Stress in itself is not necessarily harmful. The American Psychological Association has noted: “Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it.”
Adding another dimension, people vary in temperament and general health. So what stresses one person may not stress another. That said, you are likely overstressed if your regular routine makes you so tense that you cannot relax or deal with the occasional emergency.
To help them “cope” with chronic stress, some people turn to alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. Others begin abnormal eating patterns or sit passively in front of a TV or computer—habits that do not address the underlying problem but may, in fact, exacerbate it. How, then, can we learn to manage stress effectively?
Many people have been able to manage life’s stresses by applying the practical advice found in the Bible. Could its tried-and-tested wisdom help you? Consider that question in the light of four common causes of stress.
A daughter confiding in her mother
Not one of us has total security. As the Bible states, “time and unexpected events overtake [us] all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) How can you cope with feelings of insecurity? Try these suggestions.
Confide in a trusted family member or friend. Studies show that the support of loved ones consistently confers protection against stress-related disorders. Yes, “a true friend shows love at all times, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
Do not continually focus on worst-case scenarios. Such thinking does little more than drain emotional reserves. And what you fear may not happen! For good reason, the Bible says: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties.”—Matthew 6:34.
Tap into the power of prayer. “Throw all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you,” says 1 Peter 5:7. God shows his care by giving us inner peace and by assuring us that he “will never abandon” those who sincerely turn to him for comfort and support in times of need.—Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:6, 7.
2. Demanding Routine
A businessman running on a cog in a machine
A relentless routine of commuting, working, studying, or caring for children or elderly parents can keep stress levels high. Moreover, stopping some of these activities may be out of the question. (1 Timothy 5:8) What, then, can you do to cope?
Try to give yourself some downtime, and get adequate rest. The Bible says: “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.”—Ecclesiastes 4:6.
Set sound priorities, and adopt a modest lifestyle. (Philippians 1:10) Consider simplifying your life, perhaps by reducing expenses or time spent at work.—Luke 21:34, 35.
Kari, mentioned earlier, took a fresh look at his life. “I realized that I was pursuing a selfish lifestyle,” he wrote. He sold his business and took on work that gave him more time at home. “Our standard of living has dropped a little,” he admits, “but my wife and I are now free of constant stress, and we have more time to spend with family and friends. I would not trade the inner peace I now have for any business opportunity.”