Good stress, bad stress.
Stress, stress, everywhere.
From the news. From your church. From your work. Or lack thereof.
It’s all around you. You can’t escape it.
What can you do?
Well, if you can’t escape it, you must learn to manage it. Learning to handle the stress that comes our way helps us develop the character to minimize its effect on our bodies, souls and spirits.
Managing stress is usually better than escaping it, ignoring it or projecting it onto someone else. These behaviors will only increase your anxiety.
Preparation (think: prevention) is one of the best ways to manage stress before it even gets to you. How you start your day usually sets the tone for how your day progresses.
The Jews went a step further. Their day began the evening before, based on the timeline God gave for creation in Genesis chapter 1, where six times, He said, “And the evening and the morning were the first day” (KJV). You might have to start utilizing healthy coping skills for stress the night before.
For instance, instead of rushing around in the morning to throw together your lunch and what clothes to wear, prepare your lunch and choose your entire outfit, including accessories, the night before.
There are many typical stress busters that we can utilize to manage stress. Some methods are healthy:
- Listen authentically, not defensively.
- Sleep well with good sleep hygiene.
- Listen to your favorite fun or relaxing music.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Take vacations, even if they’re only for a day.
- Eat right and stay well-hydrated.
- Declutter your bedroom/living space.
- Start journaling.
- Make time for creative/relaxing hobbies.
- Get in a few good stretches.
- Read a good book.
- Employ relaxation techniques.
- Drink green or white tea.
- Get outside, enjoy nature, breathe in fresh air.
- Prioritize and complete important tasks.
- Take a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before you go to bed.
- Take up coloring.
- Learn to set boundaries and say no.
- Allow yourself to vent (but only if you’re the type of person who benefits from venting; some people get madder the more they talk about a negative situation).
Some methods are not too healthy: smoking, drinking alcohol, self-harm (e.g., cutting, banging your head, biting your nails), using illicit substances, getting even busier, abusing prescription medication, overeating, oversleeping, impulse spending, illicit sex, yelling at others.
As single followers of the living God, we can utilize not only the above “worldly” methods to manage our stress, but otherworldly resources — resources that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away. We can tap into God’s strength.
Let’s be reminded of these methods:
- Lean into your identity in Christ. If you are Christ’s single, He will never abandon you (Hebrew 13:5) or give up on you (Philippians 1:6; Jude 24–25). He has joyfully singled you out as belonging to Him (John 10:3-5). Reminding ourselves of Whose we are will help us stabilize in His love and grace and cause us to seek Him first, not last, when stress comes to attack us. The enemy of our souls would love it if we would forget Whose we are. Instead of forgetting or neglecting your identity in Him, lean into it.
- Stay as connected to the Lord as you can throughout the day. He doesn’t just give peace, He is our peace (Isaiah 26:3-4; Ephesians 2:14). In a fast-paced job involving volatile clients and catty colleagues, itt’s only been in the last few years that I learned to pray silently, in the moment, with my lips closed and my eyes open.
- Read the Word of God. It’s quicker and more powerful than a two-edged sword, according to Hebrews 4:12. Start reading, meditating on and memorizing key Scriptures in your places of highest stress during breaks, lunches and down times. Remind yourself of God’s sovereignty, love, power and grace. Discreetly post a few Scriptures around your work station. That will give the Holy Spirit a handle inside you to use as a weapon against stress.
- Share with your Christian friends. Vent, but don’t become a whiner. Also take time to have fun with them away from your source of stress. Let them pray with you and for you. Let them share their takeaways from a similar situation and give you perspective.
- Be part of the body of Christ. Many churches offer exercise classes, counseling, support groups and access to relevant teachings available online or on CDs, DVDs or podcasts. The body of Christ also includes autobiographies from historical figures as well as current personalities. These have much to share about overcoming or enduring hardship, not only to the world testifying of Christ and the Gospel, but also with brothers and sisters in the Lord.
You can’t stop all stress from coming at you. But if you practice healthy coping skills, eventually you will feel less stressed.