep”?

That’s not the bedtime rhyme you teach your four-year-old, but it should be the ditty that guides your married prayer life.

PrayingRegular date nights, team-building activities, romantic vacations and top-10 lists of ways to have fun with your spouse are all good things for your relationship, but they don’t address the heart of a godly marriage.

Without proper support, these activities are destined to fail because our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). That means that no matter how many earthly marital maneuvers you master, you’re still missing the spiritual mark. As pastor and author Francis Chan writes in You and Me Forever, “Sincere and concentrated prayer will do infinitely more than any human strategy for a happy marriage.”

The selfless act of prayer speaks volumes about love and respect in this selfish, self-help, selfie society. But how do you harness the power of this radical battle tactic? Keep reading to learn to navigate the good, the bad and the barriers you may face as a prayer warrior for your spouse and your marriage.

Benefits of prayer beyond the obvious

Of course, when we pray God can move mountains. But there are many benefits of prayer that, while not as visible as a relocated landform, are just as powerful.

  1. Regulates your emotions: Prayer stopped Blaine from giving into her jealousy and suspicion when her husband went to a mandatory work party she wasn’t invited to. Similarly, taking a moment on his knees helped Geoff calm down enough to recognize his wife’s mood swings as hormonal, not hateful.

The truth is, prayer affects the pray-er. As Dave Ortis, counselor at Focus on the Family Canada, puts it, “Prayer changes our heart and our mind toward others. It’s not to fix things. We pray for other people in terms of well-being because it teaches us sensitivity.” Prayer isn’t a magic fix-it formula; it is fellowship with God. And when you commune with God, He works in mysterious ways in your heart, mind and soul – and yes, in answering your petitions, too.

  1. Builds team mentality: Prayer won’t stop the battle between the enemy and your marriage, but it will help you join your spouse’s team as a prayer warrior. And as Chan writes, this will limit petty spousal battles so they don’t distract you from the main event: “Being in a war together is what keeps us from being at war with each other.”
  2. Encourages your spouse: In Praying God’s Word for Your Husband, author Kathi Lipp’s husband shares what it’s like to be on the receiving end of spousal prayer: “It makes a huge difference knowing that she is praying. It changes my relationship with her. It changes how I see the world. It changes my relationship with God.” Though you may not notice your spouse acting or speaking differently right away, you can know that your prayers are encouraging their growth in significant ways – starting in their heart.
  3. Increases commitment: Even science backs up the importance of prayer. Researcher Frank D. Finchman of Florida State University studied “partner-focused petitionary prayer,” that which asks, in your own words, for God to help your partner. He found that praying for your partner results in increased romantic commitment, greater relationship satisfaction and more forgiveness. Prayer had these effects on a relationship even beyond positive or negative behavioral factors.

Barriers to prayer

A prayer for your husband or wife starts with a prayer for you. This may seem selfish, but when you identify all the hard heart-work you need to do, you realize how necessary it is.

“Prayer begins with focusing on who we are before we jump in asking God to fix the rest of the world,” Ortis says. “It’s about holding a mirror up to myself.” Honest self-reflection like this is the root of a sincere, effective prayer, especially when one of the following three barriers is involved:

  1. I don’t want to: You have no desire whatsoever to pray for your spouse? At least you’re honest. Ortis says that no matter the barriers keeping you from even wanting to pray for your spouse, be honest about them. When you’ve had a tiff, Otis continues, it can be healthier to admit, “Right now, I don’t feel like praying for the guy because the guy’s a jerk,” than to fake it for God. After all, God can see through your fake feelings, so don’t bother trying to hide them!

If you’re not sure why your heart is resistant to praying for your spouse, Lipp has a few suggestions to get the prayers rolling. One tactic is to start by praying for yourself. Ask God to help you “want to want to.” She adds, “Right now you don’t want to pray for your husband. So now is the time to ask God to help you want to pray.” Remember, God can change your desires if you ask Him to.

  1. I don’t know what to say: Maybe you want to pray, but are simply at a loss for words. What do you say to God when your husband prefers reading car magazines to reading the Bible? Or when your wife opts for soap operas rather than soaping up with you in the shower. If you’re at a stalemate trying to script a prayer filled with “churchese or spiritual language because you think, Oh my goodness, I don’t want to offend God,” you’re overthinking it according to Ortis. He offers the assurance that “God’s heard it all.” Nothing you can say will take Him off-guard.
  2. I’m not godly enough: James 5:16 reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” That’s not to say that you must be perfectly righteous or holy in order for your prayer to “work.” But it couldn’t hurt, and we’re given instructions on how to be righteous, so we really have no excuse why our prayers can’t be as powerful as we want them to be.

The key to gaining righteousness is getting right with God which starts with two actions: confession and forgiveness. First, in 1 John 1:9, we’re promised that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Second, in Matthew 6:14 we’re told to forgive others so God will forgive us, which reestablishes communion with Him.

How can you pray for your husband to resist pornography when you’re hiding your own struggle with lust? Or for your wife’s critical work meetings to go well when you haven’t forgiven her for missing dinner three nights in a row to attend those meetings? Very poorly and half-heartedly, that’s how.

Without confession and forgiveness, it’s very difficult to pray about anything or anyone. “As long as we are holding on to those wrongs like a balled-up tissue, we can never be truly free to hold out our hands in prayer,” Lipp points out.

When prayer turns poisonous

According to Ortis, “Prayer can also be used as a whip and that can be so very subtle and very dangerous.” Before praying that your spouse be less lazy so they would fix the squeaky door or fix a scrumptious dinner, reflect on these important questions: What are my motives? Am I trying to manipulate the situation?

There are two prayer paths that can be particularly dangerous to your marriage:

  1. Holier-than-thou attitude: “We can become very spiritual,” Ortis says, “But that can be a very lethal weapon to use against people.” With a hard heart and the wrong motivations, prayer could descend into a demoralizing rant, venting to God about your spouse’s quirks and shortcomings.

Can God handle the lava you’re spewing out of your mind and heart? Sure. But rather than serving as a release to your negative feelings, this tirade entrenches those negative thoughts, sinking the poison deeper into your spiritual and emotional bloodstream. As a result, bitterness rather than blessings overtake you and your marriage.

  1. Greedier-than-thou motive: You also need a heart-check if you entered marriage thinking you can and will change your spouse to serve your purposes. Especially if you think the secret spiritual weapon of prayer is there to further your personal agenda.

You could ask God to give your spouse a higher-paying job so you can have higher-cost jeans. Or your wants could be slightly more spiritual with all the same selfishness. For example, we’d all like to have a Christ-like spouse, but when we pray to that end so our spouse can please us more rather than serve Him more, that’s manipulative. With a self-righteous or self-serving heart, this is a gross mutation of the intimate intent of prayer.

Now that you understand the good, the bad and the barriers that come with praying for your spouse, be the prayer warrior your husband or wife needs. Today is the day to forgive, be forgiven and be free to pray powerfully!

Do You Manage Conflict or Does It Manage You?

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Do You Manage Conflict or Does It Manage You? 5 Strategies for Success

By Randy Conley

Conflict argueConflict gets a bad rap. Most people tend to view conflict as a bad thing, automatically assuming it has to be an adversarial win or lose situation. The reality is that conflict is inevitable in relationships and it isn’t inherently a negative thing. It depends if you choose to manage the conflict or let the conflict manage you.

I’m a fan of the Thomas Kilmann model of conflict management because of its dispassionate approach to the topic and the practical strategies it offers for its followers. Kilmann defines conflict as any situation where your concerns or desires differ from those of another person. That can be as simple as deciding where to go for dinner with your spouse to something as complex as brokering the details of a huge corporate merger.

According to Kilmann’s model there are five basic modes of handling conflict that result from the amount of assertiveness and cooperation you employ. Each of us tend to have a natural, default mode we use when faced with conflict, but that particular mode isn’t always appropriate for every situation. The key to effectively managing conflict is to understand which mode is most appropriate for the situation given the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. Here’s a quick snapshot of the five modes of managing conflict:

Avoiding – Taking an unassertive and uncooperative approach to conflict defines the Avoiding mode. Sometimes avoiding conflict is the best move. Perhaps the issue isn’t important enough to address or you need to allow some time to pass to diffuse tensions. But of course avoiding conflict can also be harmful because issues may fester and become more contentious or decisions may be made by default without your input or influence.

Competing – High on assertiveness and low on cooperativeness, the competing mode is appropriate when you need to protect yourself, stand up for important principles, or make quick decisions. Overuse of the competing style tends to result in people around you feeling “bulldozed,” defeated, and un-empowered.

Collaborating – The collaborating mode is the highest use of assertiveness and cooperation and is appropriate when your focus is on merging the perspectives of the parties, integrating solutions, and building relationships. Overusing the collaboration mode can lead to inefficiency,  wasting time, and too much diffusion of responsibility (because if everyone is responsible, then really no one is responsible).

Compromising – Many times people think compromising should be the goal of resolving conflict. I give up something, you give up something, and we agree to settle somewhere in the middle…hogwash! There are certainly times when compromise is the best route, such as when the issue in dispute is only moderately important or you just need a temporary solution. But if you overuse the compromising mode, you can neglect to see the big picture and create a climate of cynicism and low trust because you’re always giving in rather than taking a stand.

Accommodating – This mode is high on cooperativeness and low on assertiveness which is appropriate for situations where you need to show reasonableness, keep the peace, or maintain perspective. If you overuse the accommodating mode, you can find yourself being taken advantage of, having your influence limited, and feeling resentful because you’re always the one making concessions to resolve conflict.

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, and if managed effectively, can lead to deeper and stronger bonds of trust and commitment. The key is to diagnose the situation, determine your preferred outcomes, and use the mode most appropriate to help you achieve your goals.

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Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married

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The following are excerpts from the New York Times article:

Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married

By Claire Cain Miller

A new economics paper has some old-fashioned advice for people navigating the stresses of life: Find a spouse who is also your best friend.

Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be happier, but they debate whether that is because marriage causes happiness or simply because happier people are more likely to get married. The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels.

It concluded that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises…

Those whose lives are most difficult could benefit most from marriage, according to the economists who wrote the new paper, John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics and Shawn Grover of the Canadian Department of Finance. “Marriage may be most important when there is that stress in life and when things are going wrong,” Mr. Grover said…

Intriguingly, marital happiness long outlasted the honeymoon period. Though some social scientists have argued that happiness levels are innate, so people return to their natural level of well-being after joyful or upsetting events, the researchers found that the benefits of marriage persist.

One reason for that might be the role of friendship within marriage. Those who consider their spouse or partner to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others, the study found…

“What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole,” Mr. Helliwell said. “Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life”…

The benefits of marital friendship are most vivid during middle age, when people tend to experience a dip in life satisfaction, largely because career and family demands apply the most stress then. Those who are married, the new paper found, have much shallower dips – even in regions where marriage does not have an overall positive effect.

“The biggest benefits come in high-stress environments, and people who are married can handle midlife stress better than those who aren’t because they have a shared load and shared friendship,” Mr. Helliwell said.

Overall, the research comes to a largely optimistic conclusion. People have the capacity to increase their happiness levels and avoid falling deep into midlife crisis by finding support in long-term relationships…

Look Closely – You Can See Your Current Struggles in the Scriptures

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Look Closely – You Can See Your Current Struggles in the Scriptures

By John Myer

It’s a difficult personal season for me right now.  But I’m reading through the Bible.    What an odd couple—weakness and power trying to occupy the same real estate in my heart at the very same time.

The wisdom of the ages intersects human frailty.  God crosses my path.  You know something’s bound to happen when that occurs.  And I read about it yesterday when I arrived at Hebrews chapter 11.  Of course, that’s the famous faith chapter.

I’ve heard a lot of things about faith, and I have to admit, some of them have sounded kooky.  Too many of those views involved a simplistic connecting of dots.  But this chapter puts folks on display whose faith experiences were sometimes complicated and all over the board.  Plugged back into the original context of their stories, we find them surrounded with frequent weaknesses.  A few of them could also be candidates for a chapter that spoke about not having faith.

I hate to say it, but that makes me feel better.

Anyway, here’s how their faith showed up in fits and starts:

v. 3 Understanding invisible things

v. 4 Offering excellent sacrifices

v. 5  Walking in a way that pleases God

v. 7  Fearfully preparing for things which God has warned of

v. 8 Obeying God without knowing the outcome

vv. 9-10 Waiting for God’s perfect timing

v. 11 Considering God faithful

vv. 17-19 Passing tests that seem unreasonable

v. 20 Seeing the potential in others and blessing them

v. 21 Even when life is over, blessing that of others

v. 22 Planning for God’s perfect future

v. 23 Fearing God rather than man

vv. 24-26 Refusing pleasures in order to choose being with God’s people

v. 27 Forsaking the God-rejecting world, and being unafraid of the consequences

v. 28 Keeping God’s redemptive commands

v. 29 Passing through impossible situations

v. 30 Pulling down strongholds

v. 31 Receiving God’s people at risk of life and limb

If you look closely, you’re somewhere in the Hebrews 11 list, struggling, and quietly making history.

Physically Fit Kids are Smarter Kids

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Physically Fit Kids Are Smarter Too!

By Dr. Daniel Amen, MD

You’ve probably heard the old expression, ”That’s using the old gray matter.” This refers to central nervous system tissue—especially brain tissue—that contains neurons and other cells vital to thinking & reasoning. And then there is white matter, linking the gray matter together.

If you think of your brain as a collection of computer modules, the gray matter would be the computers themselves, while the white matter would comprise the network of cables that connect everything together.

Now ask yourself this: Can exercise influence the efficiency and functioning of the computers and network cables? It can!

Studies have shown that children with higher levels of aerobic fitness have more gray matter. And now comes evidence from a new study, just published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, showing that aerobically fit young people have healthier, more compact (and thus, better functioning) white matter as well!

Researchers used a special type of imaging to look at five white-matter tracts in the brains of 24, 9- and 10-year-olds. As part of their analysis, they controlled for (minimized) the influence or impact of IQ, socioeconomic status, onset of puberty and the existence of ADD/ADHD or other learning challenges.

Their study revealed significant fitness-linked differences in the integrity of specific white matter areas of the brain, such those that connect the brain’s left and right hemispheres, the frontal and parietal lobes, and the cerebral cortex to the brain stem.

According to study co-author Dr. Laura Chaddock-Heyman, ”All of these tracts have been found to play a role in attention and memory.”

The researchers are now conducting a five-year study to see if white matter tract integrity goes up in children who start a new physical fitness routine and stick to it over time.

If you want the kids in your life to be more physically fit, get moving with them!

  • Begin with ”walking like you’re late” for 30-45 minutes, three to four days a week.
  • Taking a walk—especially outside in nature—can help kids ”reset” after a long day at school and do a better job on homework.

 

Is Your Smartphone Making You Dumb?

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Texting while talking and scrolling down Facebook while walking are common examples of the ways we actively use our cell phones to multitask through the day, diverting our attention from the job at hand.

Even more disturbing, according to two studies from the University of Southern Maine, the mere presence of a cell phone can reduce the quality of your task performance.

Groups of two students took two types of tests – crossing out like number and drawing lines to connect a sequence of numbers – at two varying degrees of difficulty. In the first study, the proctor’s cell phone was left on the desk of one test taker, while the other participant’s desk had a small notebook on it.  In the second study, some students placed their own cell phone on their desk during the tests, while another set had to adhere to a “phone off and away” policy.

Both groups completed the same amount of work in each study, but when researchers examined the results, they observed that the participants exposed to cell phones performed about 20 percent worse than their tech-free counterparts.

Because your phone doesn’t even have to be in your hand to decrease your cognitive abilities, perhaps it’s best to keep it hidden during tasks that demand your full attention.

By Jacquie Isines

Psychology Today, March/April 2015 p 38.