Everybody has stress—even Christians. It’s a natural part of life. We can’t always eliminate the cause, but we can learn to deal with it so it doesn’t overwhelm us.
“People tend to think that if they were more spiritual, everything would be great,” says Dr. Mitchell W. Duininck, a Family Medicine physician practicing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “But that’s not true. The Bible tells us that in this world we’re going to have tribulation (John 16:33). Even Jesus had stress, but He dealt with it in a healthy way.”
Causes of Stress
According to Dr. Duininck, any transition in a person’s life causes stress. Changes in job status, financial security, or health, along with births, deaths, and other family issues—whether good or bad—all result in pressure and strain that affect our well-being.
“These outer stresses are often compounded by a person’s internal stresses—like the fear of man, chronic disappointment, and the need to control,” says Dr. Duininck.
Pressure from people, job demands, financial trouble, and even the holidays can all cause stress. One of the biggest stress inducers is a perfectionist mentality.
“Instead of reaching for excellence, many Christians expect perfection from themselves and other people,” says Dr. Duininck. “Sometimes we have such high expectations for ourselves and the people we live with that those expectations are unattainable. So we go through life stressed and disappointed, because life is always less than we expect.”
Pros and Cons of Stress
A certain amount of stress can actually be helpful. Stress causes a state of hyperalertness—the brain goes into high gear, and the senses become clear and focused. Dr. Duininck says that stress in situations like public speaking and sports competition “can actually improve your performance.”
Chronic stress, however, can lead to a host of problems, both emotional and physical. Depression, withdrawal from people, general lethargy, paranoia, heart palpitations, restlessness, insomnia, change in appetite, weight gain, muscle and joint pain, stomach aches, rashes, and lack of sexual drive are just some of the effects.
“Chronic stress is like turning up the idle screw on a car,” he says, “so the car is always running at high rpm’s. You can go fast and get a lot done, but eventually it becomes hard on the car. When we live at that heightened level of stress, it’s just not healthy for our bodies.”
Dr. Duininck says it’s imperative that Christians find healthy ways to handle stress. “God has made provision to deal with those challenges of life. The prescription is there, but we have to take advantage of it.”
Even Jesus had stress, but He dealt with it in a healthy way.
Tips for Minimizing Stress
Relax. Take periodic times away. “When people don’t give themselves a break physically, emotionally, and spiritually, they burn out,” says Dr. Duininck. “If all of life is push, push, push, you’re going to get into trouble. He advises building regular times of relaxation, enjoyment, and getting away into your schedule.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic. Dr. Duininck advises that we examine our goals and ask ourselves, “Is this what God wants, or are there other motives involved that cause me to push myself too hard?”
Have Patience. “The Bible says that the trying of our faith produces patience,” says Dr. Duininck, “but as Christians, we hate that! If we’d just realize, in midst of trials, that God is still in charge, we could let that patience have its perfect work in our lives (James 1:4). We need to be patient and take time to wait on God, and He will renew our strength (Isa. 40:31).”
Exercise! Stress releases adrenaline and other chemicals into the body. Daily activity reduces those chemical levels. “Even a brisk, 20-minute walk four times a week will help your body burn off those chemicals,” says Dr. Duininck. “Even though you may not think you have enough time, you have to make time, just as you do for eating or devotions. God made your body to move, and when you do, you’ll think more clearly, be more relaxed, and sleep better.”
Work on Relationships. So many people don’t have close personal relationships with other Christians. It’s just them and God. “God didn’t intend for it to be that way for the majority of people,” Duininck says. “People need to have close friends they can open up to and talk to about the problems they’re dealing with. You don’t open up to just anybody, but to close friends who can help by praying and ministering to you.”
Cut Back. Minimize your caffeine and sugar intake, says Dr. Duininck. “Because they are stimulants, they add to anxiety levels and the physical problems caused by stress.”
20 Practical Ways to De-Stress Your Life
- Go to bed on time.
- Get up on time to start your day unrushed.
- Learn to delegate to capable people.
- Simplify, organize, and unclutter your life.
- Don’t procrastinate.
- Allow extra time to get to places.
- Live within your budget.
- Do something you love every day.
- Breathe. (Take more deep breaths, especially when under pressure.)
- Get enough exercise and eat right. (Yes, you can!)
- Schedule daily “down time” to relax.
- Laugh more.
- Keep the switch of faith turned on.
- Forgive (if you have anything against anyone—Mark 11:25 AMPC).
- At the end of each day, write three things in a thankfulness journal.
- Talk less; listen more.
- Say no to some things. Keep first things first. (God, family, health)
- Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe.
- Be a praiser.
“Even Jesus had stress, but He dealt with it in a healthy way.”
// Dr. Duininck
It’s imperative that Christians find healthy ways to handle stress.
Faith IN ACTION
Casting Your Cares: The Ultimate Stress Antidote
To experience a stress-free life full of God’s peace, you have to give all your anxieties, worries, and concerns to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7 AMPC). God loves you so much! He desires for you to live a life of peace. He wants you to release the weight of your burdens to Him.
If you’ve been anxious about everything, pick one small thing that’s been stressing you out and cast it on the Lord. After you practice casting the little things, you can move on to the bigger things. The more you give your cares to God, the more you will experience His peace in your heart!
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