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What it is | Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Over time, a slow-dripping faucet can wear through marble. It is not the strength of the water that causes the damage, but rather, the persistence of the constant dripping. Likewise, persistent stress wears you down without you even realizing it. It can come in the form of chronic illness, a strained marriage, or an unhealthy relationship. Or it may be something like a mortgage payment that cannot be sustained for an extended time. Maybe it is the daily pressure of having to help a child who is failing to thrive. Whatever causes the long-term dripping, it is Chinese water torture to your soul.

Persistent stress is the most damaging of the stresses, mainly because you might not even consider it to be stress. “It’s just the way it is. It’s life,” you tell yourself. You adapt. You bounce back. But in the long run, persistent stress takes a toll on your emotional, spiritual and relational vitality. It even impacts your physical body—suppressing your immune system, depleting your brain’s anti-pain and anti-anxiety system, and depleting your body of hormones responsible for your emotional stability.

How to manage it | Since persistent stress can camouflage itself as normal, once you do notice that something is slowly wearing you out, it is crucial to identify the source. While not all sources of persistent stress may be eliminated, you can develop a plan to help you gain and maintain vitality.

Answer the questions below and share insights with your spouse or a trusted friend.

  • Have you noticed an area in your life where you seem to be wearing thin?
  • In what ways are you noticing the impact of long-term, persistent stress?
  • What is the source of the persistent stress in your life? Is this a new realization, or is it something you’ve been dealing with for years?
  • What can you do to either eliminate the source of the stress, or to change things up enough so that it doesn’t erode the health of your soul?