The Bible’s Viewpoint
What Can Help You Cope With Stress?
ARE you a victim of stress? If so, you have plenty of company. These are “critical times hard to deal with,” and people of all ages and walks of life are experiencing stress. (2 Timothy 3:1) Some experts claim that more than half of all visits to the doctor are due to stress-related problems.
Yet stress is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. “In fact,” says a stress-clinic director, “it gives us our excitement, enthusiasm for living, energy for getting things done. We enjoy it—if we can manage it.”
On the other hand, stress can be devastating, destructive. What, then, if stress is causing problems for you? Here are a few suggestions based on Bible wisdom that may help you minimize its destructive effects.
Avoid Unreasonable Expectations
“Expectation postponed is making the heart sick,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 13:12) When expectations are never fulfilled, the stress can be overpowering. This is almost bound to occur when we set our expectations unrealistically high.
For example, the advertising media have duped many into believing that their happiness depends upon owning material things. When one craves for things far beyond one’s means, the results can be stress and frustration. The Bible thus offers this advice: “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Yes, even though you may not have the car, the home, or the furniture you’d like to own, appreciate what you do have. Keep material expectations modest.
Unreasonable expectations involving people can also bring stress. For example, while an employer or supervisor has the right to expect a reasonable level of performance from those in his charge, it is foolish to expect perfection from them. Carlos, a Brazilian factory supervisor, says: “You have to accept people as they are. If you expect more than they can give, it will elevate the stress level, making everyone unhappy.”—Compare Jeremiah 17:5-8.
Control the Stress of Achievement
The Latin America Daily Post reveals another source of stress, stating that ‘achievement-oriented, competitive behavior is a significant risk factor in heart disease.’ A young accountant admits: “At the office I’m so nervous and afraid to reveal any weakness. I work intensely and feel it frustrating not to receive acknowledgment from others.”
Regarding such quests for recognition and achievement, Solomon said: “I myself have seen all the hard work and all the proficiency in work, that it means the rivalry of one toward another; this also is vanity and a striving after the wind.”—Ecclesiastes 4:4.
The fact is, ‘the swift do not always have the race’ when it comes to job advancement or recognition. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Maria, a Brazilian office worker, put it this way: “A person may have ability, but circumstances, and maybe even favoritism, can hinder promotion.”—Compare Ecclesiastes 2:21; 10:6.
Keep your expectations modest and recognize your limitations. Work for the joy that work itself brings instead of working only for advancement. (Ecclesiastes 2:24) Really, the achievement-obsessed person not only loses much of the joy of life but also can become so tense that he undermines his own efforts to succeed. Dr. Arnold Fox thus advised: “Wanting to be the best in your field is an admirable goal, but don’t allow that one thought to dominate your life. If you ignore thoughts of love, laughter, and the joy of life, or if you are so fixated that you forget to enjoy life, you are stressing yourself.”
Things You Can Do
Another way to fight off the tension of daily pressures is to cultivate a sense of humor. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) You do not have to be a comedian to have a cheerful attitude. “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.”—Proverbs 17:22.
Do you have the tendency to put things off until tomorrow? In the long run, procrastination increases rather than reduces stress. The Bible advises: “Do not loiter at your business.” (Romans 12:11) Make a list, written or mental, of the things you need to do. (Proverbs 21:5) Then decide what things need to be done first—and set about doing them.
What, though, if in spite of your best efforts, you still feel tense or stressed? You may need to make a concerted effort to change your thinking. Do not dwell upon past errors. This can add much stress to the present. A 19th-century philosopher wrote: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Although we can learn from failures, our present actions form our future.
King David pointed to the best stress remedy when he prayed to Jehovah: “Distresses of my heart have multiplied; from the stresses upon me O bring me out.” (Psalm 25:17) Yes, David looked to God to relieve his anxieties. If you take the time to read and to meditate on God’s Word, you will likewise find that you will feel closer to God. As you come to appreciate God’s purposes, you will be moved to put his interests first in your life, which will relieve you of many unnecessary anxieties. (Matthew 6:31, 33) Learn to take one day at a time. Why add tomorrow’s anxieties to those of today? Jesus put it this way: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.”—Matthew 6:34.
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“A person may have ability, but circumstances, and maybe even favoritism, can hinder promotion”
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Funds given by the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Inc., and the Charles Ulrick and Josephine Bay Foundation, Inc., and the Fletcher Fund, 1967.