By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
Here’s a Top Ten List of helpful approaches to stress management, incorporating Biblical approaches. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
1. Relax. “If any of you are having trouble, pray” (James 5:13). “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a). Relaxation techniques include breathing techniques, tensing and relaxing muscles, meditation, and visualization. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalms 86:15).
2. Recognize what you are feeling and wanting. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). Recognize triggers and old patterns. Observe how your thoughts and actions affect your emotions.
3. Resolve problems. List options that are in your control. Take one step at a time. Allow imperfection and a growth process. “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal. 3:3).
4. Rethink. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Phil. 4:8). “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God” (Matt. 4:4). Identify the thoughts behind your emotion to distinguish between truth and exaggerated thinking, facts versus fears.
5. Release your emotion. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Allow the emotion through talking, writing, creative endeavors, and physical exercise.
6. Refocus. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). “Come to me all who are tired from carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Refocus especially when dwelling on a problem does not help. Refocus on one thing at a time, on good and simple things that are often overlooked, on humor, and on giving to others.
7. Relationships. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15a). “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another. . . There is no fear in love” (I John 4:11). The necessity of relationships include God, family, friends, and small groups at church (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
8. Routine gives a sense of accomplishment and stability using realistic expectations. “After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).
9. Recreate. God commanded festivals, created things for enjoyment. Take breaks, and real or imagined vacations. “Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).
10. Refuel. Routine recharging is needed through sleep, diet, and exercise. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (Romans 12:1).