By Kathy Pollard
I wish I could title this post, “Getting Rid of Stress And Anxiety,” but I don’t think that’s very realistic. With the exception of perhaps childhood, each new phase in life presents its own unique set of challenges. Maybe you find yourself in one of the following situations:
- New marriage, new baby, new home, new work. While these are exciting and wonderful, they also call for stamina and courage and wisdom.
- Long-term care of an aging parent. In addition to the physical exhaustion is the emotional turmoil of seeing your loved one suffer.
- School/ work load. I know some students right now who are being stretched in more ways than they ever expected. Perhaps you’re in the midst of a project or job requirement that’s been going on for so long you can’t remember your last decent night of sleep.
- Poor health. After months or years of battling whatever is attacking your body, you wonder if you’ll ever simply feel good.
- Financial worries. Finding a job, paying your bills, wondering about retirement, health care…whether you’ve accumulated a mound of debt or you just long for financial security, money can be a very real and daily stressor.
- Rocky relationships. Perhaps your marriage is just barely hanging on. Or you’re worried about your grown-up children or a spiritually wayward relative. The people we love most can be a source of great anxiety.
Sometimes stress is temporary and we know it. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we’re just trying to get through it. Sometimes stress is ever-present and overwhelming, and we find ourselves trying to survive one day at a time. Whichever we find ourselves facing, there are a few simple, proactive ways to manage stress and anxiety.
Prayer is probably the first reaction when something causes stress, and I don’t think God resents that. We find many passages reminding us to turn to God in our distress. We’re told to cast ALL of our cares on Him (1 Pet. 5:7). Prayer brings peace in the midst of anxiety (Phil. 4:6,7). When stress is long-term, our prayers can fade or turn sporadic. A renewed desire for God’s listening ear can go far in calming anxieties.
I’m not encouraging “getting your Zen on, man,” but rather committing to quality time in Bible study. I like the quote I ran across the other day– “Meditation is not an emptying of one’s mind, like some religions teach, but a filling of our minds with the truths of God’s Word” (Jen Thorn). The Scriptures are powerful (Heb. 4:12) and strength-giving (Eph. 6:10-17). Neglecting this crucial practice only exacerbates stress and anxiety.
3. BOOST YOUR HEALTH
It’s common knowledge that long-term stress takes a toll on our health. Is there an area of your physical well-being that’s taking a harder hit? See if you could make some small changes for overall well-being:
- Exercise. It strengthens the heart, clears mind clutter, and boosts stamina and self-esteem. Take a walk in the morning and try yoga at night. No one ever regrets making time to get the blood flowing.
- Water. The benefits are endless. How easy it is to replace empty calorie drinks with water. Add lemon for even more vibrancy.
- Sleep. Who hasn’t been robbed of some zzz’s? Sleep is essential for mental clarity and emotional stability. Young moms, get over your guilt and take a nap in the middle of the day when the opportunity presents itself.
- Cleaner eating. Bad food equals yucky mood. Studies are now linking a healthy gut to an overall sense of well-being. The last thing we need when anxiety is churning in our gut is to add processed foods or sugar to the mix. Seriously, while it may not be fun to talk about, better eating choices are important when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.
We are attached to our devices, aren’t we? They’re everywhere and in every room. Unplugging for a while each day will allow us to focus on those around us, re-appreciate moments of quietness, and even remove some additional anxiety (unpleasant posts on social media, disturbing news, etc.). It’s good to give our eyes a break from any kind of screen. Unplug and listen for natural sounds instead like the wind blowing, leaves rustling, birds chirping.
Speaking of devices…we can remove some from our sleeping space for a more peaceful and relaxing environment. Clearing counter tops of paper stacks and junk also helps clear our minds. Taking the time and trouble to make the bed and straighten up makes it easier to drift off to sleep later. Messy rooms add to a feeling of anxiety.
Yes, we could probably use that half hour to cross an item off the to-do list, but sometimes the wiser choice would be to intentionally unwind. Don’t think of a soak in the tub as a luxury but as a way of promoting peace and health. Discover the calming benefits of chamomile tea. You might have to develop a taste for it, but consider it an all-natural anti-anxiety medicine. Light a candle, rub your feet with lotion, and take deep breaths. Even a few minutes of slowing down makes a big difference in a trying day.
Laughing relieves stress, lifts the mood, and burns calories! Have you laughed today?
Looking for tangible ways to show our love for others will ultimately lead to our own happiness. Giving feels good. It allows us to step outside of our cares and focus on bringing joy to others. In the midst of your crazy schedule, do something even crazier like adding in a visit to a shut-in or making a homemade, unexpected surprise for someone.
Hopefully these ideas for managing stress haven’t added even more stress. You might be thinking, Who has time for any of THAT?! Some of the tips can be combined, like sipping tea while studying the Bible. Or praying while going for a walk. It’s probably unrealistic to try to hit all 8 tips every single day, but we can be more intentional in handling our anxieties. It will be good for us and for those around us. God has given us many ways to combat stress. We could even add singing, looking for beauty, and counting our blessings. What tips do you have?
“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19).