We all go through stress, and we all know we react in varying degrees to it. How many of you are dealing with stress even as you read this? I bet most of you are!
I feel that there are times in my life where EVERYTHING for months is causing me stress. Stress can be caused by 1) something causing the brain to feel that there is an emergency, which it needs to be prepared to defend you from or 2) something is new to the mind and the body doesn’t know how to react to it, so it treats it as a threat. For instance – being in the hospital would put the body and mind under a different state of stress than preparing to run a marathon for the first time. However, both are stressors and can negatively affect our mental states if we do not return to a state of calm and peace as we deal with the situations. I think that most of the time, we all tend to live with no downtime from stress, we seem to stay in emergency mood, reacting and stressing out to everything that comes along.
Here are some of the best ways to deal with stress…
Don’t let stress pull you into emergency mood all the time. If you acknowledge the stress, deal with the situation and keep moving, the stress will not be able to paralyze you. When in the heightened state of adrenaline that is caused by stress, your mind and body will constantly be reacting. This causes you to feel that you ‘have no choice’ or that the stress won’t end. You may find that your brain shuts down and isn’t able to make a decision or you may allow snap decisions to decide your course of action. I think that snap-decisions (as in always reacting) actually increases stress, because your brain wasn’t prepared for the change and it takes longer for the mind to return to a balanced state. Keep your balance by focusing long-term on what it takes to get out of the situation. Don’t put aside your life when stress happens, don’t lose sight of where you were going, instead keep building your dreams/habits, keep moving forward through the tough times.
Try to intentionally refocus the stress from ‘I can’t do this, it’s too much’ to ‘I’m going to make this happen and the problems around me are not allowed to get me off course!’
Enjoy A Hobby
Don’t forget your hobbies! It is interesting how the first thing out the door during hard times is the very things we need to help keep us sane. Here is a simple example – I love crocheting and sipping a cup of tea or coffee before I go to bed. I love journaling and reading. Guess what? I can’t remember the last time I drank a cup of tea as I was winding down the night. This is the silliest way to de-stress, but I know if I make that hot tea, I will sit down and enjoy it and the stress will leave. Maybe that is why we let our hobbies go during stress – we know we will relax and we don’t know if our lives will fall apart or not if we relax. So, I am going to test this out, I am going to make my cup of tea and sip it while I finish writing this post. What are the hobbies that you aren’t doing anymore that will help you become more balanced?
Give yourself permission to enjoy your life instead of just rushing from stress to stress. Set time aside everyday to do something that makes you smile and sets your soul on fire.
Calm The Emotions
Don’t allow your mind to constantly feel the pressure of the changes or the situations. The emotions will begin to drain your ability to focus or relax. I have found that I will hold on to stress for along time, until I take the time to clear my mind. Driving and listening to music will do wonders for anyone. Personally, my choice is 80’s music or Broadway hits, there is something about them that makes me sing along until my head no longer feels dull or stressed. I also clear my mind by listen to a sermon while I am doing household chores. Hearing the Holy Spirit’s words fall on my heart and fill my mind clears up the cobwebs of the daily stress and struggles. Along these same lines, go for a run or a hike, the fresh air (or the sweating) will help you relax, so that you can think again. The brain needs a break from the constant strain of being stressed, just so it can begin to plan something besides an emergency. Taking a mental break also always you to get some positive and focused thoughts into your mind to take the place of the worry or dread caused by the stressors.
Remember, stress is signaling for your brain to be on emergency mood, but calming and controlling the emotions using a healthy outlet will allow you to stay balanced during hard times.
Take A Nap
As I write this, it is 1:30am… yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am writing this post for myself. As my stress increases, it seems that I sleep less and less. Here’s my problem – I know sleeping helps, and during stress, I am always exhausted, mainly from having restless dreams or not sleeping. I know I am easily overwhelmed during hard times, and I know sleeping can reset my emotions. But I always say that I have too many things to do or not enough time to just stop and take a nap. You do this too, don’t you? But if you do chose to rest, do you wake up refreshed and with a clear mind? Even when my brain (or God) is telling me to sleep, I just find a way to stay busy instead of sleeping. Yes, I add things to my schedule to keep from falling asleep or taking naps (sounds like a toddler, doesn’t it?). Yet, studies have shown that we are most effective when we are sleeping full nights and taking naps. A nap allows your brain to quickly shut down and restart, it clears your mind.
It’s okay to sleep, you don’t have to be a superhuman all the time! Practice pausing and resting as your brain says you need it, it will do wonders to your mental state.
I know these are things we all know, but the reason I wrote this post is that we don’t follow through with them. See, God showed me how to live in these habits again this week. He didn’t just remind me of these 4 things, He led me into situations where I was returning to these habits, and, then afterwards, the Holy Spirit would explain that it was helping decrease my stress. I had been praying for less stress, but God chose to answer my prayer by showing me how to stay in a calm state of mind, instead of taking the stressors away. Moment after moment, this week, I have been blessed to see these habits at work in my life to change my stress levels. I pray that these ideas will help you through the tough times in your life too, or any day! It’s always a good idea to pick up your hobby or take a nap, so maybe practice these habits everyday. If you do, maybe the tough times will not be so tough, and you will be able to handle the stressors without stressing out. Leave a comment below telling us which habit you are going to start working on this week.