Stress, as I’m using it here, is the kind of anxiety that comes from things outside of my control.
Regardless of what’s causing me stress–job, school, the bills, or all of it at once–I’ve found this works.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Be still.
Stress is a busying, agitating state. Fight it first physically. It is remarkable how much the body can affect the mind.
For me, still and quiet go together. I simply cannot be still in the middle of the day. There’s too much going on. This has to happen before everyone else in my house wakes up, or after they’ve all gone to sleep. It needs to be a time I’m free to focus.
2. Say it again.
Saying (or writing) out the thing I fear is a lot like what happens to the monster under the bed when you turn on the lights. A large part of stress—sometimes the biggest part—is about what I think might happen.
Writing it out also helps me to be very clear on what the issue is. Not all issues are fictitious. But most are not as big as my fears would dictate. This step brings great clarity. And that cuts down stress.
And by the way, this works the best when I do it while I’m doing step one.
3. Where’s God?
This step focuses on perspective.
Anything that reminds me that I’m not the master of my universe is a good thing. When I stop to think about it, so much of life is outside of my control. Stress is often related to my forgetting this.
So I ask God,
How should I handle this? What should I do next?
God answers different people in different ways. The key is to listen. For me, it helps when I quit thinking about the myriad of details that could be, and focus on what is.
4. Stick to it.
Remember that character Pliable from Pilgrim’s Progress? When he needed help, he was loyal to the end. Until, of course, he no longer needed help.
I hate it, but I have a lot of that in me.
I only really learn from times that I’ve been stressed out when I’m able to remember them later.
These are the times that remind me how good God is. And how blessed I am. And how sweet life truly is.
Stress hides this. But I don’t think it has to be that way.
Do you have something different that works?