In it's natural state, life is stressful. All of us deal with feeling stressed and overwhelmed and it's easy to think that, "Once I get __________, I won't be so stressed anymore." Well that's a lie! Stress will never stop trying to get it's grimy paws into you. The key to living in victory over stress is not by getting to the point where you never feel it, but learning to overcome in the midst of it.
So here are 4 things that I have found helpful when the stress starts to press. If you start implementing just one, I believe you'll see a difference.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
How we start the day is very important. It's the first thing we experience and will set to tone for hours to come, whether good or bad. If we have control over it, then we might as well use it to our advantage and start our day intentional.
Some ways that we can be intentional with our mornings are getting up a little earlier to spend our first few moments with God, getting that a.m. workout in, checking emails, drinking coffee, anything that will set your mood up right and give you that extra kick to take on your day with confidence. What you eat is also important. I like to start my day with a protein shake after a quick workout. That way, all day I'm craving healthy food and working off of natural energy that doesn't crash.
There's lot's of ways to start your day. Find what works for you and do it over and over again until it becomes a habit (which they say takes 21 days). You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.
2. Be Thankful
This may seem like it doesn't have much to do with stress, but that is precisely why we spend so much time stressed out! When we take the time to thank God for everything we do have, and not just complain about everything we don't, it positions our hearts at a higher level. We are able to look down on our problems from a new perspective and see how small they really are.
When we magnify our problems, it's like we're putting our hand over our face and shouting, "This hand is SO big!" But when we move it away from us, it becomes much smaller. It's the same with our problems. Yes, they are real and yes, things are not always fair. But just because something is true doesn't mean that it is TRUTH. When we take time to speak truth into our lives by thanking God for His promises and faithfulness, the issues shrink until they are suddenly not there anymore, or at least at a point where they become insignificant.
3. Release What Isn't Your Responsibility
This one is much easier said than done. In theory, it seems like common sense, but when the hustle becomes real, most of us start taking things on that were never ours to begin with. When you take on other people's burdens and responsibilities, it will keep you in a constant state of frustration because there is nothing you can do about it. I feel like this can become even more of a challenge when working within a team. It can be easier to take on the responsibility of everyone, even if it means failure, than to let go and not feel like you have total control of the outcome.
Some things to let go of would be: other people's projects and tasks, people's talents and abilities, people's ideals and opinions, people's successes and failures, people's ambition or lack thereof, false expectations (especially ones created by you), your success, your dreams, your influence. Whaaaaaat? Those last few seem like things we should take responsibility for, right? Wrong! The Christian life is not about what we can do in our own strength, but what God is able to do in spite of our strength. Rest assured, if He put a dream or desire in your heart, he didn't do that so He could dangle it on a fishing line while you struggle to reach it. He wants you to trust Him with the outcome.
YES, we still put our hands to the tasks at hand and do the best we can with what we've been given. I'm not suggesting we become passive about our dreams and ambition, but I am saying that the burden to make them become a reality is not yours, but God's. That way, when you do reach those places in life, you can point to God and say, "It wasn't me, but all the glory goes to God." That's what it's all about.
4. Cast Your Cares
This isn't just a sweet scripture that we say when we don't know what to say. It's a command. When sheep are out grazing in a field, they aren't taking turns on "watch duty" to make sure some hungry wolf doesn't come make them his mid-morning snack. No, they don't have a care in the world. Their Shepherd is watching over them and holds their life in his hands. They don't fear because they are His.
Jesus did not come so that you could take on His burdens. He came so that you could have life and life abundantly! If I were to start taking on the burden of providing for my family, making a living and directing our life, I would be so overwhelmed and stressed. But what is a burden for me is a mantle for my husband because he has been uniquely equipped by God to take on this charge and has a grace to do it well.
When we try to make our dreams a reality, it becomes a never-ending burden to us, one that crushes and immobilizes our progress. That's why we can be working harder than ever and feel like we're going nowhere. But what's a burden to us is a mantle to Jesus and He wants you to take off that weight and give it to Him. That way, you're free to live life abundantly and spend your days chasing after Him, while He leads you towards you destiny.
By taking some simple, active steps, you can alleviate so much stress in your life. It certainly won't stop stress from coming, but it will empower you to overcome stress until it's something that just doesn't get to you as easily as it used to. The closer we get to our dreams, the more stress will be waiting for us. It's better we learn now how to properly handle it so that we will be ready to move on to what's important.