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What Is the Root of My Stress?

While all of the questions in the previous section may indicate unhealthy levels of continuous stress, not all stress comes from the same place or can be dealt with the same way.  Still, there are some common roots of stress that can help us uncover and deal with it in a healthy way.

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey gives a useful chart for identifying the source of our stress.

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important Quadrant 1
Crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects
Quadrant 2

Prevention, PC activities (that is, increasing your production capability), relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, planning, recreation
Not Important Quadrant 3

Interruptions, some calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings, pressing matters, popular activities
Quadrant 4

Trivia, busy work, some mail, some phone calls, time wasters, pleasant activities

Covey suggests that most of our stress comes from Quadrants 1 and 3, which we understand because stress is our bodies’ reaction to the urgent.  He says that most of our time should be spent in Quadrant 2, which in turn will minimize the amount of attention we need to give to Quadrant 1.  This is primarily a business-driven example, but the same principles apply to family, to ministry, to friendships, and to every other situation.

The thing is, we all spend time in each of these quadrants.  But too often, we let the Not Important quadrants fill up our days, building up greater pressure in Quadrants 1 and 3 and before we know it, all of our time is spent putting out fires in the Urgent column.  Stress builds and builds and builds, because we haven’t given ourselves a break, because we are so busy reacting to the urgent that we haven’t taken time to prepare, because we haven’t taken time to rest or to dream or to build or to enjoy.

Continue to Martha, Martha, Martha! ->
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