“I am stressed!”
Such a common phrase and as we get older, a common response to that dreaded “how are you” question.
What exactly is stress though? I can tell you right now it goes deeper than an emotion.
Upon searching for a formal definition, I came across the NHS inform website. They defined stress as “the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.” Sounds about right doesn’t it?
Well I believe that is just a part of it. If we look from a Christian perspective, stress arises when faith decreases. I’ll say that again –
“Stress arises, when faith decreases.”
Once you take your eyes off God and fixate them on all your problems, troubles arise. You find yourself under “too much mental or emotional pressure” because you have failed to cast your burdens to the one who promised to give you rest
You begin to worry and lose hope because the one who gives hope has now been replaced in your heart by all your doubts and fears and workloads and pressures.
Stress is not something to be taken lightly. If not dealt with correctly or in a timely manner, stress can cause depression, anxiety and problems with sleep. It can effect your mood and cause you to become irritable or angry quicker than if you were not stressed. It can effect hormones in your body and also your internal organs.
STRESS IS A BIG DEAL!
If it’s such a big deal, why do we not deal with it properly then?
Most simple answer: we do not know how to. Whether approaching it from a practical side or a spiritual side.
So, here’s my 101 guide on how to combat stress.
STEP ONE – DETECT THE TRIGGERS
First things first is detecting what is causing you to feel stressed. These are what are known as ‘stressors.’ This can be due to an overbearing workload: you’ve taken on more than you can handle. Financial strain: too many bills are coming in but there isn’t enough income coming in to pay those bills. As a young person things that can cause stress are problems with friends or family members. It may even be a personal matter such as your appearance etc.
STEP TWO – PRAY
Now that you’ve detected what is causing you stress, it’s time to take it to the Lord.
I definitely cackled when typing out this sub heading because I can imagine people rolling their eyes. All our lives we’re told to just pray, and everything will get better, but please, bear with me.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing”.
I remember I heard a quote once that said, “prayer is the vital breath of Christians; not the thing that makes us alive, but the evidence that we are alive”. The key word here is ‘vital’. Pray is a weapon. Something we should do daily. The Lord asks us to come unto Him with all our cares and worries (1 Peter 5:7) and how do we do that? Through prayer. I can’t explain, but the sense of peace that comes upon you is inexplicable.
STEP THREE – CREATE AN ACTION PLAN
Now that we’ve given it all to God, many people would think it’s time to just sit down and wait. Wait for it all to just disappear. This is where many people lose faith because they forget that true faith, is when you move in faith. Meaning, you don’t just sit around, you behave like a person who has a new spring in their step. You take a practical step of faith in order to move onwards and upwards from your current state.
Here are some practical steps I suggest you take according to your situation:
Talk to somebody.
“A burden shared, is a burden halved.” Talking about your problems really does help because you never know who can help you with a particular problem. Even more so, sometimes just being able to speak to somebody about a situation you’re going through and clearing your head can be enough. That emotional support system is highly necessary. In Galatians 6:2 we are called to help one another with the problems that we face. No man is an island. Never think that you have to face things alone.
Set false deadlines for yourself.
Whenever I feel like I have a lot to do, I either create a to-do list or a mind map of everything, down to each and every detail just to put into perspective what it is that I actually have to do.
This benefits me because sometimes the amount of work I think I have to do in my head, is actually in reality, way less. Even if it isn’t at least I can see what I have to do. From this point I begin to set deadlines in order to complete the tasks. When I say ‘false deadlines’ I mean creating deadlines before the actual deadline in order to give myself leeway if anything comes up and in return I gain peace of mind and satisfaction that not only will it be done by the time it has to be but also that I have time.
When creating deadlines it is important to be realistic. Think of how long it will take you to complete that task and be honest with yourself. It’s okay if it will take you longer, just set a deadline that you can manage and factor in possible emergencies or things that could go wrong to prevent yourself from increased stress levels.
As mentioned before stress can lead to anxiety and depression. In addition it can produce adrenaline and cause your heart beat to increase and so forth. A good remedy for these things is to channel that stress into movement. Whether it be dance, or a visit to the gym or a simple walk down the road, exercise is highly beneficial. Some studies have shown exercise to be even more effective than some medicines for anti-depression.
Learn to relax.
We are caught up in a world where everything moves so fast. So much so that sometimes we forget to just be still. Take time out for ourselves. Relax! Treat yourself. Do something you enjoy and take your mind off of everything else. Cook your favourite meal, go out for a spa day or a lovely trip, light some candles and just rest.
Rest is so important and necessary yet so underrated and forgotten.
STEP FOUR – PRAY, PRAISE AND READ THE WORD OF GOD
Yes. Once you’ve created an action plan you still have to bring it before God.
As I pointed out before we are instructed to pray constantly. But when we pray, we forget to listen. Listen for God’s word. However - it’s going to be difficult listening for God’s word if we don’t even know what the Word that He’s given us already says. The bible is full of promises that we can hold onto in times of trouble but how will we know them if we don’t read and study them for ourselves.
One reminder I will highlight to you now is one of my favourites which is Isaiah 43:1-3
“…Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God…”
When you have read and are reminded of his promises, it is important to give God the glory. Praise until He brings you through. Praise because He is worthy of being praised.
N.B If your stress levels have reached a critical point, seek professional help. God has given us people who are knowledgeable in these things and who can help you find healing.