This happens all the time, and many of us consistently forget on how to manage our stress in a healthy manner. We have all had these moments, when we realize we’re running low on time, become impatient, drink coffee or energy drinks, more than what is required to sustain our sanity. It takes a toll on us eventually; physically, mentally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Hopefully, today’s post can help you manage future stressful situations, and possibly be a means in helping you help others deal with their own stress.
We must identify what causes our stress. For the most part, it usually falls into the following four categories:
1. Lifestyle and Responsibilities
4. Handling Situations
These can, of course, be broken down into more sub-levels. For the purpose of the blog, let’s keep it simple and succinct. Each of us have different criteria, different circumstances for each of these categories. It’s important to note two major items.
1. Everyone responds to stress differently!
2. Stress has several sizes. We don’t all wear the same size or carry the same load!
Remember how I mentioned earlier, “drinking coffee?” That’s my specialty. Other methods people utilize (which is unhealthy) in responding to stress, are the “let’s have a Netflix marathon”, usually prefaced with “I am in the mood to watch several seasons of something. Anything so I don’t have to focus anymore!” It’s also very easy to stress eat; chips, soda, pizza, wings, and a tub of ice cream. No stress here, just some nourishment. NOT.
We each respond to stress differently, and because we do, that means there is no “cure” or “one-answer” for everyone. Each of us requires a different method to combat and manage our stress. That list of four categories that cause stress in our lives – Guess what? You have the ability to manage those categories!
“This is all great. Now tell me, how is this article going to help me manage my stress?” We are getting there, I promise. To understand how to manage your stress, you need to identify the causes and sources. If you walk into the doctor’s office, complaining that you’re sick, he or she will ask you, “What are you feeling? What are your symptoms?” The doctor needs to determine the cause of illness, in order to treat you appropriately. Same with stress.
First Step in Managing Stress – ASK
What are the sources of stress in my life?
Again, I will refer back to those categories. Please don’t ever tell me that you have “tons of stuff” to do, or some extreme number. I have been there, I have tried that, it doesn’t work. That’s called an excuse. Take responsibility for your words and actions. Did I really have “tons of stuff?” Sure. Maybe at some point. Was it continuous? No. Could I have managed those moments in my life in a more organized manner that didn’t cause me to stress with an excuse? Definitely.
Lesson – Don’t take on more than you can complete. I have been down that road before. The “yes” man. There is a line between obedience and being unreliable. Remember it.
It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a diary or journal for yourself, to write your thoughts for the day, especially if you consistently have stressful thoughts. Write about your stress. Use your journal to help you focus on what caused the stress, how you felt, your response, and your action plan. Eventually, you will start to find patterns in your life and notice more about yourself.
Second Step in Managing Stress – EVALUATE (healthy vs unhealthy choices)
How do you currently handle stress?
I will address the healthy options later in this same blog post. Many people deal with stress differently as we discussed – most of the time, in a very unhealthy manner. I knew many people in my previous jobs, and in college days, who would do a variety of unhealthy options. For one, this is where a “social drink” could develop into alcoholism. Many people I know did many of the following: Smoking. Drugs. Binge-Eating. Anger. Violence. Sleep. Couch Potato. Disengaging from any social relations. All of these are unhealthy options. Please, please refrain from doing any of this sort. This list can go on for all the unhealthy things. Yes, even things like repeatedly checking your iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Sometimes being plugged in too much is a stressor!
Spiritual People Never Stress – FALSE
You know for a while, I had this notion that “the good guys” in the Bible never stressed out. But under the guidance of my spiritual father, with better reading, and more understanding, I realized that almost everyone in the Bible was at some point, stressed out! Each one had their own method of managing stress, but ultimately it always came back to their relationship with God. Let’s take a look at a few examples with very brief summaries.
Adam (Genesis 3:6-10)
– Moment of stress – After disobeying God and eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam hears God in the Garden. His response? He runs, hides from God, and covers himself.
– Coping Skill – Repented and followed God’s commandments by teaching the responsibilities to his children.
Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) go to Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20)
– Moment of stress – About to enter Egypt, when he tells his wife that she is so beautiful, he is afraid the Egyptians will kill him and take her.
– Unhealthy Coping Skill – He lied and said she was his sister, not his wife.
– Healthy Coping Skill – Told the truth after God appeared to Pharaoh in a dream.
Joseph, the son of Jacob (Genesis 37:12-36, Genesis 39, Genesis 42-45)
– Moment(s) of stress – 1) Being sold by his brothers 2) Being sent to prison 3) Seeing his brothers after all these years. That’s a lot. Just thinking only about the brother part for now. Imagine being sold by your brothers, and then fast forward several years, you see them again, you recognize them, you have dinner with them. That must have been one difficult dinner! There is much more to the story of Joseph, but just giving a morsel here to chew on for now. But there was much weeping going on with Joseph and inner struggles.
– Healthy Coping Skill – His relationship with God, and God’s abiding presence with him, allowing him to forgive his brothers.
Moses (Exodus 2:11-25, Exodus 3)
– Moment(s) of stress – 1) Left Egypt when two Hebrew people called him out on killing the Egyptian. In a panic, flees to Midian (resides there for 40 years, after having lived 40 years in Egypt). 2) Moses in front of the burning bush. Moses gives excuses, “they will not believe me, or listen to me,” “I am not eloquent, slow to speech.” He witnessed two miracles, one involving his staff, the other his hand, but still had the nerve to create excuses and to avoid responsibility. He eventually submits to the will of God.
– Unhealthy Coping Skill – Making excuses
– Healthy Coping Skill – Moses is in the presence of God, and is being obedient.
Moses / Jethro (Exodus 18:13-27)
– Moment of stress – 1) Jethro (father-in-law) sees Moses from morning until night listening to people’s cases. Jethro in short tells him, you are going to burn-out. You can’t do this alone. He gives him wise advice on how to handle the cases.
– Unhealthy Coping Skill – Attempted to do it by himself
– Healthy Coping Skill – Divided the workload
These are just a few examples from the Old Testament, we can definitely go into more – Gideon, Joseph the Carpenter, St. Peter, St. Paul, and countless others. Each person’s stressful situation was unique. In addition, how they responded to God, and how God responded to them was also unique to their situation as well!
Ways To Mange Your Stress Today (GEAR CAR)
1. Gear Up!
– Do a physical activity. Go on a hike. Go kayaking. Go for a walk. Just GO!
– Do something that helps you focus on your body and not your stressful thoughts.
– Dedicate at least 10 minutes of the day
2. Engage Others!
– Don’t avoid being social – that causes isolation and leads to further depression
– Do confide in someone you feel is safe and trustworthy.
– Speak with your spiritual father or confession father.
3. Avoid It!
– Don’t take on more than you can chew.
– Don’t be a “yes” person to every single action item. Learn to say “no”
– Avoid unnecessary stressful items (including people, places, topics, and things)
– I personally avoid, as much as I can, to state my opinions on politics in a social media forum. I learned that lesson several times. It causes unnecessary chaos and stress. A Facebook wall or Twitter timeline isn’t the right place to discuss a political issue.
4. Rise Up!
– Seek Wisdom (Read Proverbs, it’s only 30 chapters – 1 chapter each day)
– Build your spiritual life – Rise up from your busy life and pray!
– Look for God in the stillness and quietness, not in the noise.
– Go on a spiritual retreat.
– Dedicate time to read and time to pray.
5. Change Yourself!
– Share your feelings. Don’t bottle them up.
– Express yourself. Learn to compromise.
– Change your reactions to situations, people, and places around you
6. Accept It!
– Stuck in traffic? It’s not going to go away. Find an alternative to your anger.
– In the grand scheme of life, is an extra portion of time really that upsetting?
– Be realistic in goal-setting and expectations.
– Don’t try to control points in your life. Let God be in the driver’s seat.
– Learn to forgive.
– Teach yourself how to react and look for positives in people.
– I mentioned I love coffee. This is really hypocritical of me, but minimize how much you drink. I am working on that. I am trying to limit myself to just 2 cups a day. It’s a work-in-progress, so it’s better than what I used to consume in a day.
– We mentioned physical activity earlier on, but again to reiterate, find an activity that is not stressful for you. I play a mean game of Monopoly, and several other board games. I am very competitive. But sometimes, I just need to relax and play a fun board game, and not keep score.
We all have a ball and chain in our lives called stress. I challenge you to lay your burdens on God, and let Him deal with your problems. The next time you pray, the next time you read, or attend a church service, think of how to make that moment different for yourself. Learn how to sit, be present, and wait for God.