Are you feeling stressed out? You’re not alone – stress affects millions of us each day. Whether you face stress at work, school, or in your relationships, stress costs you a lot. It takes a toll on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
However, you can learn how to manage stress so it doesn’t control you anymore. You can learn the difference between good and bad stress, and how to manage both kinds so you have greater peace of mind.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
You may not have realized that some stress is good. You need deadlines to keep you accountable, for example. It’s also good to have a little pressure on you to meet expectations at work, pay your bills on time and keep maintaining your relationships. Good stress pushes us to be our best and even glorify God in our lives.
But you are probably well familiar with bad stress. It’s the kind that causes your heart to race, your sleep to suffer, and your concentration to lapse. Bad stress sometimes comes at you from out of the blue, like from a car wreck, accident, disease, or unwanted drama. Though this kind of stress can’t be completely prevented, you can take steps to manage it well.
Most of us also have preventable stress that is bad for us. This kind of stress is due to a lack of self-control in varying degrees. You can learn to practice self-control in areas like taking on too many projects at work or home, spending past your budget, not practicing good self-care, procrastinating, and not having good relationship boundaries. However, you can learn how to manage all these traits to decrease the stress levels in your life.
5 Ways to Manage Stress
These five suggestions will help you manage stress, whether it is the preventable or unpreventable kind. As you apply these steps daily, you will notice that your peace level increases while your stress levels decrease.
Look At What Is Under Your Control
The first step is to evaluate the areas of good stress in your life. While you look at these items, choose to see their value in urging you to be more Christlike in your thoughts, words, and actions. You can also thank God for these areas and ask him to help you in them.
Then make a list of the areas of bad stress. Put them in two categories: preventable and unpreventable. For the unpreventable ones, commit to praying over them daily, surrendering them to God’s control.
For the preventable areas of stress, you need to pay the most attention. Invite God to search you and show you any areas where you need improvement, praying Psalm 139:23-24 as you do so:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
As God shows you your part in these areas, humbly accept his correction. Then commit to making one small change each day to improve yourself while you decrease stress. Also, invite God into this process, asking him to show you the next steps on the path he wants you to take.
A few examples of controlling what you can in preventable stress areas would be to limit time with difficult people, saying no, setting a budget, or calling a friend when you are tempted. These little steps will help you stop piling stress on yourself while you gain self-control.
Engage in Christian Meditation
Many studies tout the benefits of meditation. But if you are wary of meditating because you don’t think it’s biblical, you’ll be encouraged to know that meditation is prescribed to us in the Bible. When Christians meditate, we think carefully and deeply about God’s Word and how we can apply it to our lives. The reason it decreases our stress is that it changes the way we think, which then changes the way we act.
Identify your main stress point. Then find a Bible verse that applies to it and meditate on it when you are tempted in that area. For example, if finances cause you stress, you can meditate on verses like this one about God’s provision: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:9 NLT).
You can then turn your chosen verse into a prayer, such as this: “Lord, since you take care of me, I trust you to supply all my needs according to the riches you have given me through Jesus.” By applying God’s Word through Christian meditation in your specific area of struggle, you can overcome the temptation to stress out and receive God’s peace instead.
Many people who deal with stress don’t take particularly good care of themselves. They get run down from schedules that are too busy, and this takes a toll on their health. If you are not making time for self-care, your quality of life may suffer.
Make daily self-care a big priority on your calendar. Just 15 minutes to relax and enjoy yourself with a simple activity can make a big difference. Think about activities that make you happy, like reading, watching TV, playing with your children or pet, or being outside. Then make sure that you prioritize that time, and don’t feel guilty about this vote for your well-being.
Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
Stress makes your health pay a steep price. Over time, raised stress levels can lead to chronic or life-threatening conditions, including immune system malfunction, heart failure, and cancer. But you can reduce your chances of getting sick if you practice a healthy lifestyle.
Most of us are not getting enough sleep, and stress affects our sleep quality. If you take steps to improve your sleep habits, you can minimize the effects stress has on your body.
Nightly rituals, like taking baths, reading, refraining from device use, and setting a lower bedroom temperature will all signal your body and brain that it’s time to sleep. You can also avoid using caffeine or alcohol several hours before bedtime, and use a sleep mask or white noise machine to block out stimulation.
A balanced diet of lean protein, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables will offset the effects of stress on your body. You can also strive to get a few 10-minute brisk walks in each day, which will help your body metabolize stress hormones and give you those feel-good endorphins.
Look at What Needs to Change
To truly decrease your stress, you may need to take a hard look at what needs to be cut out of your life. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to hire help, end a relationship, switch jobs, or find an accountability partner. But don’t take a big step like this before consulting with others, because there is wisdom in seeking counsel (Prov. 20:18).
A Christian counselor can also help you understand what changes may need to happen to reduce your stress. Your counselor’s objective view can give you a fresh perspective on what preventable stress exists in your life.
Counseling for Stress Management
It can be difficult to manage stress all by ourselves because all of us have blind spots and weaknesses that need another person’s insight to correct. By meeting with a caring Christian counselor, you can identify the areas where you need the most help in reducing your stress levels.
A Christian counselor will offer a biblical approach to managing your stress, whether it is preventable or unpreventable. You will learn to take the initiative in your stress management so you can avoid falling into the same patterns in the future.
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Elisa Ventur, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Game Controller”, Courtesy of Ravi Palwe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Praying”, Courtesy of Patrick Fore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Dock”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License