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4 Ways to Overcome Stress Biblically

4 Ways to Overcome Stress Biblically

My mind kept racing. I couldn’t sleep. I was restless as my thoughts jumped from to-do lists, my marriage, being a mom to my three children, work deadlines and everything in between. Eventually the stress began to affect not only my mental health but my spiritual and physical health. At the advice of my friends, I sought help from my doctor and Pastor.

I learned I was one of the over 70 percent of Americans that regularly experience physical or psychological symptoms caused by stress, as explained by the American Institute of Stress. The top physical symptom reported was fatigue, and the top psychological symptom was irritability or anger. I experienced all of these on a daily basis. I began to make changes suggested by both my doctor and Pastor.

However, at times it was difficult. Some Christians I had opened up to about my stress told me that if I was stressed, I wasn’t praying hard enough or that I was sinning by having anxiety instead of keeping all my thoughts on God. This was proof that we, the church have a long way to go in order to properly address the effects of stress and mental health.

Over time, I learned to seek God at the first sign of feeling stressed. I also eliminated several things that were not fruitful or beneficial in my life. Now when I begin to feel stress, I ask myself several questions to identify the issue.

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How Do We Handle Stress in a Biblical Way?

How Do We Handle Stress in a Biblical Way?

So why do we get stressed? We experience stress for countless reasons. Top causes of stress are work, finances, relationships, health, and media overload. So how do we deal with stress in a biblical manner? Christians are not immune to the pitfalls of life. It tends to hit us when we’re sick, overtired, overwhelmed, when we have taken on too many responsibilities, during moments of grief, when our circumstances spin out of control, or when our safety net or personal life falls apart and when relationships crumble—when our basic needs are not met.

We as followers of Christ believe God is sovereign and in control of our lives and he has given us all we need in order to live life abundantly. However, we also need to understand that when stress dominates our lives, it’s not because we’ve lost the ability to trust God. It’s because we aren’t armed with a game plan to counter stress. Just like the Bible instructs us with multiple ways to combat sin, we need to have a game plan for stress as well. Here are four tips to cultivate your own game plan to combat stress.

1. Admit There’s a Problem

Just as those who are familiar with the steps of AA, the first step to combating stress is admitting there is a problem. Sometimes it’s not easy to admit and you’re barely hanging on by a thread, but admitting we feel stress frees us from feeling trapped. However, it requires that we get honest with ourselves. Ignoring stress or pushing through it will have major negative consequences that will manifest in ways we won’t expect or aren’t equipped to handle. It requires humility and going to God. Psalm 32:2 says, "Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!"

Once we admit there is a problem, we can address it and get the help we need. Whether it’s through biblical counsel, seeing your doctor or asking your spouse or friend to help you evaluate what you need to eliminate from your life. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ian Espinosa

2. Stop Medicating in Unhealthy Ways

2. Stop Medicating in Unhealthy Ways

Are you snacking more than you should? Have you picked up a nasty habit that you know is wrong, like smoking? Are you drinking more than you should? Have you stopped exercising or reading your Bible in favor of sleep? Are you numbing your emotions with Netflix binges or spending hours on Facebook? None of these are healthy ways to deal with stress but sometimes we respond to stress by developing unhealthy habits. 

However, what we may not realize is that responding to stress in this manner will actually work against our ability to fight back and get healthy. Not to mention what it does to our soul when we begin to backslide into old (or new) sin habits. Unhealthy coping mechanisms exacerbate the issues in or lives and create a vicious cycle of stress and self-medication.

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven” (Psalm 107:28-30). We are reminded to cry out to God and his ability to calm the storm in our hearts. We are reminded and encouraged to get help.

3. Take Care of Yourself Physically

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, we’re to do it for the glory of God. This is our primary purpose in life – to glorify God. We do that when we care for our body and live a healthy lifestyle. It is an act of worship. Stress zaps our energy and causes us to walk around in a mental fog making it even harder to go for a walk, get a good night’s sleep or reach for something healthy to eat. It’s vital to our health to create and stick to good sleep habits and nourish our bodies with healthy foods on top of exercise.

Paul was wise beyond his years. He knew there was a connection between our bodies and our spirits. In his letter to the Corinthians he advised them to take care of their bodies because our bodies are a living temple, a dwelling place for Christ. This is relevant and even critical for those who struggle with stress and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Those who regularly exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is go for a vigorous walk.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Jacob Postuma

4. Worship, Pray, and Seek God

4. Worship, Pray, and Seek God

We tend to forget that we are spiritual beings. As a spiritual being, that means there is more going on around us than what meets the eye. We are in a spiritual war zone. The enemy will whisper lies about our identity, whether or not God loves us, or wreak havoc elsewhere in your life. The enemy loves nothing more than to weigh us down, to make us feel overwhelmed, to make us feel as though God doesn’t care or that God can’t or won’t help us. It is important for you to recognize those lies for what they are.

You must also make a habit of being in the Word on a daily basis. This includes talking to God on a daily basis. Both are vital to combating stress. It gives you the ability to not only know God’s Word but to utilize it in order to combat stress. The Bible is filled with Scripture that can dispel our stress, worry, and fear.

If you aren’t quite sure what is causing you stress, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the primary sources of my stress?
  • How is this stressor affecting those around me?
  • How often do I pray about the issues in my life causing me stress?
  • How am I trusting God with my work, finances, health, relationships, and future?

These practices will help recalibrate our spiritual, mental and emotional responses to stressors that disrupt the equilibrium in our lives. Yet, we can let stress have a positive impact in our lives too. The first indication of stress can serve as a warning that we are not leaning on God like we should. Remember we serve a mighty God and he truly cares about the little things and big things in our daily lives.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Wavebreakmedia

Heather Riggleman calls Nebraska home (Hey, it’s not for everyone). She writes to bring bold truths to marriage, career, mental health, depression, faith, relationships, celebration and heartache. Heather is a former national award-winning journalist and is the author of Mama Needs a Time Out and Let’s Talk About Prayer. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman and Focus On the Family. You can find her at heatherriggleman.com

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