You Can Cope With Stress!
“THE struggle to balance work, family, and outside commitments has intensified in recent years.” So says a recent book on family life. Yes, we live in stressful times. This is hardly a surprise to students of the Bible, though, because it predicted that these would be “critical times hard to deal with.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
“Stress is normal,” says Jesús, a father of three children. “So you have to know how to control it.” Granted, controlling stress may be easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are both practical suggestions and Bible principles that can help you.
Coping With Job Stress
Are you under stress, perhaps because of conditions on your job? Suffering in silence may only make you feel more pressured. As the Bible says at Proverbs 15:22, “there is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.”
Researchers on stress in the workplace recommend “talking to your employer: if they don’t know there’s a problem, they can’t help.” This doesn’t mean venting rage and frustration. “Calmness itself allays great sins,” states Ecclesiastes 10:4. Be businesslike and avoid a confrontational approach. Perhaps you can convince your employer that less job stress will mean more productivity.
The same can be said for other work-related problems, such as tensions and conflicts with workmates. Look for productive ways to confront such problems, perhaps doing research if necessary. A number of articles have been published in this journal that might prove helpful.* If the situation seems beyond salvaging, it may be best to consider changing employment.
Relieving Financial Pressure
The Bible also has advice that can help you to deal with financial pressure. Jesus Christ exhorted: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” (Matthew 6:25) How is that possible? By cultivating the confidence that Jehovah God will provide your basic needs. (Matthew 6:33) God’s promise is no empty platitude. Millions of Christians today are sustained by it.
Of course, you also need “practical wisdom” when it comes to money. (Proverbs 2:7; Ecclesiastes 7:12) The Bible reminds us: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:7, 8) Learning to be content with less is realistic and practical. Recall Leandro, who became wheelchair-bound as a result of an accident. He and his wife took steps to conserve their money. Leandro explains: “We try to economize. For example, if a light is not being used, we turn it off in order to save on electricity. As for the car, we plan where we are going and combine errands in order to save on fuel.”
Parents can help children to have the right attitude. Leandro’s daughter Carmen admits: “I tend to buy on impulse, but my parents have helped me to discern what is really necessary and what is not. At first, it was difficult to adjust. But I learned to distinguish between wanting and needing.”
Communication—A Stress Reliever
Home should be a haven from stress, but oftentimes it is one of the biggest sources of it. The reason? “Couples . . . who are mildly distressed, or those who are hostile,” says the book Survival Strategies for Couples, “cite lack of communication as the most frequent source of discord.”
Bible principles can help couples to improve their ability to communicate. The Bible says that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak” and that “a word at its right time is O how good!” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7; Proverbs 15:23) Knowing this might prevent you from bringing up an emotional subject when your mate is tired or stressed out. Is it not better to wait for the right time—when your mate is more likely to be disposed to listen?
True, if you have had to endure a difficult day at work, it may not be easy to be calm or patient. But what can happen when we vent our frustrations by speaking harshly to our marriage mate? The Bible reminds us that “a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Proverbs 15:1) By way of contrast, “pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) It may take real determination to keep marital discussions free of “malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech.” (Ephesians 4:31) The benefits, however, are worth it. Couples who communicate can be a source of mutual comfort and support. “With those consulting together there is wisdom,” says Proverbs 13:10.*
The Challenge of Parent-Child Communication
Communicating with children is challenging—especially when time is at a premium. The Bible encourages parents to speak to their offspring at every opportunity, such as ‘when sitting in the house and when walking on the road.’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-8) “One must seek opportunities to talk,” says Leandro. “When I am in the car with my son, I take advantage of the opportunity to talk with him.”
Granted, not all parents find it easy to communicate with their children. Alejandra, a mother of three, admits: “I did not know how to listen. Lack of good communication made me feel angry and guilty.” How might a parent improve? Begin by learning to be “swift about hearing.” (James 1:19) “Active listening is a most effective tool for reducing stress,” says Dr. Bettie B. Youngs. You must pay attention to how you listen. Make eye contact. Avoid minimizing your children’s problems. Encourage your children to express their feelings. Ask appropriate questions. Generously express your love and confidence that they will do what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Pray with your children.
It takes effort to practice healthy communication. But doing so can help you minimize stress in your family. Communication can help you to discern if your children are experiencing stress. You can better give your children wise direction if you understand their feelings and circumstances. Finally, young ones who are encouraged to talk out their stresses will be less prone to act them out through misconduct.
Cooperation—The Key to Handling Chores
When both husband and wife work secularly, caring for household chores can become another source of stress. Some working mothers cope by simplifying their household routines. They may conclude that it is neither possible nor practical to serve elaborate meals. Recall Jesus’ advice to a woman who was fixing an elaborate meal: “A few things, though, are needed, or just one.” (Luke 10:42) So simplify. The book The Single-Parent Family suggests: “Make stews and other one-pot meals to cut down on cleanup.” Yes, simplifying your household routine can reduce stress.
Even at that, there may be many things that need to be done. Admits one working mother: “When I was young, I could handle everything. Now that I am older, it is more difficult. The hectic life I have led has begun to take its toll on me. So cooperation from each member of the family is a demonstration of consideration, and it helps to keep me from developing serious stress.” Yes, if all family members pitch in, chores can be done without putting an undue load on anyone. A book on parenting observes: “Assigning children household chores is one of the best ways to build . . . a feeling of competence. Regular chores establish helpful habits and good attitudes about work.” Doing household chores together can also give you an opportunity to spend time with your children.
Young Julieta says: “I can see that my mother feels good when I take some of the burden off her. That gives me pleasure and makes me feel responsible. It helps me to appreciate my home. Learning how to take care of household chores has given me a foundation for the future.” Mary Carmen similarly relates: “From the time we were small, my parents taught us children to look after ourselves. This has given us a great advantage.”
Healthy Ways to Face Stress
Stress is a modern-day fact of life; you cannot avoid it. You can, however, learn to cope with it. (See the box on page 10.) Following the principles of the Bible can help. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by some situation, remember that “there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Talk things over with a mature friend or with your marriage mate. “Don’t bottle it up,” says sociologist Ronald L. Pitzer. “Confide your feelings and worry to some level-headed person who is likely to understand and care.”
The Bible also speaks of “dealing rewardingly with [one’s] own soul.” (Proverbs 11:17) Yes, it is fine to care for your own needs. The Bible says: “Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) Setting aside some time for yourself can do wonders—even if it is just a few minutes in the early morning so you can enjoy a cup of tea, read, pray, or meditate in peace.
Moderate exercise and a healthful diet are also helpful. A book on parenting reminds us: “When you spend some of your valuable time and energy on yourself, you are, in essence, filling your personal-resource bank. . . . Constantly giving means that you’ve got to be sure there’s something going back in as well, or you’ll risk becoming emotionally short-changed, if not actually bankrupt.”
In addition, the Bible helps one to develop qualities needed to cope with stress, such as “mildness of temper,” patience, and kindness. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 Timothy 6:11) More than that, the Bible offers hope—the promise of a coming new world in which all of the things that promote human misery will pass away! (Revelation 21:1-4) It therefore makes sense to cultivate the habit of reading the Bible daily. If you would like help in getting such a program started, Jehovah’s Witnesses would be delighted to give you personal assistance, free of charge.
This is not to say that a Christian leads a stress-free life. But Jesus said that it is possible to avoid becoming “weighed down with . . . anxieties of life.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Also, if you come to know Jehovah God as a friend, he can be a real refuge for you! (Psalm 62:8) He can help you to cope with the stresses of life.
See the series “Victimized at Work—What Can You Do?” in our issue of May 8, 2004.
For further information, see chapter 3 of the book The Secret of Family Happiness, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 11]
“When I was young, I could handle everything. Now that I am older, it is more difficult. The hectic life I have led has begun to take its toll on me”
[Box/Pictures on page 10]
How to Reduce Stress
◼ Give your body sufficient rest each day
◼ Maintain a reasonable diet. Avoid overeating
◼ Engage in proper and regular exercise, such as brisk walking
◼ If something worries you, talk to a friend about it
◼ Spend more time enjoying your family
◼ Delegate or share household chores
◼ Know your own physical and emotional limitations
◼ Set realistic goals; do not be a perfectionist
◼ Be organized; have a balanced, reasonable schedule
◼ Cultivate Christian qualities such as mildness and patience
◼ Set aside some time for yourself
[Picture on page 7]
Respectfully talking out problems with an employer may result in less job stress
[Picture on page 8]
Parents can discuss ways of conserving money with their children
[Picture on page 8]
As a youth, talk out your stress with someone who can help
[Picture on page 8, 9]
All can help around the house