A Healthy Approach to Stress
You have a big project overdue at work, the water damage under the bathroom sink is getting worse, then your child gets sick. Problems and worries are part of life. Only the dead have no stress!
The question is, how well do you handle your stress?
“There is a lot of stress in war,” Gerald Flurry wrote in his booklet How to Be an Overcomer. “People have broken down from that stress. But did you know that real fighters almost never get stressed out?”
Proverbs 24:10 says, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” Are you a real fighter? Or is your strength small?
If you are watching, you know that times are getting more stressful and more dangerous. We must learn to handle stress skillfully.
Realize: Stress is not bad, of itself. We need it in order to perform our best. Stress is just your body responding to a challenge or threat by increasing your capacity for strength, stamina and alertness. Your heart rate increases, and adrenalin and other hormones are released into your bloodstream to enable you to meet the challenge with enhanced performance.
To do this, though, your body must move resources from elsewhere. It represses your immune system, your digestion and other functions. Thus, if you are exposed to ongoing high and frequent stress, these functions eventually weaken, and you become vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and other environmental toxins. This causes you to break down and age prematurely.
How can you survive—even thrive—under stress? One important way is to build good health.
Start managing stress by improving your physical health. A healthy body promotes a healthy mind. A clean diet prepares your immune system for stressful times. Regular exercise is a constructive way to release tension, and it boosts your body’s resilience. Enough sleep is also crucial for handling stress well. Sleep deprivation can quickly destroy your toughness.
Next, consider your mental and emotional health. Stress is not just what happens to you—it’s how you react to it. And how you react is controlled by your mind and emotions. So handling stress requires mastering your emotions.
Don’t take yourself or situations too seriously. See the humor in life. Don’t imagine things to be worse than they are, blowing them out of proportion. Realize that bad things happen: This will help you handle disappointments gracefully. When a stressful situation arises, see it as an opportunity to learn and to test your strength. Also, know your limits: Don’t try to control what you have no control over.
You can also improve your mental health by reducing stressful stimulation. Avoid hopeless music, high-intensity movies and derogatory humor. Replace those with peaceful, soothing music, or silence; read a thought-provoking book; meditate.
Finally, examine your spiritual health.
Realize that sin causes stress—and righteousness eliminates it. A lot of the wrong kinds of stress come from preoccupation with self. Much stress springs from vanity—self-love, self-concern. Self-pity is sin! When you are stressed, you need to put that out and get your mind on Christ and on other people. Take care of your relationships with family.
Maintain a right spiritual perspective. Know God is in charge. Remember His miracles, and how He delivers the righteous from trial. In Matthew 11, Christ said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … [M]y yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Soldiers say that you don’t rise to the occasion in combat—you sink to the level of your training. Stay in constant spiritual training! Always keep God first, especially in tough times.
The Apostle Paul set a great example here. At the end of his life, he was confined to prison—a very stressful circumstance. But in those bleak conditions, he wrote 2 Timothy, probably his most inspiring epistle!
He wrote that all the people in the Church had left him—but, he said, “the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.”
In the same letter, Paul told Timothy, “You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Paul was a mighty spiritual warrior.
Mr. Flurry wrote, “Winston Churchill told his troops to learn to have smiles on their faces as bullets flew over their heads. … Churchill knew you need calming leadership, or you will make a lot of mistakes in warfare” (ibid).
Then he said, “Paul’s actions here demonstrate what you can do if you stay with God. There isn’t any reason for us to be overly stressed.”
Remember, in good times, build your health—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Then, when you are plunged into times of high stress, don’t neglect these things! Take care of your body. That problem you are facing won’t get easier if you lose your health! Keep your thoughts and emotions healthy. Don’t turn a challenge into a calamity. And keep your spiritual life strong! The crisis won’t go away if you withdraw from God!
With strong physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual health, in times of stress, you’ll be better able to thrive.