How Stress Affects the Spirits
Cumulative stress can affect every area of our lives compromising our thought processes, our emotions, our physical health, and even our spiritual lives. When stress turns to anxiety and depression and risky ways of coping, we can find ourselves in spiritual crisis.
Destroying Personal IdentityChronic stress can begin to erode an individual's concept of self. Some people begin to lose confidence in their abilities and strengths. This self doubt begins to erode relationships with others and with the person's trust in how the universe works. People begin to lose their ability to laugh or find humour in the world. They also lose their creativity and the joy of living. This then leads to depression.
IsolationBecause many people with constant stress are over-concerned with their own issues, they don't think of their loved ones' needs or feelings. Their emotions can explode, and they can lash out at others. They can transfer their own tension by being intolerant of the actions of others. They can also exhibit mood swings so that those around them never know how to approach them.
Also, some people under stress ignore their families, withdrawing from social activities and into themselves.
Furthermore, some people become so embroiled in their stress that they begin to pull away from people emotionally and spiritually. They find it difficult to trust others because they have been the victim of hurtful people such as a bullying employer or colleague. Lack of trust can lead to jealousy, suspicion, and self-doubt.
This lack of trust isolates them even more and can even cause them to pull away from spiritual resources that could help them, such as clergy, teachers, or prayer groups. Some people even begin to blame their God for their circumstances and cut themselves off from personal spiritual interactions such as prayer or meditation.
Lack of MeaningAs depression and isolation begins to take its toll, individuals under stress start to feel a lack of motivation and no longer feel that their lives have meaning and purpose. They become cynical, perhaps about one area of their lives and later their cynicism pervades everything they do and how they interact with people. This lack of purpose and meaning soon leads to lack of hope, which is the real soul killer.
Risky BehavioursSome people turn to drugs and alcohol as stress reducers, though these very substances create their own kinds of stress. Because there seems to be a temporary relief from stress, drugs and alcohol can give the illusion of being effective treatments. They, however, create not only health problems but more stress when people begin to abuse these substances, making them a greater part of their lives. This does impact people's spiritual lives.
Other behaviours that affect the spirit are driving too fast or taking risks with firearms or machinery. Some individuals resort to self-mutilation as a means of coping and feeling alive when their circumstances seem so bleak. There may even be suicide attempts.
When stress begins to impact people's lives in such profound ways, spiritual connections to their inner lives, other people, and the world around them are affected. It is this breach in connectedness that gives meaning and purpose to people's lives. Managing stress can help us rediscover who we are as human beings and how our lives intersect with others. Successful stress management can help us strengthen or even regain our spiritual lives.