Are you feeling stressed out? Do you know someone else who is? If so, you are not alone. Statistics Canada has said that 23% of people over the age of 15 describe most days as “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful. That number rises to 30% in people age 35 to 54. The primary culprit of stress in our lives is work – especially for those who make $100,000 a year or more. Finances are the leading cause of stress for those who are immigrants, from visible minority groups, or who do not have a post-secondary education.
I find I don’t always know I am stressed out until I’ve reached a bit of a crisis point. Sometimes, I just learn to accept stress as a reality. It is very important to pay attention to the symptoms of stress we may be having and consider the damage being done to our lives.
The Mayo Clinic describes these symptoms of stress:
Common effects of stress on your body
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Common effects of stress on your mood
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
There are also differences between how men and women handle stress. According to Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC, men under stress tend to withdraw emotionally while women seek emotional support.
Consider the impact your stress response is having on your relationships plus the damage being done to your body and your soul. God’s desire is for you and I to have peace. Psalm 85:8 teaches us that God declares peace to His people. The word peace is shalom – which carries the idea of wholeness or well being.
How to Handle Stress
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Laing about how to handle stress. We featured this interview on the Promise Keepers Canada podcast.
In addition to the fantastic insight from Mark, I would like to add a few more ideas:
1. Take one day a week to rest.
Our bodies are designed to work from our rest rather than rest from our work. The Sabbath is not a burden, it is a gift from God. Jesus teaches us in Mark 2:27 that Sabbath was made for man. Our body can only handle so much when we fail to rest well. When I feel stressed, my first step of examining my own life is to see if I am taking the time to rest.
2. Pray and be grateful.
Philippians 4:6, 7 teaches us to not be worried about anything – this is sometimes way easier said than done! But it goes further and teaches us to take all of our requests to God in prayer. This is obviously very helpful, but there is one more step we are taught to do – bring our requests with thanksgiving. Thanking God for His goodness and for the ways we have seen Him answer prayers will help us deal with stress. In verse 7 we are given a promise if we do this – the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.
3. Remember – you have a Saviour who understands.
Matthew 26:38 tells us Jesus was deeply grieved and Luke 22:44 tells us his sweat was like drops of blood. Jesus knew stress. He lived it and experienced it and He also conquered it. Whenever you begin to feel stressed, always remember that turning to Jesus is not some empty spiritual exercise – you are turning to the Son of God who knows exactly how you are feeling.
4. Remember – Jesus gives us perspective.
I find my stress responses are most often a desire to have an easier life. Life is difficult. Work was a good gift and design from God – but sin has resulted in work becoming difficult and sometimes stressful. God is the owner of everything – but money has often become the owner of us. In my stress, Jesus gives me perspective. This life is not all it was meant to be, but there is a day coming when it will be. So, I have to choose to be at rest in my soul – because I am not the one who will supply all of my needs … He is (Philippians 4:19). He has promised a day when all things will be made new and there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4). May I suggest, there will also be no more stress.
You Are Not Alone
If you feel stressed out today, you are not alone. Sometimes this knowledge is comforting and sometimes it causes us to assume stress is just a reality we have to put up with. Please don’t have an attitude of defeat about it. Stress does not need to control you. Manage and even conquer your stress before it does great damage to your relationships, body, and even your soul.