The buzzing alarm of the smartphone awakened us on our travel day home, but the stress ratcheted up when we realized the clock on the smartphone was different from the bedside alarm clock. The time change occurred overnight, but which clock was correct? What time was it? We had a flight to catch!
We hurried to get everything packed to head to the airport, return the rental car, and go through security. We thought we had enough time…until we got delayed at the car return place and the line at security was at least 200 people long. Any extra time that we had padded into the schedule had evaporated. Stress and tension increased minute by minute.
Once through security, we dashed through the terminal to get to our gate. The flight attendant gave the final boarding call.
Whew! We made it in spite of all the stress.
Often we plan for things to go one way and when they don’t, we get stressed, as we did that morning.
Stress is a part of life; it affects us in so many ways. We get cranky, tense and nervous. It impairs our relationships. It affects us physically with headaches, high blood pressure or ulcers. So often we need to take a deep breath and relax, but can’t manage to do even that simple task.
The dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc. While most major translations of the Bible don’t specifically use the word stress, Scripture does speak to things such as anxiety, worry and trouble offering us clear answers on how we should deal with them.
To manage stress, keep calm with these four biblical principles.
1. Remember: God is sovereign over the stress.
Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him. Psalm 115:3
Stress cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. It can point us to trust God more deeply. When we surrender our control to the Lord, He offers peace. Even stress can be used for God’s purposes. God is in control.
2. Pray about the stress.
Pray often, multiple times a day. Keeping communication with God open is crucial to managing stress, often we neglect this valuable gift. In prayer we have access to the flow of grace. If we let stress dominate us, we lose out on God’s peace.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
3. Remember the Word of God to guide you in the stress.
Through focusing thoughts on the Lord, He brings peace and worry diminishes. The promises in the Bible encourage and strengthen our hearts.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… 2 Corinthians 4:6-9
Further study of the passage brings clarification to the kinds of stress and suffering. Here is the passage written with the definitions from the Greek.¹
~hard pressed or crowded against with emotional stress and strain on every side, but not crushed or hemmed in;
~perplexed or unsure, but not in despair—at a loss, but not lost out;
~persecuted or hunted down but not abandoned not forsaken;
~struck down or hurt badly but not destroyed or lost.
In spite of the stress, we can persevere through the Lord through His power and presence within us.
4. Worship diffuses stress.
Praise God for Who He is in spite of the stress around you. Take a deep breath and remember that the Creator of the universe loves you and sees you. Recall a favorite worship song to calm your spirit. We have hope in the midst of stress.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Praising God in worship refocuses your attention from the stress to Creator Who loves you. It will give you the necessary “in course adjustment” to handle the situation with God’s grace.
[bctt tweet=”When stressed, remember: God is sovereign, pray, remember the Word, and worship the One who loves you.”]
Use everyday stress busters to conquer stress.
Create “to-do” lists for each day, so that you know what you need do and when to do it. It will bring orderliness to any scattered thoughts the about upcoming days.
Prioritize tasks instead of grouping them through multi-tasking. When I have much to do and little time to accomplish it, I often try to do too many things at once in an attempt to multi-task and do more. However, I usually get overwhelmed with many half finished tasks that it becomes hard to complete any of them. Notice what need to be done first, and do it. Then do the next thing.
Avoid Overcommitment. Know when to say YES and when to say NO.
Be flexible to handle the changes in life.
Simplify. Look at your calendar to see how much of your time is filled with appointments and commitments. Everything cannot have the same weight of importance. Leave some margins of time in your daily routine to regroup.
Release Worry. Worrying about tomorrow or rehashing what happened yesterday intensifies the stressors. Jesus gave us good wisdom regarding worry in Matthew 6:34:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Take care of yourself. When stress is high, it is easy to neglect self-care. Eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, getting adequate sleep and exercise help the body to function better. Appropriate self-care is necessary, especially during times of increased stress.
Check your personal expectations. Learn to accept the fact that that “good enough” is acceptable. Perfectionism is the enemy of grace. Do what you can and learn to be satisfied with it. By keeping our focus on doing our best for the Lord—pleasing Him and not others—we avoid heaping on the extra guilt.
Think positive thoughts. Be intentional about filling your mind with what is uplifting. Focus on scripture. Listen to Christian music. It will have an impact on your attitude in the midst of stress. The Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Cultivate a thankful heart. Rather than focusing on how stressed you are, remember how blessed you are. Keep a gratitude journal, listing the things you are thankful for each day.
Doing something fun each week for a change of pace.
Get fresh air. Go for a walk to clear your mind and spirit.
Stress can be managed by remembering the biblical principles and practicing some of the stress busters. Are you stressed or blessed? The choice is yours.
¹Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.