Monday, February 28, 2011

Stress Management

When I was 22, I read a book about managing stress.  Although I wasn't a believer at the time, it was a tremendous help to me and has been up to now.  This is what I remember from the book (I am unable to remember the name of the book, which, is stressful *smiles*).  I have added some Biblical realities to the methods discussed in the book.  I hope this can help someone be able to better manage stress in their life.

The definition of stress is actually a reaction to a person, event, or demand.  Stress management is defined as the ability to maintain control when situations, people, and events make excessive demands.  There are a few things you can do to better assess the situation and be more able to handle stress.  The main thing you must do before you do any of these methods is to take 5 minutes and breathe.  I know that sounds like a long time, but trust me, it helps.  Set the timer on your phone to go off in 5 minutes and just sit down, breathe, and focus on clearing your mind of everything.  This calms you down and allows you to look at the situation more rationally.

Prayer is one of the most weightlifting methods for relieving the bonds of stress.  Pray without ceasing. 

 - First, look around.  See if there is something you can change or control in the situation.  If there isn't, then there really isn't any reason to worry or stress about it because there isn't anything you can do anyway.  You just have to pray and have faith in God to work all things to your good.

 - Set realistic goals for yourself.  If possible, reduce the number of events in your life to lessen the load that has been placed on you.  The best way to do this is to prioritize everything.  List out all of the things that are stressing you out and number them in order of importance, 1 being most important, 2 being the next, etc...  Once you have done this, list the REALISTIC consequences of not completing each task.  After listing the consequences think about the list from a love standpoint.  Think about how each task relates to someone you love.  After doing this, 9 times out of 10 the importance of tasks will change.  Change them and make a new list.  Always remember to pray and put God above all else.  Relate your list of priorities to scripture.  Are the top things on your list what you should really be focusing on?

 - If possible, remove yourself from the situation, even if it is only for a few minutes. This allows you to calm for a moment.  This is a perfect time to pray (of course, all the time is a perfect time to pray). 

 - Selectively change the way you react.  Don't do too much at one time.  Start by picking one thing, event or person and focus on changing the way you react to them.  Focus on changing your reaction to positive rather than negative stressful reaction.  Relate the situation to scripture. Is there someone in scrupture that has struggled with a similar situation?  How did they react?  Was their reaction positive or negative?  

 - Change the way you see your situation by seeking alternative viewpoints.  ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THEM.  Open your mind to alternatives and listen to how someone else sees your situation.  

 - Avoid extreme reactions.  Don't fly off the handle immediately, don't jump straight to hatred, don't immediately fall into depression.  Focus on scaling back your emotions so that they don't overtake you.  You cannot function properly and rationally if you are a slave to your own emotions.

 - Get enough sleep.  This is an extremely important thing to do.  No matter how you have to rearrange your schedule, be sure you get at least 7 hours or more per night.  Make a routine before you go to bed.  Do the same things every night to help you get yourself in sleep "mode."  Brush your teeth, wash your face, breathe and clear your mind, and pray.  

 - Work out.  If you are feeling super stressed, then work out.  Focus that anxiety into physical activity, whether working out, playing a physically demanding sport, or cleaning, or whatever.  This will release endorphins and will allow you to better approach the situation afterward.

 - Avoid self-medication or crutches.  If a stressful situation arises and you go straight for the alcohol, don't.  Whatever habit you have or whatever is your gut reaction to stress, don't.  It just furthers this compulsion and addiction.  Although this might seemingly relieve the stress, it is only making it worse for later and also making you dependent on something else other than God. 

 - Manage the effects of stress.  Don't overwhelm yourself.  Focus on one stressful factor at a time, and work until you have the ability to control your reaction to this factor, then move on to the next.  Prayer through this process and reading scripture references on how you should deal with the situation is best.

 - Try to "use" stress.  If the stress is unavoidable, then try to channel it into something productive.  Use the nervousness you feel to propel you into further application towards the result.  

 - Be positive.  Negative thoughts are like a disease, they take over your mind and if you let them they will be a part of every thought you have.  Give yourself messages as to how well you can cope rather than how horrible everything is going to be.  Stress can actually help memory, provided it is short-term and not too severe.  Stress causes more glucose to be delivered to the brain, which makes more energy available to neurons.  This, in turn, enhances memory formation and retrieval.  On the other hand, if stress is prolonged, it can impede the glucose delivery and disrupt memory.  Create good memories of how you think everything will turn out, and the stress will be positive rather than negative.  Focus mainly on faith in God's love for you.  Trust in Him to be your mighty Father and Lord over your life.

 - Finally, this is perhaps the most helpful method.  Do something for others.  Doing something for others gets the focus off of you and your perceived problems.  Not only will you feel accomplished, but seeing someone else's situation might help you see yours in a new light.  

God Bless