It may seem that there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your career and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have more control than you might think. Managing stress is all about taking charge, with God’s help: of your thoughts, emotions, schedule and the way you deal with problems.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”)
- Do you define stress as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Look at how you currently cope with stress
Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:
- Drinking too much
- Overeating or undereating
- Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Using pills or drugs to relax
- Sleeping too much
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
- Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)
Start a Stress or Prayer Journal
A stress/prayer journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed; write it in your journal. Ask God to help you in each one. This will help you identify each stress and more importantly, give it to God, ask for His help, and not feel alone in your struggles. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response. Ask God to help you respond better.
- What you did to ease the stress. Ask God or someone to help.
Learning healthier ways to manage stress
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies.
Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s
Change the situation:
Change your reaction:
The Four A’s are general, but in our next post we will look at specific strategies managing stress. Each strategy will go into more detail about how we can change either our situations our reactions or both.
Stress is normal; but how we manage it is what helps us get better or get worse. God’s power and presence can through prayer and through the support of people can help immensely. Don’t face stress alone, God cares and we do too. Connect at The Ridge this Sunday.
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