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Physical Solutions for Stress Management, Part 2

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Physical solution: Developing listening skills to manage Stressors

As we continue looking at physical solutions to stress management, we will find some practical ways to reduce and manage stress. Some stresses can be managed by changing the circumstances. This means that we work to improve how we communicate with others and look for ways to improve how we live our lives.  

Learning to communicate well is a physical solution and it is essential to stress management. James 1:19 says, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” I don’t think it was unintentional that God gave us one mouth and two ears. He wanted us to listen twice as much as we speak. However, too often we find it more necessary to “speak our mind” and make someone understand our side in a situation that we don’t take time to listen – really listen – to their side.

Tips to developing good listening skills

Good listening skills have to be developed and it takes practice. However, everyone is able to develop listening skills. Here are some quick tips to help you become a better listener:

  • When listening, you should always face the person that is speaking and make eye-contact with them.
  • Try to relax, even if the situation is tense. It will put the other person more at ease also.
  • Pay attention. Don’t let your mind wander off thinking about something else or try to come up with what you will say next.
  • Try to keep an open mind by understanding that their side of the issues is as important to them as yours is to you. Even if you disagree, give the other person the respect of listening and hearing what they have to say.
  • Don’t interrupt them while they are speaking. Interrupting gives the impression that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. It also sends the message to the other person that you do not value their opinion and that you don’t care what they have to say.
  • When the person speaking comes to the end or a break in what they are saying, ask questions to clarify that you have heard them correctly. Effective communication only occurs when the listener both hears and understands what is being said. By asking questions, you are able to confirm that what they intended to communicate is what you understand. This will remove the stress of miscommunication.
  • Pay attention to the speakers body language. Sometimes more is said without words than with words. Body language and facial expression tell us more about how the speaker feels than the words themselves. Likewise, check you own body language and be sure you are not communicating something that you don’t intend.
  • Lastly, give the speaker proof that you are listening with short feedback phrases such as, “I can see you are angry right now” or “That must have been the highlight of you day.”

Learn to effectively express your own thoughts and feelings

Listening effectively is important but so is having the ability to express your own thoughts and feelings. If you are not able to approach people and let them know something is bothering you or that you have a great idea, learn how to approach others in a respectful way and let them know what is bothering you or share your idea. Keeping your thoughts to yourself will likely build resentment and take your stress levels up a notch.

However, we must also be sure that when we are expressing our thoughts and feelings that we do so in a what that honors God. Doing so out of anger is not going to make anything better. It will just breed an argument. So, use calm tones along with kindness and consideration. You can also try to understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings with a genuine concern for how they are feeling.

Physical solution: Know when to compromise to manage stress

Compromise is another physical solution to help manage stress. Because we are human and we all come from different backgrounds in life, there will be times where it will be necessary to work towards compromise rather than a solution. There are two basic definitions of compromise. It can be defined as “settling differences by each party making concessions to find middle ground.” It can also be defined as “eroding, degrading, diminishing, and jeopardizing” such as compromising one’s integrity.

Just how are we to determine where it is appropriate to compromise and when we should stand out ground? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:23, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with.” In this verse, Paul clearly provides the key to discerning good compromise from bad. He refuses to compromise the Gospel itself, but willing to compromise on his own personal preferences. In other words, we should never compromise our convictions, but personal opinions and conveniences can be, especially when it means doing so adds souls to the kingdom of God.

The Bible itself should never be compromised. So, if a situation goes directly against the Bible we must defend the gospel and stand our ground. The Bible makes it clear that God does not condone compromising His standards: “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths. You have charged us to keep Your commandments carefully” (Psalm 119:1-4, NLT). 

Physical solution: Realigning priorities to manage stress

Another physical solution for stress management is to set and abide by healthy priorities. We can change the circumstances that cause stress by making sure our priorities are in the right order and that our schedule is well-balanced with spiritual, family, work, play, and rest. When any of these get out of order or we are not devoting enough time to one and too much time to another, the other areas begin to hurt and we risk a higher change of stress, burnout, and/or compassion fatigue.

Physical solution: Changing ourselves to manage stress

Most people dread change of any kind and the very idea of change can cause stress. However, another physical solution to manage stress is to recognize the times where we are not able to change the stressor, but we do have the ability to change ourselves by changing our expectations and attitude. God created us with the ability to make choices and we make them every day. We can choose to fume, honk our horn (loudly) and be a road bully in a traffic jam or we can choose it see the disruption as an opportunity to spend some time with God by listening to a sermon on the radio or a Christian music station. We can use the time to meditate on a scripture we read that morning. And we can use the time to pray (with your eyes open!) for each person on the road with us, car by car.

Physical solution: Reframing stress to a more positive perspective

Another physical solution to manage stress is reframing your stressors to a more positive perspective can help lower the stress you experience when stress raises its head. This means you have a choice to examine the big picture and determine if the stressor is something to sweat over or if you need to focus your time and energy somewhere else. To do this, think about how important the stressor will be long-term. Will it still matter next week, in a month or a year from now? If it isn’t, then why get worked up over it now? Instead, choose to release it to God and ask Him to work His perfect will and plan through what you are experiencing.

We often pray and ask God to remove difficult situations from our lives…but sometimes being fully surrendered to Him means that we are willing to go through the difficult time. As Jesus faced the cross, He prayed, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36) If Jesus had not honored God and gone through the extreme stress of the cross, where would you and I be today? Looking at the big picture helps us bring the stress into the view of God’s lens and be surrendered to His plan.

Physical solution: Standards can set us up for failure and stress

We can also choose to adjust the standards we have set for ourselves and our lives as a physical solution to manage stress. While some standards should not be bent, such as the Word of God, other standards are set by us and we determine what is “good enough.” People who tend to be perfectionists actually set themselves up for failure by demanding perfection from themselves. The only person who was perfect was Christ. For the rest of us, the Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).

None of us are “good enough.” Setting standards of perfectionism is unreasonable and unattainable…whether you set those standards for yourself or someone else. Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” God and His Word should be the only standard we use. There is no room for perfectionism or pleasing ourselves or others if we are going to be servants of Christ. He is the only person we need to please.

Physical solution: Practice gratitude to manage stress

Another physical solution is to choose to practice gratitude to express our thankfulness and praise. In a moment of stress, it is much easier to focus on what is causing so many problems in our lives. Instead, choose to take time to praise God for all His many blessings, including the uniquely and wonderful way He chose to make you. Praise Him for your positive qualities and the gifts that He has given you.

When we experience times of stress, displaying an attitude of gratitude increases dopamine in your brain. This is the “feel good” chemical and when released, it encourages the brain to seek more of it. So, from a scientific, psychological standpoint, the more you are grateful for, the more you will find things to be grateful for.

Through gratitude, you can find peace and joy as you pray and give things to God, even in stressful and difficult times. God promised to give us grace and faith and we can find it through His Word. When you experience times of distress, pressure, and trouble, you can improve your outlook simply by showing gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” If we look hard enough, we can always find something to be grateful for.

Physical solution: Make time for relaxation

Relaxation is another physical solution you can utilize to help manage stress in your life. Making sure you are balancing the business of life, family, work and ministry with time for fun and relaxation will help you have a better frame of mind to deal with the stressful moments of life. Any time we are overly tired, overworked, and just worn out, small stressors can seem like impossible stressors. So be sure to include in your daily routines enough time to get a full night’s sleep. Take small breaks in your day and do something fun or relaxing that will help refresh you and keep you going. Think about activities or hobbies that you enjoy, such as fishing or crochet, cooking or golf. Maybe it’s playing an instrument, walking on a beach, or looking up at the stars. Whatever it is, make time to include it in your schedule every day.

Physical solution: Get physical

For most of us, when we feel stressed out, finding some quiet, relaxing moments alone makes sense. However, exercise and physical activity is also a great way to get rid of stress, and thus a great physical solution to manage stress. As you exercise endorphins, which induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria, are released and helps distract you from what stresses you. You don’t need a gym membership and or be a trained athlete. You don’t even have to be a regular exerciser; however, all of us benefit from regular exercise that is at least a thirty minute session.

Get up and start moving

If exercise is new to you, build up gradually. If you don’t have thirty minutes to devote to exercise, remember that even small activities can add up throughout your day. Simple activities such as parking farther away, taking the stairs at work, walking your dog, swimming, yoga, or dancing to your favorite praise music can get you up and moving. The first step is to simply get up and start moving.

Choose an activity you enjoy

The second is to choose an activity you will enjoy. You will be much more likely to stick with something you find fun. When the activity is something you enjoy, it becomes more of a hobby than exercise. If you need to, try several activities before choosing one. Then pick the one that is the most enjoyable. If necessary, consider the cost involved to get started with the activity and what it will cost you to maintain the activity. If it is out of your budget, then choose another enjoyable activity. Trying to stay with one that is costly can add more stress because your finances are too tight and sooner or later, you’re likely to give it up.

Listen to Christan music, sermons, or podcast while you exercise

1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” So, for an added benefit, listen to positive Christian music or podcasts from your favorite Christian speakers while you are exercising. God often speaks through music and sermons to encourage us and help us refocus our mind so that our thoughts shift from our stressors to meditating and thinking about our great God.

Physical solution: Fellowship with other Christians

God can also speak to us through fellowship with others. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.”  It is in the relationships we have with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors that we find support and encouragement. God created us as social beings and connecting to other people whom we trust and feel safe with can help shut down the “fight-or-flight” response. Quality time with the people that are important to us and those that we feel “get” us can also lower feelings of loneliness and depression. Talking about what stress us with such people can often help us find solutions that we couldn’t see before. However, even if a solution is nowhere in sight, just having someone listen with genuine care and concern can help lower the level of stress we feel at the moment.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “a merry heart does good, like medicine.” Laughter is a great stress reliever, helps to relax your muscles, and reduces some of the physical symptoms of stress. It can make difficult situations easier for you to handle and connect you with the people around you. At the very least, it will improve your mood and make you feel happier.

Physical solution: Practice good time management

Managing your life and your lifestyle can also lower stress. Therefore, a physical solution to manage stress includes good time management skills. Time management is key to how we manage life and all of its demands. The thinner we stretch ourselves, the more difficult it is to remain calm and focused. When we pile too much into our schedules we can be tempted to take short cuts rather than giving our best. Poor time management can also cause us to not have enough time in our day for healthy choices such as exercising, socializing, getting enough sleep, and spending time in God’s Word and in prayer.

Avoid over-committing

Proper time management includes not over-committing yourself to tasks, events, and projects. This means to not take on more tasks and projects than what you are capable of accomplishing as well as filling every moment of your schedule with something to do. The way to avoid this time management pit fall is to know God’s will and plan for your life.[1] Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-17, So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” We have to know God’s will before we can plan how we will accomplish it.  

Avoid scheduling things back-to-back

When you can, avoid scheduling things back-to-back. Schedule in small breaks between tasks to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or to take a short walk in the sunshine. Planning for breaks can also allow you to plan for unexpected disruptions or for when a task takes longer than anticipated. Disruptions and underestimating how long tasks will take can increase stress because they can make us fall behind in our schedules and not allow us to accomplish all that we planned. It is better to overestimate and run ahead of schedule. Another time management tip is to avoid fitting more into your day than you can reasonably accomplish. Scheduling too much will start your day with stress and then constantly increase stress throughout the day as you fall further and further behind.

Prioritize your tasks

Once you have your daily scheduled planned (including breaks), prioritize your tasks. Work on the most important tasks first so that you are sure to get them done. We all tend to procrastinate on tasks that we don’t enjoy. However, if we knock them out first, then we don’t have to dread them all day. It’s also important to know yourself. If you are morning person and do your best work first thing in the morning, then schedule more complicated tasks during that time. If you need a few hours to get going in the day, then schedule some lighter tasks then and save the complicated ones to when you are at your peak during the day.

Large projects can be daunting and overwhelming. When looking at the big picture of the project, we can waste time just wondering where to start. When you have a large project, take time to make a step-by-step plan. Then build your steps into your schedule over a few days or weeks, depending on how long you have to complete the project. Focus on just one manageable step at a time.


Lastly, learn to delegate responsibility when you can. It’s important to know that you do not have to accomplish it all by yourself. Let go of the desire to control or oversee every single task. Assess the people in your life and know their strengths and weaknesses. Learn to delegate tasks that match the strengths of other. In ministry, this might be ministry partners, co-workers, or staff.

At home, it could be your spouse or children. Children need to have responsibilities within the home to help them learn cooperation, teamwork, and responsibilities. The better you are at delegating, the more you will be able to let go of unnecessary stress.

One caution to delegating responsibility, is to know that when you delegate a task, you have the confidence that the person to whom you gave the responsibility to is capable and trustworthy to get the job done. If you have to keep checking back in or you are constantly worried the job won’t get done if you delegate it, then you’ll have more stress than doing the job yourself. Also, avoid falling into the pit of redoing what someone has done simply because they didn’t do the task just exactly as you would have. If their way accomplishes the job and gets it done, then leave it and move on.

When you don’t know where to begin, start with prayer

For some, time management can be a struggle because they simply do not know where to begin when the pile of tasks seems bigger than they are. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will given him. Start with prayer and seek God’s will. This will help us not pile on tasks that are not part of His plan for us while neglecting the tasks that He has asked us to do. In Psalm 90:12, the psalmist wrote, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom for any task or for planning how to accomplish any task comes from God and when we feel like we don’t know where to begin, then the place to begin is in prayer.

Physical solution: Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a physical solution as it can help lower stress while increasing your resistance to stress. While we have previously talked about the benefits of exercise, it also important to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and avoid foods that can raise stress so that we are better able to maintain a balanced lifestyle that promotes resilience to stress.

Eating healthy ensures your body is well nourished. The choices you make in your food and drink can either raise or lower your stress levels. Some foods bring comfort, which trigger hormones that will help you naturally fight stress, while other foods and drinks can raise stress.

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals and being hungry only increases stress. So be sure to begin your day with a healthy breakfast. Not only will it give you fuel to keep you energized, it will keep your mind clear so you can focus on your tasks rather than your belly. Plan your meals throughout the day with foods that will naturally fight stress. Avoid fatty, fast foods and bring healthy meals and snack from home to work. Smaller, more frequent meals can help keep sugar levels at proper level and keeps them from spiking and dropping. 

Garbage in equals garbage out

Remember that garbage in equal garbage out. If you load up on caffeine and sugar, you might get a temporary boost, but these boosts tend to in with a crash in both mood and energy. Additionally, reducing caffeine and sugar will help you be able to relax at night, fall asleep easier, and sleep better throughout the night. Caffeine can raise both your heart rate and blood pressure, so if you already have healthy problems in this area, it’s best to avoid caffeine altogether.

On the other hand a warm cup of tea is calming to many people, especially herbal teas that include lavender and chamomile. Dark chocolate has both a chemical and emotional affect on lowering stress. Rich in antioxidants, small amounts of dark chocolate lowers levels of stress hormones in the body. Carbohydrates, such as pasta, sweet potatoes and whole grains, increase serotonin, which is a mood booster plus stress reducer. As serotonin levels are increased, people under stress often experience improved concentration and are able to work better. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like avocados, can also boost concentration and improve mood. Fatty fish, such as tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and lake trout, is also high in omega 3 and has the added benefit of improving heart health.

Physical solution: Get enough sleep

Sleep is another physical solution and it is as necessary to the human body as food, water, and air. When we sleep, our brains recharge while our bodies rest. Even a slight deficiency in sleep can affect memory, judgement, and mood. If we frequently do not get enough sleep, health problems increase, including high blood pressure. There is also a higher risk of obesity and driving can be impaired. When we do not get enough sleep or the quality of sleep decreases, stress will increase. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you are not getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, try setting an alarm to remind you to go to bed.

By eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle that will promote resilience to stress, keep our mind focused, and ensure better health over all. 

[1]What did the lawyer ask when someone started talking about God’s will? “Was it notarized?” Because we have the Bible, we do not need a notary. God tells us about His will in His Word. His will is that we glorify Him and that none should perish.

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