Are you one of over 70 percent of Americans experiencing physical or psychological stress? According to this statistic, you probably are.
Googling “how to relieve stress” will return almost 70 million results, some more helpful than others. The problem is, in our “I just want to fix this or make it go away” mentality, we too often treat the symptoms but not the cause. We attempt to compartmentalize stress when, in reality, it affects our whole person.
The constant demands on our resources, energy, emotions, and intellect affect us emotionally, cognitively, physically, and spiritually. How should we handle the demands and consequences of stress?
More important than practicing breathing exercises or yoga, we need to honestly examine the causes of stress in our lives to begin to mediate the symptoms. The list of legitimate causes is long: health, relationships, major life changes, family, finances, work, not to mention trauma and tragedy that often result in acute stress.
While these external factors are seemingly constant, what causes us to worry from within? Often, the unsettledness of our circumstances and, at a heart level, a sense of a loss of control, fuel our worry and anxiety.
Methods for Handling Stress
Stress takes an undeniable toll on our whole self. Stress threatens our spiritual and emotional health in a big way. The following methods are not novel or groundbreaking. Instead, they are steadfast tools that help us re-center our hearts.
Ask for help
Stress can be a signal that we are overloaded with too much on our plate. It’s a humbling reminder that we’re finite and fallible. If you’re under a load of stress, it may be time to ask for help from family, friends, co-workers, a coach or mentor. If you are experiencing acute physical, mental, or emotional stress resulting from trauma, seek help immediately. The longer you wait, the worse the load on your mind and heart, and hopelessness and despair seep in, which can lead to depression.
It’s easy to give up community when we’re stressed about anything from a to-do list to family trauma or a work nightmare. Community is meant to strengthen us when we’re weak, help us in times of need, support us during difficulties, and to celebrate together.
Resist the urge to walk away from community when you feel overwhelmed. Stay plugged in with people who care and help you stay accountable.
Examine your load
We need to learn to share burdens as part of loving our neighbors. You are responsible for what’s on your plate. Too much prolonged stress may mean it is time to draw some boundaries, start saying “no”, and lightening your own load.
This one seems obvious, but sometimes it’s harder than it seems. Praying re-routes our primary attention from a natural issue to a “super” natural solution. “Letting go and letting God”. The “serenity prayer” is a long standing prayer for almost anybody that if prayed regularly, can help center your mind and heart.
“God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
These practices help recalibrate our spiritual and emotional responses to stressors that disrupt equilibrium in our lives. These elements are a big part of developing a healthy EIQ.
Adapted / BH / ELIZABETH MOYER
Elizabeth Moyer formerly served as the Publications Manager at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. . She graduated from UNC with a BA in English and Religious Studies.