Stress and anxiety are such a part of the hectic, busy world that we live in. Christians are not immune. However, we do have some weapons in our arsenal to deal with stress that non-believers do not.
God’s word tells us, in 1 Peter 5:6-7 to:
” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
However, this can be easier said than done.
And God understands.
He knows that our place in history and the society we live in makes us more susceptible to stress that possibly any other people at any point in time.
He loves us, so He has given us tools to combat stress.
In Philippians 4:4-7 (HCSB), we are told to:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I believe that in His love and mercy, He would also have us to use whatever practical techniques are available to us for reducing stress.
So, this morning, I spent some time online, attempting to re-discover some of the ways to cope with stress that I have forgotten over the course of time.
The following are some of these, plus a few ideas that have helped me personally in my own struggles with stress and anxiety.
- Learn What Triggers Your Anxiety:
Is it something you can identify?
If not, try writing in a journal when you feel stressed out or anxious and look for a pattern.
There may be ways you can prepare for stressful times or have coping skills in place for when they come. Just not being caught off-guard by anxiety can be helpful in itself.
Some Preventative Measures Include:
- Take care of your physical needs
Get plenty of sleep; limit caffeine; don’t skip meals and try to eat balanced meals.
Daily exercise can help keep stress at bay and a brisk walk or anything that raises your heart rate is a great stress-buster.
Get creative with it! Jump on the trampoline with your kids, or get out and throw a football. Buy a jump rope, or just dance around the house until you feel better!
These are just a few ideas, but the options for stress reducing fun exercises are endless! Just a few minutes can make a huge difference.
- Don’t overload your schedule
Be sure to include time for you and your family to just be home and chill out each week. I know it’s hard!
And it may mean cutting back on some activities. But the benefits will be well worth anything that you have to give up.
Read more on this topic here.
- Accept that you can’t control everything!
Remember that God is sovereign and in control and trust Him to take care of you and your family. Leave your worries with Him.
- Know that your best is good enough.
Instead of trying to do everything perfectly and stressing over handling every situation flawlessly, just do the best you can!
It’s really all you can do, and if your best isn’t perfect, it’s okay! We are all only human.
When Anxiety Does Hit:
- Take a time-out
We can’t avoid everything that stresses us out.
It is also not possible to take an immediate time out every time something arises that causes us anxiety.
But, there are things we can do at the first opportunity.
One of the very best and most effective strategies only takes a moment. Just stop and pray. Or pray on the go. He hears us no matter when, where or what we are doing.
Seek Him in the anxious times.
Going for a short walk or even just taking some deep breaths or a good soak in the bath tub, or even a 30-minute nap are some things you can do with limited time.
If time and your budget permit, you could also go for a pedicure, get a massage or have your hair done. Anything that makes you feel good and relaxes you!
Take a step back from whatever is causing your anxiety. Sometimes things don’t seem so overwhelming after a break.
- Practice deep breathing
Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold it for 4 seconds. Slowly release breath for 4 seconds. For children dealing with anxiety, and even for adults, “Box Breathing” or “Star Breathing” can be helpful.
Just draw a picture of a a box or a star, and repeat the breathing steps above at each corner or point.
The calming effects of deep breathing, paired with the distraction of going around the corners or points of the shape can be very effective.
- Read from the Psalms or any other favorite scripture.
There’s something just naturally calming about spending time in God’s Word.
- SING! Or DANCE! Or BOTH!
You don’t have to sing well…just sing!
Singing can chase away stress and anxiety, as well as the blues.
I think it’s a combination of the music itself and the way you breathe while singing, but whatever it is, it works!
I have even sang my prayers. Just sing to the Lord! You can sing whatever is on your heart to the tune of any song you choose, or one you make up as you go.
If singing is not your thing, crank up some good uplifting music with a great beat that makes you MOVE and SMILE!
- Art or other hobbies can be therapy!
Painting helps me cope. There is something so calming about painting. I just love it. My favorite is painting hand-lettered signs on wood. SO RELAXING!
For more on this super calming hobby, click here.
It doesn’t have to be painting! Try out some crafts or art activities to see what’s right for you.
Even something as simple as mowing the lawn or other yard work can get your mind off the things that are stressing you out.
- Close your eyes and go to your “happy place”
Think about a time or place where you felt most relaxed.
Maybe lying on the beach listening to the waves…or sitting o your porch, enjoying the breeze and listening to the birds sing.
Try to use as many senses as you can: smell, sight, touch and sound as you imagine.
Think about the smell of the salt water and suntan oil. The sound of the waves. The warmth of the sun on your body.
Take yourself there in your mind.
At the same time, focus on controlled, relaxed breathing. In four-counts. Out four-counts.
Stay in your happy place until you feel calm and relaxed.
- Practice muscle relaxation
Focus on slowly tensing and relaxing each muscle group in your body.
Start by flexing and relaxing your toes and feet, then your legs, your core abdominal muscles, arms, etc. All the way up to your head.
Even tightening and relaxing facial muscles can be helpful. You can also give yourself a head and neck massage.
Sound weird, but feels terrific and has a super-calming effect!
- Use essential oils for calming
Oils like lavendar are great for calming and reducing stress. (There are other oils that help but lavendar is one that is tried and true in our family. We even put it on the dog when she is out-of-control!)
You can put it into an oil diffuser or put in on the bottoms of your feet.
It’s safe for kids and pets and is an awesome sleep aid.
Do some research, and find which oils are best for you.
I have also used “Stress Away” and “Peace and Calm” from Young Living Oils and found them to be very effective.
- Humor soothes
Call or visit a friend who makes you laugh, or watch a Christian comedian like Tim Hawkins.
No matter how I’m feeling, I can’t watch this guy without cracking up!
And you know what the Word says about a merry heart! Proverbs 17:22(ESV)22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
- Spend some time with a pet.
If you are an animal lover, just hanging out with a dog or cat can do wonders for your stress level.
The act of petting an animal can be calming in itself, and even something as simple as watching and listening to the sound of a fish tank can be incredibly soothing.
Also, remember that professional help is sometimes necessary.
There is no shame in talking with a professional or even resorting to medication if necessary.
Start with your medical doctor if you are having frequent or uncontrolled episodes of extreme anxiety. It could be something your doctor can treat medically or she may refer you to a professional therapist who can help.
- Talk about it.
Find someone you trust and share your feelings. Just let it all hang out.
And if there’s no one you feel like sharing with? Take it to the Lord in prayer! He loves you! He loves for you to talk with Him!
He understands and He will help you through whatever it is you are going through!
- Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
We can’t control what pops into our brains, but we do have a choice in how long we choose to dwell on our negative thoughts.
We can replace the negative with more positive thoughts and refuse to think of all the “what ifs” that could happen. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (HCSB) says:
4 since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
We are well-armed when it comes to fighting the stress and anxiety that sometimes enters our lives! Just remember always that God is in control! You are His child. He is your Father! And He loves you even better than the best earthy father could!