Learning to Deal with Stress Productively
We all have stress in our lives stemming from a myriad of reasons and situations. Some of the stress is self-imposed, while some of it is from external situations and circumstances.
I am certainly not immune to stress although my stress is usually not visible externally. I do find that as I grow in wisdom and maturity that I am better able to manage stress. I am trying to understand and put into practice the ability to relax when I have a situation that is not within my control. This practice then frees up my energies to focus on those situations that are within my control. My problem is delineating when it is under my control and when it is not, as I tend to want to control everything. Another aspect of stress that is hard to come to grips with is that stress is usually caused by our own selfishness. Life is not going as we expect, and we don’t like it.
One good way to look at stress is to ask yourself, “Will this really matter next week, next month, next year or ten years from now?” Another question that we need to consider is…
“If you knew that you only had 6 months to live, would you be stressing over this issue?”
We need to come to grips with the fact that there are no guarantees in life. I understand that planning and preparation are important. But let us strive to focus on those areas that are most important, like gaining wisdom and insight while creating your living legacy each day. Or, as Bob Marley put it, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
So, on our Wisdom Note today, let’s look at some of the causes of and cures for stress. Just as it can be stressful on a hike when we become lost or when we spot mountain lions or bears, many issues can cause us stress.
Stress can also be caused by carrying small burdens for too long. Let’s use the analogy of a glass of water, which weighs slightly more than ½ pound. Do you think you could hold that glass of water out with your arm extended to the side? Most of us could easily do that.
The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If you hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If you hold it for an hour, you’ll have an ache in your right arm. If you hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes. That’s the way it is with stress management. If you carry your burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, you won’t be able to carry on.
As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When you’re refreshed, you can carry on with the burden.
So, before you settle in for tonight, put the burden of work or the day’s activities down. Don’t carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can.
It is well known that too much stress is a “killer.” Writing in Eternity magazine some time ago, Fred Stansberry warned about “stress-related diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart and respiratory diseases, migraines, allergies and a host of other psychological and physiological dysfunctions which are increasing at an alarming rate in our Western culture.”
Stress is pretty much common to us all in today’s pressure-cooker world. It is our responsibility, however, to do what we can to lessen the stress factors in our life wherever possible. To do this, the following 9 tips can help.
- Know what your limit is and limit yourself to what you can handle.
- With stress comes pent-up feelings. Learn how to express these creatively, calmly, and completely.
- Accept the fact that some things can’t be changed.
- Limit major life changes to as few as possible in any one year.
- Resolve all resentments immediately. Don’t carry grudges or burdens, as they will weigh you down.
- Make time for rest and relaxation, and make sure you get sufficient sleep.
- Watch your diet and eating habits. Eat healthy and smart. Don’t overeat.
- Maintain a regular physical exercise program.
- Ultimately, however, learn to trust your life to God in all circumstances.
Never underestimate a good long walk away from the fray. Put the analogy of life being a trek into practice. When stress mounts, if you are physically able, get out in nature and enjoy the solitude or appreciate the companionship of your spouse or a close friend. Just relax.
Think about the question, “How did Jesus handle stress?” Christ often went to a place of solitude during His ministry, sometimes by himself and other times with a few of his close friends.
Mark 1:35 – “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”
Mark 3:13 – “Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him.”
Mark 7:17 – “Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used.”
Luke 5:16 – “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
Stress is the opposite of peace. With peace comes thankfulness. Even if our stress is self-inflicted, God will provide us the strength that we need when we need it.
Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” And that means even for stressful situations.