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Featured Article: Nine Ways to Stress Less Today

Fear not, for I am with you – Isaiah 41:10

There are many reasons why we should worry today.  Diseases, viruses, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, war, violence, crime, financial crises’, personal and relational stressors, and on and on.  Worry, stress and anxiety is not only toxic but contagious.  It will run rampant through every area of our lives if we don’t take measures to curb it on its onslaught.  In addition to the necessary spiritual practices such as reading the Word of God and spending time in prayer, there are additional measures we should incorporate to combat mounting stress.

Here are 9 Key Ways to Stress Less

1)  Count Your Blessings

Counting our blessings isn’t some cliche statement—it works!  Do you take as much time reflecting on what’s good in your life as you do with what’s wrong?   Counting your blessings could be the difference between a happy life and a stressed life. 

When thoughts of worry start to creep in, blinding you from your many blessings, capture those thoughts immediately and begin thinking about what God has blessed you with.  In doing so, your mood will immediately begin to change for the better.  According to research from the University of California, meditating on what you’re grateful for reduces the stress hormone cortisol by about 25%.  They also found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude didn’t only experience an improved mood but increased energy levels and over-all physical well-being as well.

The minute you start feeling worried or anxious, re-direct your thoughts to what you’re grateful for.  It will be an instantaneous mood-lift.

Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

2)  Avoid ‘What If’s’

All of us are guilty of it—“What if this happens?” “What if that happens?”  What if, what if, what if!  ‘What if’ statements throw fuel on already hot coals.  The reality of an outcome in a particular situation could go a million different ways, only God knows what will happen in the future (one minute, one day, one year from now), so the more time we spend worrying about what may or may not happen, the more valuable time we steal from our lives and from making it more positive.

When life throws a curve ball, instead of asking the “What if” questions, accept what ‘is’ right now.  Do what you can, and tell God you trust Him with the outcome…and then go on enjoying your precious life.

Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

3)  Glass Half-Full

When we look at a potential outcome with a positive point of view—all that is good and all that could go right—we douse stress flames instead of fanning  them.  We are in control of our minds, our thoughts and how we choose to interpret life’s events.  We have (and have always had) a choice to be optimistic or pessimistic.   Because we have thousands of thoughts running through our minds every day, we need to give our wandering brain a little help.  We can do this by intentionally selecting positive things to think about and meditate on—especially when things aren’t going as planned.

When you catch yourself wandering into the future, try to think about all that could go right.  Remind yourself of all the things in the past that once worried you, but actually turned out for the better.  By redirecting your thought patterns onto paths leading to positive outcomes, we not only train our minds to go there—but we lead our lives there as well.

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.”

4) Disconnect

Don’t subscribe to FOMO—the ‘fear of missing out.’  You won’t miss anything good, and even if you do, so what if it’s an hour or two later?  Making time to go completely offline is not only crucial for our mental health but helps us to be ‘present’ for and to enjoy our real lives.  Not only that, your mind and soul will thank you for it in more ways than one.

When we are bound to our phones, the Internet, social media, work, emails, whatever—all the time—we expose ourselves to a constant, never-ending barrage of potential stressors.  Forcing ourselves to shut-off from the constant bombardment of mental-noise gives our brain the chance to relieve tension and recuperate.  This creates much needed time to relax and recharge.

Studies have shown that even something as simple as an intermittent email break can lower stress levels.  We are not suggesting selling the house and moving to Hawaii, but we are suggesting little mental breaks of disconnection here and there.  Start with one hour off-line.  You will immediately feel more relaxed and rejuvenated.  As you get more comfortable blocking off time, gradually expand to longer periods throughout the week.

John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled…”.

5) Limit Caffeine

Gasp!  Yes, it’s true that drinking caffeine triggers a release of adrenaline.  To put this in perspective, adrenaline is the source of the “fight or flight” response—the actual survival mechanism that forces us to stand up and fight or run for the hills.  This is great if we’re being chased by a crocodile, but it is not great when we’re trying to incorporate more rest and less stress into our lives.

Start by eliminating one cup of coffee during the day and, if possible, remove it from the menu completely in the evening.  If limiting an extra cup of Joe or two equates to less stress and more relaxing—count us in!  Right?

Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…”.

6) Sleep

When discussing the management of stress-levels, this tip can not be over-stated.  Our brains literally re-charge when we sleep.  Think about it this way, what happens to a battery when it is not properly charged?  It either won’t work right or won’t work at all.  The exact same thing can be said about our minds and bodies.  Sleep deprivation raises stress-hormone levels on its own—without any additional stressors.  There is already enough stress built into our daily lives without having to add additional stressors.  No matter how busy you are, always make time to get a decent night’s rest.

John 11:12: “His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”

How will he get better?  IF he sleeps!  

7) No Negative Self-Talk

We have the incredible power (through Christ) to speak what ISN’T into existence (Romans 4:17).  When we speak negatively about ourselves, we inadvertently give those negative statements power to manifest in our lives.  Not only does negative self-talk make us infinitely more stressed, it also brings more of what we don’t want into our lives.  Keep in mind that negative thoughts are just thoughts—not facts—so we do not have to adopt them as truth.  It’s also wise to acknowledge that negative thoughts are often whispered to us by the enemy.  If we know God—what He says about us and how He speaks about us—and if we recognize that speaking negativity hurts us, then that should be enough to deter us from ever proclaiming a lie over our lives.

General rule of thumb: If it’s negative about yourself, don’t say it.  If it’s positive, proclaim it loudly and often.  Always say what you WANT, never what you don’t want.

Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

8) Cross-examine Perspective

Stress and worry is often fueled by our own skewed perception of a situation.  We tend to blame the stress we feel on an event that is completely out of our control such as, morning traffic, unforeseen car trouble, a colleague’s rude attitude, etc.  We will never be able to control all circumstances that happen in life, but we absolutely can control how we respond to them.

If you find yourself dwelling on something that is causing you stress, take a minute to examine your perspective.  Ask yourself, “Is this really that big of a deal?”  Is there anything you can do about it?  If the situation and its potential outcome is out of your control, it is 100% futile to spend any time worrying about it.  More often than not however, when we break something down to its core we discover that we’re giving the situation far more weight (and stress) than it deserves.  Do what you can and leave the rest to God.

Matthew 6:25-27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is it not more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” 

9) Angels in the room

It is tempting (yet ineffective) to try and tackle everything on our own.  We need to recognize our weaknesses and then ask for help when necessary.  When you are feeling overwhelmed in life, lean into your divinely constructed support system…those people in your life God has divinely placed to be there for you.  Everyone has someone who is genuinely there for them, rooting for them, ready to help and make room when needed.  These people can be called our “angels in the room.”  Identify these people and seek their insights and assistance.  Sometimes it is just as simple as needing to talk about what is worrying you.  This provides you with an excellent outlet…and quite possibly a new perspective on a situation as well.  Other people tend to point out a solution  because they are not as emotionally invested as we are.  

Asking for help and leaning on those you trust most will help you mitigate a lot of stress from your daily routine.  It may also strengthen your relationships with them—they are there for you and you are there for them—win win!

Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

In conclusion, always remember that chronic worry, anxiety and fear is not from God.  Fear is the opposite of faith, and as Scripture tells us, ‘worry will not add one hour to our lives.’  Whenever you begin feeling anxious, practice implementing these tips—and then give it all to God. The faster we entrust Him with all of life’s situations and outcomes, the faster we can get busy enjoying our lives!  When we do our part, God will do His.

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