“Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life (Genesis 3:17, NKJV).” Genesis 3 paints a vivid picture of what life would be like after the Fall. God cursed the serpent and then pronounced the new state of living for humanity. For Eve, sorrow and pain during childbirth would be increased. For Adam, life would be eked out through strenuous labor. God stated, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19, NKJV). In other words, stress would be a permanent element of human life.
Understanding and Managing Stress
What is stress? Stress is the body’s natural response to anything that demands attention and requires action. Stress affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. When an individual is experiencing stress, stress hormones (cortisol and others) are released into the bloodstream providing what is needed to face the challenge. Stress is not necessarily “bad”; it becomes problematic only when mismanaged.God will see you through since wholeness is God’s plan. Click To Tweet
When stress is mismanaged, the effects can be devastating. Stress is commonly known as one of the leading causes for the decline of overall health and wellness. Small amounts of stress are not harmful; however, constant stress with little to no relief is. The remedy is to make needful lifestyle changes. Thankfully, God has equipped His people though His Word on how to deal holistically with the negative impacts of stress.
God’s plan has always been wholeness. The apostle Paul emphasized that the God of peace desires to keep us blameless holistically (I Thessalonians 5:23). When experiencing stress, the following strategies can provide support, assist with relief, and ultimately help to develop resiliency for future stress.
- A healthy sleep routine. Sleep is one of the most effective ways to manage stress. When you start to fall asleep, the body releases a relaxation hormone called melatonin. During sleep the body begins to remove toxins and reduce stress hormones. Psalm 3:5 reaffirms God is the One who encourages sleep.
- Healthy foods and daily water consumption. In times of stress individuals will often turn to comfort foods to cope with emotions. However, stress eating can be harmful to your health, thus increasing stress. A healthy diet and water intake can decrease stress hormones and stress-related dehydration.
- Exercise. Exercise allows for the release of endorphins (the feel-good/painkiller hormone) and teaches overall control when undergoing stress. Working out enhances mental strength, discipline, and problem-solving skills. A minimum of fifteen minutes of exercise at least three times a week is encouraged.
- Deep breathing. Deep breathing controls emotions and physical experiences. When cortisol levels are high, we generally take short, shallow breaths, causing the constant reactivation of stress hormones. Conversely, controlled slow-paced deep breathing can activate a state of relaxation.
- Acquire an overcoming mindset. It is all right to admit you are experiencing stress. Hebrews 4:15 empathically informs us Jesus understands because He experienced the feelings connected to our infirmities orlimitations yet without sin. Stress does not define you; the Word of God does. Read, declare, and write Scripture passages that change your perspective and reaffirm God’s sovereignty. When endeavoring to have the mind of Christ by hiding the Word in your heart, repetition is key.
- Take breaks and end the day well. When feeling flooded by stress, engage in peaceful activities that provide a sense of rest. Scheduling fifteen-minute breaks throughout the day can reduce the intensity of stress. Once the stress-inducing event is over, use a routine or phrase that releases the day to God.
- Minimize access to unneeded stress. As the day of the coming of the Lord approaches, societal decline is to be expected. Be intentional about limiting news, social media, and screen time. Instead, shift your attention to topics described in Philippians 4:8 and similar verses of Scripture.
- Spend time with loved ones. Ecclesiastes 4:12 emphasizes the importance of a threefold cord. Spending time with loved ones can assist with negative moods felt when stressed.
- Ask for help. God never intended for human beings to live in isolation. When stressed, asking for help may lead to winning a soul, encouraging another person and/or yourself. God can use stress for His glory.
- Stay in God’s will. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37, ESV). Determine if what you are doing is God’s will. Connect with the Lord and seek wise counsel.
- Finding the “awe.” When stressed the brains naturally shifts into survival mode. Take time to admire God’s creation by engaging your five senses. Creating a sense of awe reduces stress levels.
- Prayer/Meditation/Stillness. Spirituality is one of the fastest-growing resources in the mental health field. Prayer, meditation, and stillness activate parts of the brain that lead to stress reduction, self-control, higher levels of gratitude, and releasing control to Jesus.
- Daily moments of worship. Worship has been proven scientifically to evoke the presence of God, which brings a feeling of peace and increases intellect.
- Fasting. Fasting may be difficult while stressed, but if you can, fast. Fasting helps to detoxify the mind, body, and soul. Fasting also helps with increasing willpower.
No one is exempt from stress, but we can learn how to better manage it. A daily routine of holistic stress-management practices can reduce the impact of stress and develop stress tolerance for the future. If after an extended period of time stress is still an issue, seek medical or mental health support to rule out potential vitamin deficiencies, mental health concerns, and other related problems. God will see you through since wholeness is God’s plan.
Resources and Links
(A version of this article was published in Pentecostal Life.)