5 Ways to Avoid Stress in a Stressed Out World

 

Have you ever been completely stressed out? That’s somewhat of a rhetorical question because the answer is obvious. We have all at one time or another had episodes in life where we felt completely stressed out and completely overwhelmed. As badly as we all want to be calm and relaxed, sometimes we find that easier said than done. For some, episodes of chronic stress are few and far between, and of short duration. For others, stress is virtually a constant fact of everyday life. We live in a world that is a breeding ground for stress. When you factor in constant changes in the economy, changes in the employment picture, rising costs of healthcare and raising a family, dealing with uncaring  people….the list could go on and on, it is easy to see how people could become stressed. You could probably add your own list of items that create stress in your life. When you look at the world in which we live, it’s no surprise that clinical depression is at an all time high. Some people seek relief from stress and depression through alcohol or drug abuse. Others seek the help of professional counseling or self-help books. There are still countless others that shuffle aimlessly through life buried under the load of stress and discouragement that they carry, not knowing what to do or which way to turn. I am of the belief that the absolute best advice as to how to handle stress can be found in God’s word. Please understand that I am not trying to suggest to you that I am any expert, have it all figured out, or never have any stress in my life. What I am saying is that I have learned to rely on the power of God and the truths of His word to empower me to make it through every period of stress and challenge that I face. There have been periods of my life that I failed to trust God like I should, and there have also been times that my faith has been strong. When it is all said and done, I have come to learn that it is best to seek God and his strength from the beginning, and not as a last resort. I could have avoided a great deal of stress and turmoil in the past if I had known sooner what I know now. The whole purpose of my creating this website has always been to try to help others and bring encouragement to those that need it. With that said, I would like to share with you five nuggets of truth that can be found in God’s word that have been a lifeboat in a stormy sea for me when it comes to dealing with stress.

1. In times of stress, you have to turn your cares and worries over to God. I believe that God is a perfect gentleman, and will never intrude upon our lives, or attempt to impose his will upon us. In times of distress, we must seek him out. By seeking God in times of stress and discouragement, we are demonstrating to God our belief that He is able to work out our problems, and He IS able to work everything out for us if we are willing to trust Him. The Bible says that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:12) The Psalmist David said that God is our refuge and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. ( Psalms 46:1) I love what the Bible says in the Book of Philippians on the subject of stress and worry. In the fourth chapter of Philippians it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Another great scripture can be found in 1st Peter 5:7 where it says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

2. You have to control your thoughts and avoid negative thinking. Someone once said that you can’t have a positive life with a negative mind. Those words are so very true. I already mentioned what the Bible has to say in Philippians chapter 4 verses 6&7. In the same chapter, the very next verse says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” If we ever want to be able to conquer stress, we have to be able to condition and filter our thoughts, and focus on what is positive and what is good. If we go through life focusing on all the negative aspects of our situations, we will never have the peace of mind that God wants us to have. The mind is a battleground, and every battle in life that you will ever face and win all begins in your thoughts and in your mind.

3. We have to strive to be of help and encouragement to others. You may be wondering how helping and encouraging others could possibly help you with the stress that you face. The reason it is so important to make helping and encouraging others a priority in your life is pretty simple. The Bible plainly tells us that whatever a person sows, they will also reap. (Galatians 6:7) Not only in this scriptural, is it simply a law of nature that has been proven to be true over and over again. If we make it our purpose to sow into the lives of others by helping and encouraging them, we will eventually reap a harvest of help and encouragement when we need it the most. Plain and simple…what you sow you reap. The factor that makes this so powerful is that often we will be placed in situations in which we are called upon to encourage someone else when we ourselves are discouraged. When you get to the place in life that you are able to shift your focus from your own needs to the needs of someone else, that is when you will experience the greatest blessings. There is no level of giving that is greater than giving out of your own need. Even when you yourself are stressed, if you will always seek out someone to help or encourage, your time of harvesting what you have sown will undoubtedly come when you need it the most. God will send someone your way to do for you what you did for them.

4. We have to forget our past mistakes and the things we cannot undo. One of the biggest causes of stress is living a life of regret brought about by past failures and mistakes. What happened last year, last month, or yesterday is done. There is nothing we can do to change the past. We have to forgive those who have wronged us, and forgive ourselves for our past mistakes. Today is a new day. Every day we wake up we are given a chance at a fresh start, and a chance to set our life on a different course. Living with regrets of the past will keep you discouraged, stressed, and defeated. I love the passage of scripture that is found in Isaiah 43:18-19. In this passage we are told, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Wow! How powerful is that? God is telling us here to forget the past! He is doing something new in our life if we will only let Him! Even in the midst of an episode of turmoil and stress that is so discouraging that we feel like we are wandering through the wilderness, God is making a way for us to escape our stress and be refreshed in the streams of His love and Grace!

5. Even while in a time of stress and trials, we have to continue to praise God. The Psalmist David apparently learned the value in doing this. If you have ever done any study on the life of King David, you would know that he had his own share of grief, disappointment, mistakes, and stress that he encountered in his life. Through it all, David learned the power of praising God. In Psalms 34:1, David said, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” In the good times and the bad times, David learned the way to victory is praising God. Being overwhelmed with chronic stress has a way of putting you in a self imposed prison. It makes you a prisoner of your fears, worries, and regrets. Sometimes the key to the prison that you are in is simply to praise God. There is a wonderful story from the Bible in the 16th chapter of the book of Acts that illustrates the power of praising God to break the chains that bind us. In the 16th chapter of Acts, you can read the account of the Apostle Paul and his comrade Silas who were arrested, beaten severely with rods, and thrown into the inner prison. In Bible days, the inner prison was the equivalent to today’s maximum security cell. It was in the center of the prison, making escape all but impossible. Paul and Silas had plenty to be stressed out about. They had both just endured a severe beating; they were bound in leg irons and chains, and were imprisoned in the most secure cell possible. They could have thrown themselves a huge pity party and nobody could have blamed them. Yet, Paul and Silas chose to turn their attention away from their suffering and to focus on praising God. When you read this story you will find out that at the midnight hour, during the lowest darkest point of their situation, they began to sing praises unto God. They sang so loudly that the other prisoners heard them. Soon after their singing started, there was a violent earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison causing the doors of the prison to fly open! Not only did the prison doors fly open, but the chains that bound all the prisoners in the prison fell off! What an awesome biblical account of the power of praising God! I believe that even today God still frees people from the prisons of their own making. Just like Paul and Silas, you may be at the midnight hour. You may be at that part of your crisis, trial, and stress that seems like the darkest. Even in the midst of your prison of stress and despair, if you will begin to thank and praise God for His goodness and mercy, you will see the chains of stress and discouragement start to fall away. It is awfully hard to be stressed out when you are busy praising God.

It is my hope and prayer that some of what I have shared with you from the Bible will be ingrained in your heart and mind, and that the next time you are stressed out, you will remember some of this and apply it to your situation. Stress is not of God. God wants us to be able to relax and rest in the knowledge that he knows all about our struggles, and is willing and able to deliver us from stress if we will focus on Him instead of our trials.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Mark

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