What’s eating at you?


The doctors said the Graft Versus Host Disease symptoms could return at random anytime during the next ten years as the new host DNA grafted cells continue to fight with my host cells. Well, it did come back. While a maddening nuisance, it’s not medically significant. It’s like a thousand ants nibbling at the skin from the top of the head to the sole of the feet. In a moment of respite, I’m reminded of other things that “eat” at us all.


Do you find yourself getting frustrated at small things? We get frustrated with ourselves, frustrated with others, frustrated with things that don’t work, frustrated with the fast pace of life, and frustrated with the times we’re stuck in a holding pattern. We huff and puff,  sigh deeply,  clench our muscles, and frown. Sometimes words not meant to be said get spoken.  But it’s not like going into a full rage that requires anger management therapy, so it’s no big deal, right? Or is it?


Decades ago, I read a book on stress management by a physician who asserted that getting upset at small things is indeed a big deal.   Certainly, there is much damage that can be done by the big stressors in life:  death of a loved one, a serious illness, abusive and neglectful relationships, or chronic pain or nearly any big loss. But the doctor warned that it is the accumulation of small things that really attack our bodies. He described the chemical interactions that occur in the body and mind when we experience unproductive stress and explained how this takes its toll over the years. He theorized that each negative expression of frustration could actually shorten our life by up to thirty seconds.  If you find yourself getting frustrated ten times a day that’s five minutes. That’s an hour over the course of two weeks; more than a whole day over a year. Imagine, at the end of your life, wanting to have another hour or another day with your loved ones.


The doctor related that studies reveal even the memory of stressed events triggers these same chemical reactions. It seems the cells in our bodies are always listening to what’s going on around them and always ready to respond. This is a good thing because it allows us to react quickly to truly stressful situations. But when the response is unproductive such as negative thinking and worry, the effect on the body is harmful. Interestingly, the opposite is true. When our body is at rest and our mind contemplates positive thoughts, the chemical reactions have restorative properties.


The bible’s many warnings about worrying and thinking bad thoughts is not just about wasted time. It’s about negative affects on our minds and bodies. It’s time we discipline ourselves to think and act better. Demand less. Practice being calm in the face of frustration. Seek God’s presence in those moments and find the peace his perspective brings. Read scripture to regularly renew your mind. You won’t be perfect at this, but over time you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life. And your loved ones will thank you.



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