Living Beyond Stress
When was the first time you felt stressed out? Was it anxiety over a third-grade math test or preparing all summer for sports try-outs in the fall? More recently it was probably a bill coming due, or an important meeting with a client. We all feel stress at some point in our lives it's inevitable, what separates Christians from others is how we cope with stress.
Stress can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue and anger which can lead to pitfalls of sleeping too much or taking your stress out on other people. Those who don't know Christ tend to grab the bottle or a substance to help manage stress which leads to addictions and other health issues without ever treating the root source. With the power of Christ supporting us we can move beyond treating symptoms to managing stress and moving beyond it.
Many Christians answer stress or anxiety by saying to "just pray about it" but for most people that isn't enough to make a serious mindset shift that relieves the stress.
I have a small prayer pattern for helping cope with stressors that I hope will help you as well.
Pray for God's guidance and strength as you go about this process.
List everything that is currently causing you stress on a piece of paper. Don't hold back and don't deliberate over it, if it stresses you write it down.
When the list is complete take a moment to say another prayer and breathe.
Go through the list and highlight or draw arrows to the things that connect.
Try to narrow it down to one it's root stressor by asking yourself why it stresses you. The first time you do this it might be several root stresses but we will deal with one root at a time.
Look at the root cause and ask yourself why this stresses you out and what you can do about it.
Make an action plan for what you can control, from both the root cause and the symptoms of the stressor, and pray for God's strength in what you can't change.
Reach out to others to help you. This can be an accountability partner or just someone to talk to you when you need it.
Here is an example chart of steps 2-6
The words in black are what was stressful (step 2) and they all tied back to money (step 5) and money is a concern because of a need to provide and protect for my family (step 6).
Providing and protecting my family is not something that "will just go away" but it is something that I can control how I react to and when I feel overwhelmed I can lean on Christ instead of my own strength. I also share this burden with my wife because our marriage and children are a team effort so I am never alone spiritually or physically in the fight against my stresses.
It can feel odd reaching out to someone else for help with your stress but remember even Jesus talked to his friends and asked them for support when He felt overwhelmed.
"He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” " - Matthew 26:37-39