Put your hand up if you've ever been stressed. I know, I can't see you, but I think it would be safe to assume we’ve all been there.
Now some stress is good and healthy for us. The kind that helps you to get your assignment in on time and the adrenaline of a performance or an exam.
Just like all our other emotions, stress is simply there to give information and communicate a message. Stress or fear when you’re in a dangerous situation is good - it sends signals to your brain to let you know you need to leave the situation - or even run. But not all stress is good, and being in a stressed state for a long period of time is certainly not good for you or your body.
THE FIRST STEP
So when you feel stressed, the first thing you need to do is recognise it. If you have been living with stress for a long time, you may have a harder time recognising it because it has become part of your everyday life. Take the time to understand what stress feels like and how your body, soul, and spirit react to it so that when it comes back you can recognise it for what it is.
IDENTIFY THE ROOT CAUSE
Once you have recognised you are stressed, you will need to identify the root cause. And by root cause, I don’t simply mean to resolve that you are stressed simply because you are too busy. There’s always something deeper. If it’s because you’re doing too much, ask yourself “why?” Is it because you feel like you can’t say no? Is it because you feel guilty for having a slower pace in life? Perhaps you feel like you’re not achieving if you’re not busy? Or maybe you’re stressed because you have to make a phone call or have a difficult conversation. Why is that stressing you? Have you had previous trauma in those areas before? Do you fear what people will think of you? Are you more concerned about keeping others happy than speaking truth?
I have been in that place so many times - and the moment I identify what the root cause is, the quicker I can deal with what is really going on. For me, it has usually been related to a fear or something I have attached to my identity - ie, “I’m not good at this”. Anytime you place the words “I am” before your root cause, you’ll probably find you have attached something unhealthy to your identity.
SOLVE THE STRESS
As a Christian, my way to deal with stress is to go to God. I will ask Him if I am doing too much, ask Him why I’m feeling stressed - He’s great at revealing the root cause. Sometimes it’s because I haven’t spent sufficient time with Him, sometimes it’s because I’m putting other people before Him (ie, having a fear of what others will think of me), sometimes I’ve given myself deadlines I can’t keep up with.
While not all stress can be solved instantly, it’s important that once you have identified the root cause, you at least take one step to resolving the stress immediately. Remember, living in a stressed state for too long is not healthy and the stress will come out in other ways in your body - in your muscles or skin, in aches or pains, headaches, etc.
Here are some practical tips for some common causes of stress:
Too busy? Learn to be okay with saying no. Ask God what you should keep in your schedule and what to put to the side for the time being.
Scared of what others will think? At some point, we have to realise two things. Firstly, speaking the truth in love is far more loving than letting things slide because we’re scared of what others think. Secondly, fear of what others think is actually putting the opinions of man ABOVE the opinions of God. Every time I have asked the Lord to take away fears that I have in my life, He is ALWAYS faithful to do it.
Stressed because you don’t have enough time in the morning to get ready before starting your day? Make it a habit to wake up early, spend sufficient time with God and have a great morning routine.
Stressed about all the uni work you have to do? Instead of procrastinating (which will, ironically, land you in more stress eventually), make a plan and stick with it. Organise your schedule and be disciplined to do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” - Philippians 4:6-7
The Bible instructs us not to fret or worry, but simply to place all of our concerns before God and we will receive His peace. Even though you might be in a situation where it makes sense to be stressed or worried, God can bring you incredible peace - you simply have to ask Him for it.
When stress comes up in your life, Don’t ignore it. Listen to what it has to say and resolve it.