CHM - Christian Harvest Missions
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Coping with stress

“Therefore I say unto you, be not continually anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than raiment?”

Continual anxiety, continual worry, are part of what produces stress. When one is overwhelmed with debt, overworked and tired, doing too much, facing personal problems and so on, the natural reaction is stress. Although some types of stress can be good - in training for an event, for instance - we are dealing here with the stress that is equivalent to anxiety. When we feel ourselves called on to cope with something that we feel is beyond our ability to bear or deal with, this too is considered stress (so called by Richard S. Lazarus).

The causes of negative stress are varied. External factors include:
(a) difficult people;
(b) difficult deadlines and unreasonable requirements;
(c) extreme temperatures and other difficult environmental conditions;
(d) major events, such as death of a loved one, failure in an exam, loss of a job, even birth of a child;
(e) dealing with the usual misfortunes of daily life.

Internal factors include:
(a) negative emotional and spiritual perceptions, such as continual self-criticism;
(b) thinking exaggeratedly with unrealistic goals;
(c) taking drugs, alcohol, too much coffee, too much food, not sleeping enough.

Occupational factors include:
(a) feeling unimportant and/or unappreciated;
(b) over-long hours;
(c) insufficient wages;
(c) lack of job security.

How can these be dealt with?

Obviously there are some factors which are the result of choice. Lack of sleep and too much alcohol, for instance, are personal choice factors. But there is a problem: some people say that the alcohol helps them get through, and that they cannot sleep because they are worried. It's a bit of a catch-22 situation... but let us examine first what the effects of continual anxiety are.

There are real physical manifestations of stress. They're not a symptom of malingering or hypochondria - they are real. These physical symptoms run the gamut from fatigue, trembling, headaches, neck and back pain, to chest pains, abdominal cramping, a tendency to catch the cold easily and nausea.

Other manifestations show themselves in behaviour more than in physical symptoms. Mental fatigue, reduced ability to concentrate, loss of memory and suddenly going blank are common mental symptoms. Emotionally, a stressed person is likely to be irritable, lacking a sense of humour, depressed, prone to anger and full of fear. Behaviour resulting from these symptoms is predictably representative of anxiety - increased drinking, increased tendency to snap at others, increased signs of anger such as throwing things, shouting and swearing, and so on.

None of this behaviour deals with the cause. These behaviours are a result - and as such, someone who drinks to help them cope is fooling himself. To deal with stress or continual anxiety means taking a top-to- bottom approach.

At the top is our love for and worship of God. To know Him is to know He cares for us, and to know that being one with God is the perfect reconciliation. This is the major stress-reliever in any Christian life - to put God first.

Not everything in life can be controlled by oneself. It's important to know this. “As you know not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not which shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”

What we cannot control should not cause us anxiety. “And [Jesus] said to his disciples, Therefore I say to you, Do not be continually anxious for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on...Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: how much more are you worth than the fowls?” There is a promise, too, that if we are faithful to God, He will supply our basic needs.

Stress and anxious thought achieve nothing positive. “And which of you with being anxious can add to his stature one cubit?”

All humans receive the same things - the sun rises for the poor, the rich, the wicked, the good. There are events common to all humanity - birth, love, death. This consideration helps us to maintain an even temper with calamities or stressful situations, when we contemplate the fact that “all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked...”

All our striving results in the same thing, in the sense that we all came naked into this world, and we all leave it equally naked, without possessions. We should think of this; it is stress-reducing to realise “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with hard labour and anxiety of spirit.” Much stress can be reduced by refusing to fall into the trap of overwork. To be a workaholic gives no one any benefit. Workaholics have increased risks of heart attack and stroke, and to put it simply, money beyond what is necessary for survival is not worth risking one's life to earn.

When a tragedy occurs, we cannot help but grieve. We know there is a time to mourn... but there is also a time to let go of the mourning lest it become morbid grief. To find comfort in grief, we must have full assurance of the goodness of God. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me [said Jesus], because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted...” If we allow our grief its natural course, we can survive it to the time of joy.

Dealing effectively with difficult people starts from the inside out. Many problems with other people can be avoided when we ourselves show the fruit of the spirit; being loving, patient, kind, compassionate, temperate, and so on. “He that is soon angry deals foolishly”, so it is wise to be self-controlled. Avoid inflaming a person who is already angry: “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Avoid vain arguments: “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” If you have no choice but to deal with people who are haughty, arrogant, contemptuous, self-righteous, bullying and so on, make sure that your own character is under control. You cannot control the character, words or actions of another person. Focus upon Christ, and speak with the kindness required of all those who follow Christ. This will help you, both in controlling your own words and in keeping down your anxiety.

As a worker, make sure you have a good work ethic. Then you will know that you are worthy of your position, and can be relied upon by your boss. If you are self-employed, you will know from experience that you can't afford to become lazy - but you should not over-work, either. Remember that it's better to earn less by employing a helper, than to try to do it all yourself to earn more. “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also a vain thing.” Whatever happens with regard to your job, your responsibilities or your salary, work honestly and well - and don't be anxious. Anxiety is detrimental to good work. Have peace in the knowledge that you are a good and faithful worker.

The internal factors that can bring us anxiety are most effectively dealt with by knowing God, loving God and His laws, obeying God, and trusting in God. Negative self-image does not come from a thorough knowledge of God. On the contrary; it comes from the darkness that is the enemy of light. Learn that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Walking in the way of the Spirit is absolutely pivotal; we can't have this positive self-image without that close association with God through His Holy Spirit. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Folly is to be avoided, as it affects not only the man who is foolish, but all who come into contact with him and are dependent on him. It brings strife and anxiety into the house and is very hard to deal with. “The foolishness of man perverts his way: and his heart frets against the Lord.” One of the signs that one is being extravagantly foolish is a refusal to listen to wise counsel. “He that refuses instruction despises his own soul: but he that heeds reproof gains understanding.” The pattern of folly is a difficult one to break, but it can be broken by reading the Bible, meditating upon it in prayerful contemplation, and praying to God for wisdom. “Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established.”

These are the things that will help anyone overcome anxiety. 1: Love God above all else; 2: Read the Word of God; 3: Pray always; 4: Put faith into action by loving others and doing good; 5: Meditate (think prayerfully) on passages of the bible - especially those sections that speak about trusting God and praising God (Proverbs and Psalms are excellent for this); 6: Avoid doing those things that aggravate stress such as drinking too much, eating the wrong things, taking drugs, not sleeping enough, and so on. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou only, Lord, makes me dwell in safety.” 7: Make friends who will be friends in adversity, and never be afraid to ask for help if you really need it.
Above all, trust in God. “... casting all your anxiety on Him; for he cares for you.”


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