Managing Stress & Anxiety
Life can be stressful at times. Various seasons and circumstances pose challenges to our mental and emotional well-being—being in college and figuring out your future, graduating from college and adulting, becoming a parent, losing your parent, a job transition, living with chronic pain and illness, grinding away at your new business, or trying to keep up with a growing business.
How do we manage our stress when life is hard or chaotic?
How can we even focus on ourselves when so many other priorities are taking all of our time and attention?
This is definitely a challenge.
Jesus portrayed reality when he said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)
Today has troubles. And tomorrow has troubles. No day is trouble free.
It is important to take one day at a time. When we fixate our mind and emotions on future troubles, we become paralyzed in the present.
In addition, instead of reacting to stressors in our lives, we need to learn to pay attention to our stressors and proactively manage them. When we neglect to manage our stressors, they can overtake our life and have a major impact on our emotional and physical health.
I had no idea how to pay attention to or manage my stress when I was in my twenties. I felt like I was on a train that was racing down the tracks with no stops. When my stress and anxiety began to have a negative impact on my health, I realized I needed to make changes and learn to be proactive with stress. Through a conversation with a mentor, therapy with an amazing psychologist, becoming more self-aware of how God created me to thrive, and making proactive changes I was able learn how to function in a healthy manner.
Here are a few things that I learned along the way that have helped me.
Prayer has always been an important practice in my life. Prayer is simply talking to God. When I talk to God about my stressors He helps me with wisdom, strength, and peace. It also helps me to recognize that some things in my life or the future I do not have control over. As a human, this takes pressure off of our mind. I rely on God’s strength to persevere through hard times and heavy burdens. When I try to control all of my burdens and obsessively think about my stressors, I feel the effects on my mind and body. I feel great peace, despite what I am going through, when I filter my thoughts in prayer and rely on God.
Talking about our stressors and anxieties is the beginning of the learning process. Talking is healing. Therapy helped me to verbalize what I was experiencing, learn more about myself, gain perspective, and learn tools to manage stress and anxiety. Your stress and anxiety may be much different than mine, but talking is a universal method to help when life becomes overwhelming.
Exercise has played a major role in my stress management. I try to keep a routine of exercising five days per week. Running and HIIT workouts have been extremely helpful when I feel burdened, stressed, and anxious about something. This has helped me to reduce stress, improved my mood, and allowed me to fight stress in general more effectively. Besides those benefits, investing into my health has been always been a value of mine—we were created to steward our life, which includes our body and soul.
Sometimes in life we are overloaded with our responsibilities, but have no system for getting those things done. Keeping an ongoing list of to-do’s and due dates protects me from constantly thinking about all the things I need to get done. When our brains are overloaded with responsibilities and there is no organization, chaos ensues. My mind is always thinking about what I need to accomplish, and fresh ideas. I have learned to write my thoughts down and organize my responsibilities. This protects my mind from constantly being overdrive.
We were created to work, and we were created to rest. I love to work. I love to invest into meaningful endeavors that help people. But I had to learn that rest was essential for my soul to be healthy. Sometimes we need to slow down, breathe, and take a day off. God built work and rest into the fabric of creation—work six days and rest one day. Rest is more than sleeping in and binge watching your favorite show. Rest is investing into our relationship with God, investing into our physical and mental health, enjoying life, and spending time with the people we love or having time alone as an introvert. Rest is purposeful and it fills our soul for the next week of work.
Hope is essential for life in a broken world. Honest hope can feel burdens, pain, and grief in the moment, and also keep a hopeful expectation for the future. When life becomes overwhelming and I feel paralyzed by my stress and anxiety, I remind myself of hope. Hope for better days. Hope that my stressors will not overtake my purpose in life. Hope that no matter what challenges I face, they will not conquer who God created me to be and the future that I have with Him.