My husband and I often go on walks through our neighborhood park. One day, our 9-year-old daughter, Katherine, wanted to tag along.
Robbie and I grumbled about the difficulties of our current circumstances, while Katherine gathered “wishes” (dandelion seed pods) and blew them across the grassy lawns.
At one point, with a handful of the fluffy puffs, Katherine came skipping from behind us as fast as she could, hair flowing in the breeze with “wishes” flying all around her. She burst into laughter as she watched the seeds scatter through the air.
In the midst of what we considered a chaotic and irritating life, Katherine was carefree, unaware of how hard life can be.
I wanted to be her in that moment—a lighthearted child, assured all is well.
God gave us a longing for that kind of peace and rest. Unfortunately, most of us maintain a life of continual anxiety, over all kinds of issues—large and small. Instead of enjoying the positive outcomes of hard times, our imaginations usually run wild with all the “possibilities” of a fallout.
That kind of fear takes a toll on our bodies, our attitudes, and our relationships.
Dr. Archibald Hart is an expert on the effects of stress on the body. In his book The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress, he says:
Ninety-five percent of stress is caused by other people … How do people cause us stress? Chiefly they make us fearful and angry, by threatening our security or withholding the love or approval we crave. And the emotions of fear and anger, which in turn cause more fear and bring out self-protecting instincts, push buttons at the very core of our survival mechanisms. When we become angry or fearful, the message we send our bodies is “Danger!”
In order to have healthy marriages and families, we must reduce the amount of stress in our lives, particularly if it’s at an overwhelming level. Here are seven ideas to help you reduce the pressure.
1. Evaluate your stress level. There are several online tests to determine your stress level. You can also take the test designed by Dennis and Barbara Rainey in their book Pressure Proof Your Marriage. Just total up the points and check your score. This test will give you a broad view of the commitments and challenges in your life and identify major pressure points.
2. Refresh daily with the Bible. Psalm 1:3 says the man who delights in God’s Word “will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water … and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Reading scripture will equip you with wisdom, peace, courage to help your daily battles. It’s a necessary investment in your life to live stress-free.
Find a place to get alone with God. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). You may be thinking, “I wish I could get away, but my children constantly beg for my attention!” Susanna Wesley was mother to 19 children (including John and Charles Wesley). When she wanted to spend time with God, she covered her head with an apron, a sign to leave Mother alone!
You may not even own an apron, but the moral of the story is circumstances don’t have to be perfect to spend time with God. He can meet you wherever you are.
3. Take a day each week to rest. God thinks rest is so important He made it one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8). God even rested after six days of creating the world (Genesis 2:2). If God needs rest, then you do, too!
While planning your weekly activities, set aside one day with no plans or meetings. Dr. Hart says, “I am convinced that most of us could improve our physical and emotional health dramatically if we just slept or rested a little longer than usual.” Make it a family night. Connect by solving a jigsaw puzzle, playing games, or making popcorn and ice cream floats and watching a movie.
4. Seek peace with others, especially at home. Unresolved conflict can cause high anxiety. Proverbs 29:9 says, “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”
As Christians, we’re told to be at peace as much as possible (Romans 12:18). That includes your spouse and children. Cold winter months or illness can create prolonged periods of together time. Being stuck at home makes life harder and more stressful.
First, pray for a heart of forgiveness for those who offended you and a heart of humility as you face how you offended others. Then make a list of those relationships that need restitution. For a complete guide on how to resolve conflict, visit Peacemaker® Ministries.
If tackling sensitive issues makes your marriage suffer more, put off the major topics until you can meet with a counselor. Some counseling offices even offer zoom and facetime meetings.
5. Take one day at a time. Humanity thrives on schedules. We like routine and knowing what to expect in the near future. But sometimes our plans are unexpectedly changed or even ruined.
You may feel out of control, but God is still in control. As Job marveled, “Does He not see my ways and number all my steps?” (31:4). Put your life in His hands and don’t worry. Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
6. Create a schedule. As previously stated, humankind thrives on schedules. Your life will be less chaotic and run more smoothly if you create loose schedules. Don’t keep it too rigid. Allow for last minute surprises. But order will help you make some easy decisions.
- Wake up at the same time each day
- Take a shower and get dressed. Even if you wear jeans and a t-shirt, you’ll feel ready to tackle the day.
- Create a daily/weekly schedule for reoccurring activities. Don’t forget to include times for rest and play.
- Eat healthy meals, regulate sleep, and do some form of daily exercise.
7. Remember, this too shall pass. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us God has set a proper time for everything under heaven (see chapter 3). He is the controller of the universe, so you don’t have to be. There will be mistakes and misunderstandings, but there is no problem too big for God to handle. As Solomon said, “He makes all things beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Instead of stressing over difficult circumstances, take a deep breath, and use this time as a faith-building experience. Trust God to take care of everything.
Copyright © 2019 by Sabrina McDonald.