Keeping Stress Under Control
The Bible speaks of “perilous times of great stress and trouble.” You may well agree that we are living in a time of great stress right now.—2 Timothy 3:1, The Amplified Bible.
AS YOU are well aware, it is easier to put out a small fire than to extinguish a raging inferno. Similarly, small doses of stress are easier to control than large amounts of stress that have built up over a period of time. One medical doctor says that “it is crucial that we make the daily practice of stress management a priority in our busy lives.”a
The aim of making a daily practice of stress management is twofold. First, it helps us to reduce the stressful triggers in life that can be reduced. And second, it helps us to control our response to the stresses that are unavoidable.
Does the Bible provide guidance that can help us to deal with stress?
Bible Truths Are Vital
By absorbing truths from within the pages of the Bible, we can gain access to the refreshing, sustaining thoughts of our Creator. God’s Word is a source of valuable guidance. Indeed, it is a vast reservoir of stress-relieving spiritual truths! These can help us to avoid ‘suffering shock or being terrified’ and to cope successfully with daily stresses.—Joshua 1:7-9.
The Bible helps us to reduce stress in a wonderful way by reassuring us that our heavenly Father, Jehovah, “is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:11) “The one thing that has helped me a lot,” explains Patricia, who worked as a professor at a university in California, “is thinking about God’s will and the wonderful things he is accomplishing.”
Think of how the tender words and dealings of Jesus Christ long ago refreshed his oppressed and stressed listeners. “Come to me, all of you who are overworked and overburdened,” he appealed, “and I will give you rest [i.e., spiritual refreshment].”—Matthew 11:28-30, The New Testament—An Understandable Version; brackets theirs.
True to his words, Jesus was not harsh. Rather, he showed consideration for the emotional and physical needs of his disciples, even making arrangements for them to get rest from their busy routine of preaching. (Mark 6:30-32) We can be confident that Jesus, now a heavenly King, has tender empathy for us when we experience debilitating stress. He mercifully comes to our aid by providing “help at the right time.”—Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:16.
The Role of Good Communication
Good communication is one of the most essential tools for effective stress management. The Bible teaches: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.” (Proverbs 15:22) Thus, many find that talking to their marriage mate, a friend, or a colleague does much to reduce stress.
A most important, useful, and accessible form of “confidential talk” is prayer to God. Using this provision regularly can help you to avoid being “anxious over anything.” Many have found that by depending on prayer, they have been helped to realize “the peace of God that excels all thought.” In keeping with the Bible’s promise, ‘the hearts and mental powers’ of such ones have been protected.—Philippians 4:6, 7; Proverbs 14:30.
One reference work on stress says that “people with social support networks tend to cope better with stress and have better mental health than those who try to do everything by themselves.” There is no better support group than that enjoyed by those who worship the true God, Jehovah. In keeping with Bible admonition, they regularly meet together and encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) “Sometimes I work long hours, and I’m under a lot of stress,” said one such meeting attender. “Yet, when I go to the meeting, I find that by the final prayer, the stress is gone and I feel refreshed.”
Not to be overlooked is the value of a sense of humor in dealing with stress. Ecclesiastes 3:4 states that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Laughing is both refreshing and healthful because, as one doctor explains, “the body produces endorphins and suppresses the production of adrenaline when we laugh.” One wife noted: “My husband comes up with something funny in the most stressful situations, and that really helps.”
Qualities That Reduce Stress
The Bible encourages qualities that reduce stress. These include “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, [and] self-control,” which are called “the fruitage of [God’s] spirit.” Moreover, the Bible urges us to avoid “malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech.” Then it adds: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.”—Galatians 5:22, 23; Ephesians 4:31, 32.
A doctor explains the value of applying such Bible teachings, especially in today’s world. “Dealing respectfully with people,” he says, “is a big stress reliever.” The Bible also helps us to cultivate modesty, which means having a moderate estimate of our abilities.—Micah 6:8.
God expects us humbly to acknowledge that we have physical, mental, and emotional limits and that we cannot do everything we would like to do. As difficult as this can be, we may need to learn when and how to say no to demands that exceed what we realistically can handle.
This is not to say that if all the Bible-based advice provided above was applied, you would be free of all stress. The fact is, Satan the Devil has made those who worship God the focus of his efforts to prove that they will abandon true worship when they are put under enough stress. (Revelation 12:17) Yet, as we have seen, there are many ways that God provides timely resources to help us reduce and cope with stress.b
a When you experience stress that is prolonged or severe enough to cause health problems, it may be advisable to consult a health-care professional for medical treatment.
b For additional ways to cope with stress, please see the series “Relief From Stress!” in the February 8, 2005, issue of Awake! and “Coping With Today’s Hectic Pace,” in the issue of February 8, 2001.
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SOME WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS
● Don’t expect perfection of yourself or others.—Ecclesiastes 7:16.
● Set appropriate priorities.—Philippians 1:10, 11.
● Get regular exercise.—1 Timothy 4:8.
● Enjoy Jehovah’s creation.—Psalm 92:4, 5.
● Make some quiet time regularly.—Matthew 14:23.
● Get sufficient relaxation and sleep.—Ecclesiastes 4:6.
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Making time to communicate is vital for reducing stress
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Cultivating godly qualities helps reduce stress