Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.
Mr. Ron Poole is the area pastor for several congregations in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Mr. Frank introduced him to the students, “Mr. Poole lives not too far from us here, but he’s a busy man. Mr. Poole, it’s all yours.”
“How many of you have had an encounter with a snake?” Most of the students raised their hands, and Mr. Poole recounted an experience. He and some other young men were paddling down the Saluda River. With three adults weighing down their canoe, the water level was only three or four inches below the edge of the boat. He said, “I look over to the right, and here comes a snake swimming towards the canoe.” The young guys yelled and slapped the water, trying to scare it away, but it kept racing closer. Mr. Poole considered leaping out the other side and letting the snake have the boat it so badly wanted, but they finally frightened it away with their paddles.
Fight or Flee?
The human body is equipped with a chemical “alarm system” designed to deal with short-term emergencies. Mr. Poole explained how a hormonal surge in the brain’s hypothalamus increases the heart rate and blood circulation, mobilizing energy in the body and enabling a person to react quickly to danger. He said, “But when that same stress response keeps firing day after day, it can put the body at risk.” The constant influx of these stress hormones in the body weakens the immunes system and degrades one’s psychological state. Mr. Poole pointed out short term stress is not the problem. Prolonged stress—distress—is the issue. While college life may be considered a great time of life, Mr. Poole said, “We tend to ignore the pressure during this period.” Missed due dates, incomplete work, and lack of engagement in class are all signs of stress that need to be relieved.
How to Reduce Stress
The motto of Living Education is “Building a Godly Foundation.” Mr. Poole said, “I want to encourage you to build on that foundation to help you relieve the stress in your life.” The students received five keys to reducing stress.
“Read more.” In a study done at Seton Hall University in 2009, researchers found that just thirty minutes of reading lowered a stressed student’s blood pressure as effectively as yoga or humor. Another study found the habit of reading lowers one’s mortality risk by twenty percent. He advised the students to take time to search out positive reading material. “Reading gives muscle to the memory and keeps the mind young.”
“Unplug from technology.” While modern technology can make life easier, Mr. Poole said, “Too often, it creates more stress.” Teens who are addicted to the internet are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. At Hasselt University, researchers found that a three percent increase in neighborhood “greenness” increased children’s IQ score by an average of 2.6 points. Mr. Poole recommended the students unplug from their devices and spend time in the natural world.
“Stay positive and forgive others.” Mr. Poole said the major cause of stress is relationships. Even in extremely stressful situations, Paul kept his focus on God and helping others (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Mr. Poole said, “Christ taught us to forgive others even as He was being crucified.” A positive and forgiving person manages their stress more effectively.
“Plan your routine.” Another simple way to prevent stress is to plan your day the night before. Mr. Poole used the Sabbath as an example. When small decisions—like what you will wear and what you need to bring to services—are made beforehand, many little stresses are eliminated and the Sabbath becomes more rewarding. “Preparation helps you to be ready for life’s daily opportunities.”
“Don’t be pulled in by the world.” “It seems we can’t escape from stress… Forty million adults [in the U.S.] have an anxiety disorder.” Mr. Poole reminded the students that Christians should go to God with their stresses. “We recognize the way of life God affords us brings a tremendous level of peace.” 1 John 2:15-17 contains the “world’s advertisements” that keep Christians from focusing on their primary goals in life. While Christ said the hearts of men would fail them at the end of the age (Luke 21:25-26), Mr. Poole warned the students not to be pulled in by the world—so they can face the difficult future with faith, not failing hearts.
Manage Your Stress
“You, young people, will move on to help lead the Church in the future… We need you to have cool heads. We need you to keep your feet firmly on the ground, on the firm foundation you’re building on. It is up to you. You must manage your stress level. As you do, you’ll reserve the hormones for the next time you walk upon a snake.”
This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.