Your boss has just dropped a huge pile of work on your desk, your kids have a million after school events, and your mortgage is a month past due – to say you’re stressed and about to snap would be an understatement.
How are you going to manage all of this? Is there any way to relieve the stress before it kills you? The short answer is YES!
(p.s. you can click any of the bulleted sections to jump ahead)
We’ll start by:
- Identifying Your Stress and then
- focus on 5 Foundational Ways to Handle Stress and
- 15 Therapeutic Ways to Relieve Stress.
Let’s get started. Here’s a PDF with all 20 ways to relieve stress: 20 Highly Effective Ways to Relieve Stress
Identify Your Stress
The first step in relieving the stress in your life is recognizing what’s causing it.
This will be different for everyone and will likely change throughout your life. Since we’re not promised tomorrow (or even the next second) begin by identifying your current stressors.
There are three main stress categories to think about:
- work related stress,
- life stress, and
- internal stress.
Work stress could include loss of a job, a demanding work schedule, difficult coworkers or supervisors, your workload, and many other things.
Causes of life stress include:
- extended family
- your significant other
- politics and the state of our country
- death of a loved one
- chronic illness or injury
- saying yes to more things than you have time for
- trying to “keep up with the Joneses”
- and personal trauma.
There are many other things that could cause life stress so don’t feel confined to this list.
Emotional stress is caused by things going on inside of us. It includes things like:
- low self-esteem
- fear and uncertainty
- attitudes and perceptions about things
- unrealistic expectations (of yourself or others)
- and any form of change.
Take a moment and write down everything, from those categories, that’s currently causing you stress.
With your stress list in hand, go through the “5 Foundational Ways to Handle Stress”. Then determine which of the “15 Therapeutic Ways to Relieve Stress” will best help you manage or resolve your current stressors.
Handling stress may require one, or a combination of things, from the therapeutic list. The first and second foundational steps, prayer and giving stress to the Lord, are needed for all forms of stress.
They’re the foundation for a successful life of peace.
5 Foundational Ways to Handle Stress
1. Spend time in prayer.
There’s a reason God tells us to “pray without ceasing”. Constant communication with the Lord is the only way you and I can make it through life without stress. Stress, no matter the size, talked through with your Abba Father, becomes “peace that passes all understanding.”
2. Give your stress to the Lord.
Part of spending time in prayer is giving your struggles to the Lord. The Bible tells us to take up Jesus’ yoke and that His yoke is “easy and His burden is light”. When we truly give our stress to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will give us peace and show us what we’re to do.
3. Identify your “why”.
Knowing what you want to have achieved, and want to be known for, when your time on earth is over = your “why”.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what God’s will is for you. Then base everything you do around that. Then you’ll know that all you do is done with an eternal purpose and that God will provide the strength needed to see it through to completion.
4. Do some subtraction.
Based on your “why”, what things need removed from your life? You’ve got 24 hours a day and 6 days a week to do what needs done. God asks us trust Him enough that we spend one day a week worshiping and honoring Him.
If there’s nothing you can remove from your life right now, be mindful about what you chose to say “yes” to moving forward. Honor the commitments you currently have and when they’re completed, don’t add anything in their place.
5. Proactively plan.
Schedule everything (I mean everything) on a google or paper calendar. Don’t spend more time on something than was scheduled. Over time you’ll find this allows for unexpected “free time”. Win!
Now that you’ve got the foundational steps for handling stress in place you can start working in some of the therapeutic stress relief activities.
15 Therapeutic Ways to Relieve Stress
1. Carve out “you” time.
This could be as little as 5 or 10 minutes, just make sure it’s all about you. Yes, that may seem a little selfish but…I know you more than deserve it. Schedule some “you” time everyday and spend it doing something that brings you joy.
2. Go for a 10 minute walk.
There’s science on this one. Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to handle stress and relax. Take a moment, walk, and gaze at the handiwork of God’s around you. When you look at the awesomeness of creation it’s easier to rest, knowing God can more than handle whatevers causing you stress.
3. Take time to breath deeply.
If you’ve got a smartwatch you can get an app that’ll remind you to take a minute and breath. If not, set an alarm on your phone every hour. When it goes off set a 60 second timer, then spend that minute breathing.
- While counting to four take a deep breath in through your nose,
- hold it for a count of seven, and then
- slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
- Repeat until your timer goes off.
4. Step away from all screens.
Yup, I said “all screens”. The constant stimuli from computers, phones, tablets, etc. has been found to cause women stress. Both men and women are at risk of increased stress from late night screen use. Don’t worry – you just need to give yourself a break. Good news is the two above steps will help you do just that.
5. Listen to relaxing music.
Even if you’re doing something stressful, playing relaxing music in the background can be enough to manage the stressful situation. If you’re able, play your favorite worship music so your mind can be “set on things above” while you complete whatever tasks are before you.
6. Laugh and laugh some more.
Want to mentally and physically manage stress? Find something that’ll make you laugh. No joke. It has a positive impact on your cardiovascular and immune system, releases calming endorphins, quiets the stressful hormones, improves your mood, and so much more.
- “How can you make God laugh?” “Tell Him your plans”
- “How does Moses make tea?” “He brews.”
7. Progressively relax your muscles.
Ever notice that when you’re stressed your shoulder and neck get all out of whack? Manage your stress by getting your muscles to work for you.
- Start by tightening your toe muscles and holding them tight for a count of 5 or 10.
- Then slowly, while exhaling, release your muscles.
- Gradually work all the way up to the top of your head.
- Tightening, releasing, and exhaling.
I like to thank God for something while I’m releasing my muscles. It’s also a good time to release your stress to the Lord.
8. Spend time with a friend.
True friends are good for the heart and soul, especially when you have one to confide in. Invite a friend to go for a walk or grab some happy hour tacos (those are my favorite things to do with friends). Then spend time sharing life, listening to each other, and offering and accepting Godly advice.
9. Learn a craft.
Having something to do that works your fingers and mind is a great way to relieve stress. There’s a reason things like crochet, knitting, embroidery, and other forms of art have carried on for ages. Even if you just grab an adult coloring book and some colored pencils, you’re still crafting.
Creating something draws us away from our stress and refocuses our mind on the project at hand.
10. Exercise daily.
This is one of the most powerful ways to manage stress. Physical activity releases feel good endorphins and shifts the way our body responds to stress. Whether it’s the 10 minute walk above, a yoga session, or a brutal bootcamp, if you want to relieve stress and do your body all sorts of good, do some form of exercise..
11. Serve others.
Focusing your mind and heart on someone else is a great stress relief activity. Serving others reminds you how good your life truly is. It draws your attention back to what truly matters, has eternal impact, and reminds you of the many things to be thankful for.
12. Change what you eat.
Food can cause stress. Yuppers – the standard American diet (aka SAD) causes stress. People who eat processed foods are more prone to anxiety and hypersensitivity to stress.
Problem is, when you eat processed foods it leads to feeling more stress, and stress leads to wanting more processed food. It’s an ugly vicious loop and you’ve gotta break it.
It’s okay to start small. Try trading one of your daily processed foods for a vegetable or exchange one of your regular meals for a whole foods meal. Check out these posts here and here for more information on what to eat and why.
13. Get some sleep.
If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night there’s a good chance you’re struggling with stress. If you’re fighting to sleep at night, check out this post here for a few tips on improving your sleep.
14. Read a book.
Picking up a real paper or hardback book is oh so therapeutic. Choose something you’ll enjoy and not something that’s hard to read or could be considered work. You want the time you spend reading to be fun and relaxing.
15. Pet a dog.
If you don’t already have a dog, I’d suggest getting one (or at least make friends with someone who has one). It might seem silly but petting a dog truly does lower your stress levels.
I pray both the foundational and therapeutic ways to relieve stress provide you a ray of hope.
Stress happens and as women of God we have to know how to handle it when it comes knocking at our door. If there’s stress in your life so big you can’t see your way out of it, would you trust God with it?
I dare say, test Him with it.
He will give you the strength and provide all you need to journey through any and everything life throws at you.
When stressful things pile up all around us it can be easy to think God’s not listening or helping. If you’re feeling this way would you ask the Holy Spirit to show you where God is and what He wants?
Ask Him to reveal anything God wants you to do or change and then be willing to act, no matter how difficult God’s request might be.
Listen for the Spirit’s voice and obey in whatever way He prompts you to.
Trust that anything God asks you to do is something He’ll equip you to do.
God desires that we trust Him so deeply and unequivocally there’s no place for stress.
If you didn’t read or listen to Wednesday’s post, “Lessons from David on Handling Stress”, go back and spend some time with God as you go through the devotion questions in that post. It provides the Biblical foundation for the therapeutic steps in this post.
Sarah and I would love to be praying for with and supporting you. Leave us a comment below or send us an email here. We spend time each day praying for our readers and it would be an honor to specifically lift your needs up to the Lord.
There is power in prayer.
Until next time, take Jesus at His word: