Tight schedules, financial burdens and the demands of work and family often leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Besides unpleasant feelings and worries, stress also affects physical health. Living under chronic stress is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, weakened immune system, headaches, obesity and more.
The Bible warns us against the dangers of stress (Matthew 6:34) and encourages us to rest in God, trusting Him to work for our good (Proverbs 3:5–6, Matthew 11:28–30). A biblical response to stress is to cast our anxieties onto Him. Although stress is a natural and universal feeling, a relationship with Jesus Christ lightens the load. Turn to Him in your time of need and try these five tips for combating stress.
Say a prayer
Give it to God. Loosening our grip on our worries, anxieties and stressors is one of the best ways to mitigate the physical effects of stress. Prayer’s effects on physical and mental health has been noted in scientific studies. Findings include a lessened craving for alcohol following prayer, as reported by the NYU Langone Medical Center in 2017. Prayer appears to be an important tool for managing stress, and for maintaining a positive attitude, which has a bearing on mental health. Jeremiah 29:12 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Knowing that God will always listen to our worries can be comforting. Don’t discount the impact praying can make on your life.
Get more exercise
Moving our bodies helps keep stress at bay. Keep it simple and don’t feel pressured to join a gym or start training for a marathon—even a daily walk or bike ride can bring you peace. Harvard Medical School suggests 30 to 40 minutes of light exercise or 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. Exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the body and releases mood-boosting and pain-killing endorphins. The sense of accomplishment and the physical changes resulting from regular exercise also improve mood and banish stress.
Check your sleep schedule
When you’re well-rested, you feel better and perform better and experience less stress. On the other hand, the more stress you face, the more difficult it can be to get adequate rest, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety and sleeplessness. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to feel their best and keep their bodies healthy. If you don’t meet that goal, look to address your sleeping habits, whether it’s simply heading to bed earlier or talking to your doctor about insomnia or sleep troubles.
Set healthy boundaries
Setting limits on activities is essential in taking care of your body and being a steward of one of God’s most precious resources—you! Godly women can be pulled in so many directions with family, work, church and community obligations, and it’s often hard to say no. Unfortunately, the more stress you experience, the less help you can offer to yourself and others. Take time to prioritize what really needs your attention, and practice turning down requests that ask too much of you. When you take time to replenish yourself, you can better serve others.
Eat good food
Your diet plays a big role in how you feel. Antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables have been shown to improve cognitive function, which makes managing stress easier. Limit stimulants like caffeine, because they can make stress symptoms worse. Their effects are often short-lived and can create future problems through negative side effects and possible long-term dependence. We often binge on junk food during times of stress, but it simply packs on weight and lowers energy, causing more stress over time. Focus on food that gives you energy, makes you feel good and gets you through the day.