I have a six-year-old nephew who loves video games. The other day I was sitting with him while he was playing a racing game on his Wii. The levels were getting progressively more difficult, the speed was faster, and the courses were more hazardous. I could see him becoming more and more stressed—his face was turning red, his hands were getting sweaty, and he couldn’t stay in his seat.
Finally, it got to be too much for him. He burst into tears and yelled, “I can’t take it anymore! I’m just too stressed out!” All of a sudden, this game that he had been enjoying became sheer misery. I had a little chuckle at his dramatic outburst, then turned off the TV for a bit so he could take a break.
The very next day, I felt like yelling too. Several big projects came in at once, and deadlines were tight. I usually enjoy my work, but I felt the pressure building up and I wanted to yell, “I just can’t take it anymore!” I didn’t burst into tears, and I didn’t throw a tantrum, but I sure did feel like it.
Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental, or emotional response. Life is a delicate balance, and while some stress is natural and can be healthy, too much pressure in any area can produce negative effects, such as trouble sleeping, withdrawal, emotional instability, and health issues. The longer you wait and allow it to build, the more hazardous it can be.
So what are some ways to deal with stress? Well, stress isn’t a new development—it’s a problem that’s been around for ages. Because of that, the Bible is full of solutions. Here are some important ones:
Talk with someone
The apostle Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens.”1 Others may not be able to solve your problem, but often just being able to unload your troubles to a listening ear can be a tremendous relief. And many times, once you’ve talked it out, your problems don’t seem so formidable anymore and you can tackle them without feeling stressed or overloaded.
Break down goals into smaller chunks
If we’re under too much pressure, it could be because we’re trying to tackle too much at once. Jesus tells us that His yoke (or workload) is easy, and His burden is light.2 So if your burden is too heavy, maybe you need to set some of it down for a while.
Set realistic goals
If you or others can’t meet your expectations, maybe you haven’t thought them through enough. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. What is the first thing you will do? Won’t you sit down and figure out how much it will cost and if you have enough money to pay for it?”3
Focus on things you can control
Jesus tells us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”4 There’s enough to think about today without stressing over stuff in the future. And “tomorrow” isn’t just talking about the day after today—it means anything you don’t have control over. If you can’t do anything about it, just trust that God will help you handle it when the time comes.
Take care of yourself physically
Often when everything’s piling up, personal care is the first thing you cut out. But that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. If you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising, you’ll feel better physically, which will help you to face challenges with more confidence and energy. Paul explained: “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. … So use your body to honor God.”5
Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “a cheerful heart is good medicine.”6 Sometimes all you need when you’re stressed is a little break. Taking time to rest and relax will help to clear your head, and you’ll come back to your task refreshed, happier, and more focused.
Take time with Jesus each day
Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”7
King David, who faced extreme stress in his life, advises us: “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you.”8 Peter also tells us to “cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.”9 Talk to Jesus about your troubles and ask Him for His solutions and advice. He has promised an easy yoke, so if yours is too heavy, He can show you how to lighten it.
Remember that Jesus understands the pressures you’re facing. “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are.”10 As you take your cares and concerns to Jesus, He’ll give you the strength to handle each task and responsibility—without getting stressed.