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"The entrance of thy words giveth light (Psalm 119:130)."

Stress Management

This article will focus on general stress management. A separate article has been written on the subject of Anxiety.

All of us have a subconscious mind that is working 24 hours a day. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It's definitely a good thing for students. Students find that if they start writing a paper the night before, it becomes much easier to complete the paper the next day. This is because, while they were sleeping, their subconscious mind continued to work. It made progress in terms of what the paper should include, how it should be organized etc.

The same thing is true with life in general. Your subconscious mind continually reviews your life events, especially those associated with strong emotions. It reviews these events from the perspective of the attitudes you have chosen to adopt. It tries to resolve problems. And it focuses on the things you think most about during your waking hours. Both conscious and subconscious thoughts have corresponding emotions.

You may think, for example, that anger at a co-worker is only a problem at work. But really, it affects you much more since those angry thoughts are being reviewed consciously and unconsciously long after you've left work.

You will not be able to create a perfect world for yourself to live in. But here are some practical tips for reducing stress.

First, address anger issues. Don't let others take advantage of you. Take steps to prevent abuse. Resolve problems with others as soon as possible. As a general rule, express your feelings—even when doing so feels really uncomfortable; progress requires practice. And, of course, forgive others.

More information on these topics is included on my articles on Anger Management, How to Forgive and the series on Getting Rid of Anger.

Second, make and work toward goals that excite you. Look for ways to make your life more enjoyable and less stressful. Seek wise counsel when making decisions to avoid mistakes.

Third, manage your money wisely. Have a savings account and sensible investments. Don't waste money. Look for ways to spend less. Don't buy things until you have the money to pay for them. It is foolish to accumulate debt and the stress that goes along with it. The Bible states: "The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender's slave (Proverbs 22:7 NASB)."

To become competent in managing your money wisely, do your homework. For example, you can do internet searches on "How to save money on groceries" or "How to save money on housing."

Consumer Reports provides independent product reviews on just about everything. And Amazon provides consumer reviews on the products they offer for sale. It's important to get good value for your money.

You should also do your homework before investing. For example, you can do an internet search on "How to invest in mutual funds."

Beware advertisements and sponsored results: There's no shortage of people out there who'd love to separate you from your money. And stay away from get-rich-quick schemes. They only lead to poverty.

Also: "If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them (Psalm 62:10 NASB)." Trusting in wealth—rather than God—is a sure way to increase stress.

Fourth, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)."

"Be anxious for nothing" is a command not a suggestion. Christians are not allowed to be afraid of anything. And whenever they do, they always suffer.

Instead, practice trusting God with unwavering faith when going through trials. It's a decision you can choose to make no matter how difficult your circumstances are.

Fifth, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8 NASB)."

Think about good things. You'll have much more peace if you think about negatives only when it is really necessary

In particular, do not allow yourself to dwell on conflicts you are having with others. This will result in an incredible amount of unnecessary stress—and it doesn't take long to bring this about.

Everyone should practice thought substitution. That is, whenever an unpleasant thought comes to mind, replace the thought with a pleasant thought.

Also, when you're in a bad mood, try this: Think of ten things you can thank God for. And thank Him. You will be surprised how much this helps.

Sixth: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB)."

Make a conscious effort. every day, to cultivate a joyful and thankful heart. Get in the habit of thanking God for meals, answered prayer and other blessings that occur every day.

I also recommend that you read my article entitled Be Joyful.

And when things go wrong, practice giving thanks to God anyway—and watch how much your stress goes down! Remember, the Scripture you just read said "in everything give thanks."

Seventh, “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Psalm 55:22 NASB).” Let God carry your burdens, turn problems over to Him and wait until He makes it clear what to do. You will have a lot more peace if you do.

This also works well in marriages when couples disagree.

Eighth, avoid sin. If, for example, you are a man looking at pornography, your wife will eventually find out. And she is not going to be happy! The same thing is true if you commit adultery, waste money on gambling etc. God's rules are there for a purpose.

Ninth, if you feel the need, talk to someone. This can be a friend, relative, pastor or counselor. Talking to someone can release pent up emotions and reduce stress. The Bible states: "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 NASB)." They may also provide useful advice.

Tenth, think positive. One client told me he was able to reduce stress—and prevent depression—simply by choosing a more positive perspective: When he learned that he would have to go back to jail, he simply chose to view this circumstance as "a learning experience."

Eleventh, exercise regularly. Preferably every day. When I worked for a social service agency, I used the stairs, instead of the elevator, throughout the day. This provided plenty of exercise. Today, I ride my bicycle down a steep hill and walk back up. This works great! Look for an exercise routine that is convenient and not burdensome.

Twelfth, make a conscious effort to make your life more enjoyable. The happier you are, the less stress you will have: "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones (Proverbs 17:22 NKJV)."

Thirteenth, don't overlook the power of music. Relaxing and/or inspirational music should always be readily available both at home and while you're driving.

Fourteenth, select your occupation wisely. Remember, your subconscious mind is constantly reviewing your life events. If you're uncomfortable at work, you can expect to feel nervous not only at work, but also, in general, as your subconscious mind is constantly reviewing your life experience, and, in the process, creating anxiety.

Select an occupation where you can feel reasonably comfortable. Preferably something that you actually want to do.

Fifteenth, keep the Sabbath: "There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD (Leviticus 23:3 NIV)." Old Testament laws do not apply strictly to us today; we are under a new covenant. However, taking one day out of seven to rest and focus on the things of God is a biblical concept that applies today. It will reduce your stress.

Finally, serve the Lord. Look for something you can do for God every week. This can be as simple as praying for others, volunteering at church or buying someone groceries. Serving the Lord will provide meaning in your life. And God will reward you: "If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor (John 12:26 NKJV)."

 

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Scripture quotations marked "NKJV™" are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org).

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.