I’ve spent the last several weeks being way too stressed out and not handling it very well. It’s like when I’m stressed I just throw intention out the door. I’ve realized that the self-discipline of living an intentional life is exactly what I need to manage stressful situations well, yet it tends to be the first thing to go. I eat whatever I want, I wake up whenever I feel like it, I keep all my stress bottled up inside…and then then I basically implode.
Here are a few things I must do if I want to remain peaceful, calm, and centered in the midst of stress. i hope they help you.
1. Pray and ask for perspective. Often times when we’re really stressed out it’s because we’re too focused on ourselves. Praying first, before we do anything else, centers us on what is most important. It reminds us that this life isn’t all about us, that there is greater purpose. When we spend time with God in prayer He often shifts our perspective. He reminds us of the truth in the situation and His power at work in our lives. When you feel stress coming on just stop. Stop and pray, and ask Him for perspective. He will always be faithful to help you navigate whatever waters lie ahead.
2. Ask yourself…will I still care about this in 5 years. A friend of mine sent me an article last year when I was going through a stressful time. It asked the question, “will this still matter in 5 years?” I love that! It’s so easy to get lost in the mess and start to believe that it’s going to have lifelong impact.
And maybe it will. I definitely don’t want to make light of life-altering situations like a health scare, loss of a job, or loss of a loved one. Yes, those stressful times can have profound impact on our lives. However, so much of what we let stress us out is temporary. It’s the little mistakes, the frustrating conversations, or the difficult work project that we let derail us. So, next time you’re stressed, just ask yourself, “will this still matter in 5 years?”
3. Keep your routine. This is so, so important for me. I tend to let things go when I’m stressed. The dishes or laundry pile up, which leave me feeling more overwhelmed. I don’t get up at the normal time or plan my meals, and that leaves me rushed with no energy. For some reason I don’t believe I have the energy to maintain habits, yet they are actually essential to overcoming the stress.
4. Practice self-care. Good self-care includes things like eating well and exercising, but it also includes making time for things that bring you joy. For me that’s reading, writing, or spending time with friends. It may feel unproductive to set aside 15 minutes to read a book during a stressful and busy day, but I believe that’s when it’s most important. When I make time to take care of myself I leave feeling energized and ready to face whatever is in front of me. So just do it. Figure out what fills you up and make it happen.
5. Talk it out. This is so crucial for me, but will probably not apply to everyone. I am an external processor. It is so helpful for me to talk through whatever is on my mind with someone close to me. But, for whatever reason, I tend not to do this when I’m stressed. I keep everything bottled up inside, trying to handle it all on my own. My friends, this is a recipe for disaster. Conversation leads to proper perspective, without it I stay on a negativity loop that only ends in a huge mess. Sometimes just saying it out loud can help me remember that it’s really not that big of a deal. It may feel awkward or vulnerable in the moment, but it will help tremendously.
Really, what it comes down to is perspective. Whenever we can gain a proper perspective on the things that are stressing us out, we will be able to handle them well. When we handle stress well, with peace and stability, we’re bringing glory to God and standing out in a crazy world.
Friends, let’s just take a deep breath and calm down.