Seven Stress Busters
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me”
Stress is a major issue of our time, in the UK 40% of workplace illness is stress related. We live in a 24/7 world, stress is all around us and it impacts us emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we’re stressed we move God off centre in our lives, and that’s wrong. Matthew 11:28-30 gives us Jesus’ insights “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
But how do we learn the unforced rhythms of grace? I have seven stress busters to keep us alive in him:
Stress Buster #1: Stay Healthy
We need to look after our bodies by taking regular breaks, eating well and taking exercise. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and need to be looked after. This is simply common sense, but in times of stress and deadlines, it can be the first thing to go.
Stress Buster #2 Fight Fear
Psalm 112:7 says the people who trust the Lord ‘will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast’ and 1 John 4:18 tells us ‘perfect love casts out fear’. If you believe in him you can trust him for the future and face those fears. It doesn’t mean we won’t face bad news; we just don’t need to fear it.
Stress Buster #3 Take joy seriously
Small things can make a big difference to our mood. It is valuable to build up a reservoir of the specific ways in which God has helped us in the past to remind us that God is real and that he is good. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes, ‘Be joyful always’ (5:16). In times of stress we particularly need to look around us and focus consciously on what brings us joy.
Stress Buster #4 Take an emotional break
When I feel I am losing my sense of perspective, I often make a phone call to a friend or write an email that has nothing to do with work. It restores my sense of humanity to connect with people in different situations from my own.
At other times I worship on my own, at church or with friends. Worshipping together helps me to maintain the intimacy of my relationship with God, which stress can so easily erode.
Stress Buster #5 Minister in the opposite spirit
Paul says, ‘We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly’ (1 Corinthians 4:12–13). This is hard to do but I try to do this by asking for help from the Spirit of God first – and only then do I speak. This is the spiritual equivalent of counting to ten. But so often I fail – and lash out. I then feel dreadful. Ministering in the opposite spirit is usually a painful process.
Stress Buster #6 Take control of our thoughts
In times of high anxiety, it’s easy to be negative and my thoughts easily spiral downwards. When this happens, the first thing I try to do is to reject the thoughts that are without substance. I then remind myself of one of the many attributes of God. Paul wrote, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things’ (Philippians 4:8). The mind is a gateway, which we control. With God’s help we can choose to open it to good and close it to fear, uncertainty and self-righteousness. Maybe you could consider going on a ‘negativity fast’ where you have a time of starving negative thoughts and asking the Spirit of God to feeding your mind with the good.
Stress Buster #7 Pray and read the Bible
The most important way to gain perspective in times of stress is through prayer, remembering that the primary objective of prayer is to bring glory to God, and not to beat stress. Paul says in Philippians, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (4:6).