Stress is overwhelming many of us. I have spoken with many clients, and most of the leaders at the church, and the number one thing they all say is “I am overwhelmed with stress.” The first thing to realize is that you are in far better shape than those who have not identified their frustration, anxiety, anger, etc as being stressed.
Stress is relentless. It never stops, but the good thing is that we can do something about it. Some find working out as great stress relief - walking, running, hiking or any other movement that you enjoy. But, for me, I get up daily at 5am, work all day, then counsel, spend time with 4 children and a spouse, running from this practice to that practice, all the while connecting with my 3 brothers, my mother, a congregation…the list goes on and on. When I finally head to bed around 11pm, and there is no “workout time” what is there to do?
I have found a few things that really work:
1. Talking to Someone:
Talk with your loved ones, a pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend. All these individuals help you by developing a life that is not isolated; rather, it is supported. Ask someone you trust to pray with you, to maybe set up a weekly talk (or as often as you need to vent!). Talking truly is a great way for you to process your day, your struggles, your highs, and your lows so that you can deal with any issues that arise throughout the day. Relieve the weight of the problems at hand by allowing someone else to bear the burden with you. In Galatians 6:2, the Apostle Paul says, “Bear one another burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And a key part of the law of Christ, but to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Start today, call a friend, and allow someone whom you trust to bear this burden with you!
2. Journaling Our Day
Another way to handle stress is journaling. Writing allows us to process what the day has brought, and when we write the physical exertion of gripping the pen and pressing it into the paper allows for a release of the burdens on your heart and mind. When you are done writing, go back and reread what you have written. In addition, journaling also allows us to see the problem from a different point of view. As we process an incident or stressor, we can begin to see the consistent themes in our lives, and ultimately may reveal the root cause.
As a final step in the journaling process, go back one more time and circle the positive things that happened. Then cross out the negative things that have happened. The purpose of this exercise is to process your day, ridding yourself of the negative thoughts and embracing the positive.
3. Praying or Meditating on Jesus
Seeking the Lord is another way of processing your day. Find a quiet place in your home or a picturesque location where you can sit and close your eyes and bring forth in your mind your image of Jesus. Start the prayer time by saying, ‘Lord Jesus, Son of David, Son of our Father in Heaven whose name is above all names, come and have fellowship with me.’ Repeat this phrase, taking deep breaths through your nose out your mouth on a 3 count, until your heart rate drops. Then just spend time with Jesus. You can say something like ‘Your servant is here, oh Lord, direct my path.’
However, oftentimes the reality is that we have not been able to identify any or all stressors in our lives.
It took me a long time to be able to identify stressors in my life. My wife was better at identifying them in my life than I was. This had to change because by the time I figured out that I was stressed, or what was stressing me out my anxiety was out of control. I spent the majority of my life blind to my own stress. Now through self-awareness, prayer, talking, and writing I am able to identify my stressors faster and can create appropriate boundaries that alleviate the most prominent ones. Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because it's never too late to become self-aware. It's never too late to lay down the things that bind us.
For those who are in the never-ending loop of anxiety, frustration, and/or depression, have you thought that your symptoms may be caused by stress? Begin intentionally examining your day-to-day living, truly engage the Lord in prayer, and ask Him to reveal those stressors in your life. In this daily exercise, we are not looking inwardly, but outwardly. We are looking for outward stressors first (such as jobs, relationships, busy schedules). Why are we doing that? Because outside stressors are where you need to create boundaries, to reorganize your life to alleviate or remove those stressors. The thought is to limit or altogether get rid of the outside stressors. During this prayer time, ask the Lord how to thrive despite the difficulty. When our eyes are fixed upon Jesus, peace begins to fall. Embrace the peace that God is welling up inside of you, allow for the Holy Spirit to reveal, rebuke, redeem, and restore your stressors so that you may walk in peace.
If you find yourself constantly revisiting things from the past, then begin to interrupt those thoughts using 2 Corinthians 10:5, which says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
By interrupting the cycle you begin to create a new thought; you begin to allow the Holy Spirit to transform your mind. What does this look like? Well, let's say you struggle with invasive thoughts of an ex-partner, who constantly criticized and said you were no good. As you begin to go down that downward spiral, catch yourself and speak “I take that thought captive in the obedience of Jesus, and Father, I let loose your spirit of truth. You call me your child, you call me yours. So Lord, I receive your words of truth.” Obviously, this is just an example but feel free to use it for all scenarios. It is perhaps most important that when we confront negative and even false thoughts (A.K.A lies from the enemy), we use scripture to combat the lie. For God's word is a double-edge sword (Heb 4:12), and is good for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
My prayer is that this helps you begin to alleviate your stress. Remember, Restoration and Redemptive Counseling is here to help - please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment.
May the Grace and Mercy of our Lord follow you all the days of your life
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About the Author: Greg Elias, of Restoration and Redemptive Counseling is a Professionally Certified Counselor with a Master's Degree in Professional Counseling, and Licensed Pastor with experience in Christian Counseling at Alive Again Alliance Church in Toms River New Jersey. His method of counseling is a combination of both experienced mental health treatment and faith-based healing, centered around the restoration of both the mind and the spirit. Whether you are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or any mental or spiritual turmoil, Greg Elias and Restoration and Redemptive Counseling is here to help you find peace within. If you are looking for Mental Health Treatment, Christian Counseling or a Mental Health Service Provider please get in touch with us today. Please call or text us at (732) 592-9777 We are here for you.