by Julia Bruce
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6
Psychology also helps us find ways to help us manage stress. For example, as we understand how the body’s natural fight-or-flight response system operations, we can better cope with stress because when we become aware of being tense, we can then find ways that will help the body relax and calm down. Psychology can also help us develop habits that will promote resilience so that we can be less reactive to stress. Learning these habits will take practice, but they can help you have much lower stress levels.
Whenever we begin to self-explore, a good place to start is to keep a journal on what you trying to learn about yourself. By keeping a journal about the areas that cause you stress can help you identify reoccurring stressors in your life the way you currently deal with them. You can then evaluate if how you deal with them is healthy or not. To start your stress journal, write down each time you feel stress and then look for patterns or common themes. Each time you feel stressed write down what caused the stress or if you are having trouble identifying the stressor, make a guess. You can correct it later if you need to. Underneath the stressor, write about how you felt physically and emotionally. Then write about how you reacted to the stressor. Note if it was a healthy or unhealthy reaction. Lastly, write about what you did to make yourself feel better. Was this healthy or not?
If you find you need some new ways or better ways to deal with your stress, you can either change the circumstances that caused the stress or you can choose to change your reaction to the stressor. By identifying what your stressors are you can learn to avoid unnecessary stress. If you learn through self-evaluation what your limits are, you will be better prepared to stay within those limits and therefore better able to say “no” when you know that you are reaching a point of taking on more than you handle. Consider if the stressor is something you should do, must do, or should not do. This begins with prayer and asking God what his best plan is for you. If it is something that would cause your priorities to get out of order, than it is an easy “should not.” If it goes against what God says in His Word, it is an easy “should not.” But somethings are not as easy to determine and then we must consider if it is a “should” or a “must.” You can add this to your stress journal simply by writing in a margin or next to the stressor you identified if it is a “should,” “must,” or “should not.”
At times, it is people that bring us stress. In a ministry profession, you can’t always just turn and walk away from the people that stress you out. However, you can limit the amount of time you spend with them. Try scheduling appointments with them that are short with another scheduled event following so that you have a reason to end the appointment. You can also schedule that appointment when you are the most rested and would therefore have more patience with them and have a clearer mind to make decisions. There are times when relationships do need to be terminated. For example, if a person of the opposite gender makes an inappropriate sexual suggestion, end the relationship if possible. If not, then always have your spouse or a person of the same gender as you sit in on any meeting you have with that person.
Some stress can be handled by taking control of your environment. For example, if the evening news causes stress, then turn off the TV. If rush hour traffic stresses you out, consider going in a little earlier or later if it’s an option or change the route, even if it takes you longer to get to your destination. You can also try turning on your favorite Christian radio station, or listen to a podcast of your favorite sermon or an audio book from your favorite author.
Another stress reducer is to take time to analyze your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks. Begin deleting the ones that are unnecessary then prioritize the rest. Be sure you are including time with God through daily devotion and prayer and make this your highest priority. After that look through the items and place the ones that might be more demanding or taxing on you and schedule them when you are at your peak performance level during the day. For some, that would be early morning. Others need to be awake a few hours before that really get going. Other people are night owls and are most effective later in the day. Plug in the quick, easy, routine time items for your slow productive times of the day. At the end of each day, review your schedule for the following day and prioritize the next day’s schedule so that you are ready to go in the morning and know what you have to accomplish. Try mixing your schedule each day with items that you enjoy doing with those that are more stressful. If you have an extremely stressful or unpleasant task or meeting the following day, take time to pray about it and surrender it to the Lord. This will help you sleep better and help prevent the stressor from robbing you of sleep. If you find it is keeping you awake, pray about it again and visualize in your mind handing the stressor to God. Try focusing on something that will be pleasant. Some find it helpful to think of an imaginary switch and visualizing flipping it as a means to turn their mind “off” so they can sleep. Another helpful tip to help you fall asleep is to use a Bible app that has an audio feature and timer and let the app read the Bible to you until you fall asleep.
This blog is part 11 in a series. Be sure to begin with part 1.
Return on Thursday, October 25th for Part 12 in the blog series on Self-Care where we will continue discussing ways to manage stress.
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