Hello! How are you doing? I wanna say, thanks for answering people’s questions and concerns on here. I was wondering how you deal with stress. I’ve been more stressed lately than I have been in a while, and it’s starting to affect me physically. I’m continuously praying because the effects are scaring me, and I’ve already set up a doctor’s appointment. If you have any tips on dealing with stress and trusting God through it, I would appreciate it greatly. Thanks, and God bless!
Thanks for the awesome question and for your very kind words.
You know, I’ve heard plenty of teaching on stress and I’m a Psych major, so mostly I hear the same thing: “Are you stressed? Well, stop it.”
But I know that doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help to try that same technique on anger, lust, greed, jealousy, grief, or loneliness. It’s like trying to stop a bus with your body weight.
The other thing I hear is, “If you really knew the peace of Christ, you wouldn’t be stressed out.” I wish it was that simple. Even when Jesus and I are most tight, I still get anxious like crazy.
The thing is: Stress is completely unavoidable. I think people tend to get stressed about getting stressed, as if somehow they “shouldn’t be if they’re in Christ.” But with all the demands, deadlines, and due dates of life, it’s completely understandable that you’d feel an anxiety about what needs to be done and what is not done.
That’s just life. Half the battle of fighting stress is to simply anticipate your bodily changes and to recognize what is happening. That’s true with temptation, with conflict, with fear of the future. To be able to say, “Here it is. The pressure’s on. Body is freaking out, right on time.” And then the other half of the battle is to move forward anyway.
There is plenty of practical stuff I could say here. You probably already know about —
- To-Do Lists
- to have some kind of a written planner
- to have a mentor or an understanding friend
- to find stress-relieving activities like exercise or drawing or skydiving or sword-fighting
— to prioritize your tasks with what’s most time-sensitive (do stuff that’s due soon now, don’t do stuff now that’s due later)
— to not look at tasks from left to right, but front to back (because a stack of dominos left to right will psychologically overwhelm you, but from front to back means you take care of things one at a time like a deck of cards)
— and to foster good habits like taking a scheduled break or jogging the same time everyday or using mouthwash (because good habits foster other good habits).
Yet even all these only reduce the stress – you’ll still need to push forward with the task at hand. The cool thing though is that very act of starting your priorities will undo a lot of the anxiety, because the human mind releases tension as it moves forward into tangible action. That’s a lot of fancy talk to say: Start anywhere, but just start.
About prayer: You’re totally right to pray, and even “secular prayer” or a time of meditation is known to have positive effects on the body. But prayer, as we all know, is hardly a fix-all or genie or magical potion. That’s not even the point of it.
What I would also pray about is asking God “WHY.” Why am I doing this right now? Why is this so important to me? Why am I stressing about this?
I know that sounds overly existential, but I believe when you spend time with questions of why, you’ll be able to 1) re-affirm your purpose in Christ to move forward with God’s call on your life and 2) downgrade things that are not so important in your life.
There are TONS of stuff we do that have no other point besides routine or indulgence or extra layers, which we could all cut from our life with little loss. Knowing where to say NO will cut unnecessary stress.
To name some examples: Christians sometimes write daily in a journal, as if this is just as important as reading the Bible. But “journaling” is not for everyone, and if it stresses you out, don’t do it. Sometimes we make a huge deal about making our bed perfect, or studying every scribble of lecture notes for the exam, or knowing someone’s whereabouts at all times, or being a Nazi whenever someone is late to a meeting or praise team practice or worship service.
Prayer can help you sort through these things to see what’s critical in light of eternity. The longer you spend in, “Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name …” then the more your relationship with God and with people will take the main stage in your heart.
A last thing: As I said before, stress is often caused by seeing what needs to be done and seeing what is not done. So to close this gap, some of us become perfectionists. We become high-stress because of a need to make things perfect, even when we know it’s killing us.
Then stress becomes a means to conform reality to our desire, as if stress will somehow bend things into shape. While there is such thing as “good stress” (called eustress in psychology), most likely we feel distress. There might be a death-grip for control that you’ll need to let go of each day.
Let’s accept some imperfection. It’s absolutely right to strive for your best, but we’re called to trust God with the results. When I let go of expecting perfect results, that actually cuts most of my anxiety immediately. It also allows me to love people for who they are instead of how I’m trying to mold them.
I had to remember too that all the results are always in God’s control. Not were, not will be, not can be, but are. On one hand that’s a little maddening, but on the other hand – I can relax.
I can stop trying to squeeze everything into my will. I can let go of stressing myself into a twitchy neurotic mess. I can repent from the hostility of being so controlling. If God is in control – and He is – then I don’t have to be. Since He’s good and all-knowing and He loves me, then when things go bad, He’s still good, and He will work it out for my good. It does not mean I won’t be stressed, but it does mean that no matter how stressed I am, He’s still in control.
I’ll throw you a prayer. Love you, my friend, and so does He.