Stress is quite an issue today. At my high school,
we have stress surveys, stress-reduction workshops,
and even "Stress Free Fridays" and "Stress
Free Weeks" when teachers are asked not to give
tests, and there are games in the rally court. But
these activities, however fun they are, don't really
solve the problem; they just help people manage or
reduce stress. The ultimate goal would be to eliminate
stress, not just reduce it. The fact that we can control
or reduce stress indicates that it can be eliminated.
You might ask: "Can this be done? If so, how?"
I was driving over one of the seven worst bridges
in the U.S. (which they have now destroyed) on a very
foggy day. I could barely see to the front end of
the car. My hands were clutched tightly on the steering
wheel. My shoulders and arms were tense. My brother,
who was providing an extra set of eyes to help me
drive safely across the bridge, made a statement that
has had a lasting impact on me: "You know,
you can't drive any better tense than you can relaxed."
We laughed. I hadn't realized how tense I really was.
I consciously breathed, loosened my grip, and relaxed.
I let go of tension, worry, and stress. It was easier
to see and to focus on the task ahead, and much easier
to control the car.
My brother's statement, which helped me to relax
and loosen my grip on the wheel of the car, was both
a practical and a spiritual solution. When we are
willing to "let go and let God" direct
everything we do, we can stop worrying. We can then
handle even the most stressful challenges with grace
Stress is a choice.
That's what I learned from this incident. Yes, stress
is a choice, a decision.
- We all know each and every person reacts differently
to very similar situations. What stresses out one
person may not affect another at all.
- This fact reveals that stress is not inherent
in the situation; the event does not of itself cause
stress. It is our perception of and reaction to
it that determines our stress level.
- Joshua understood the power of choice when he
told the children of Israel to make a choice. They
were wavering between trusting in the one God or
trusting in the many gods of the neighboring nations:
[C]hoose you this day whom ye will serve .
. . but as for me and my house, we will serve
the Lord. (Josh. 24:15)
- We can decide to "serve" stress by giving
into it and allowing pressure to control and manipulate
us, or we can decide to serve God by confidently
trusting in Him and allowing God to provide for
and take care of us.
- Individuals who use their God-given tools and
listen to Him respond effectively to circumstances
and minimize or eradicate stress.
- Individuals who choose not to use their God-given
tools allow events or other people to control them
and thereby welcome stress into their lives with
open arms. Unfortunately, the guest they are welcoming
will cause them pain and suffering.
But it's tempting to think that we don't have
that the things we confront cause us stress
-- the homework we have to do, parents pressuring
us to get good grades, having to work, deadlines,
problems in friendships and relationships, arguing
at home, college applications, sports activities,
our social calendar, play productions, all-nighters.
But that's a false assumption. This false assumption
creates more problems for us:
- When we put the blame on an outside force for
making us stressed, we give up our own control.
- When we refuse to take responsibility for our
actions and feelings, we lose touch with who we
- As a result, we allow stress to affect us both
physically and mentally.
- Stress hurts our bodies, weight, health, relationships,
creativity, academics, and ability to function.
Many studies have catalogued the ill effects of
So what does cause stress, if it's not a person
The answer is simple: our reactions to a given situation
or person cause stress.
- Our reactions are determined by our thoughts and
- Negative thoughts and feelings really arise from
fear -- fear of not having enough time, knowledge,
you name it.
- When we are afraid, we are operating from the
standpoint of believing that we are limited, that
God is limited and not able to help us.
Choose to get rid of stress!
- Simplify. Cut out an activity or two.
Maybe we don't need to be members of five clubs,
participate in after school sports, and have the
lead in the play. Let's ask the question: "Why
am I doing this? To glorify God or me?" We
want to be good at what we do, not stretch ourselves
so thin that we can't possibly give fully of ourselves
- Respond, don't react. We can't control
what happens to us all the time, but we can control
our reactions. We don't need to take on the burden
of stress. This skill will help us for the rest
of our lives.
- Keep the right focus. Don't give power
to that "thing" that seems to be "causing"
the stress. Remember that health, sanity, peace,
and joy are more important than the "thing."
- Rely on Love not time. We usually want
more time to finish our tasks. One of my dear friends
shares a healing perspective:
- "The point is not do we have enough
time, but do we have enough love!"
- Time is always limited. If we're looking for
more time, we won't be able to find it. There
are only so many hours in a day, regardless
of how many we wish we had. Time is finite.
- Love, however, is always unlimited, infinite.
There is no shortage of love because "God
is love" (I John 4:8). God who "is
love" is always loving us.
- Placing greater limits on ourselves will only
make us feel more stressed, whereas relying
on a never-ending source of love will give us
freedom and peace.
- Change how we deal with problems, challenges,
issues, daily tasks, and activities. If we have
enough love to take care of something, we'll find
the most effective or efficient solution.
- We can love our siblings, parents, and friends
enough to help meet their needs.
- We have enough love to help our family create
a beautiful and harmonious home.
- We have the love of learning to want to understand
and do our homework to the best of our ability.
- We love God enough to put God first in our
- Express gratitude. Recent studies show
that the positive and healing effects of gratitude
are immediate and powerful. Gratitude transforms
lives. (See previous hot topic article, The
Power of Gratitude.)
- Be grateful for what we are able to do.
- Be grateful for everything we have.
- Be grateful that the tasks that have come
to us to do or the challenges we face are actually
opportunities for us to turn to God and learn
more about God's constant love and care for
us, His children.
- Gratitude changes our perspective from one
of burden to one of joy, which eliminates stress.
- Rely on Principle, not personality. Accomplishing
things doesn't need to take time. It takes a lot
less time to do a math problem when we already know
the principle behind the solution. Let's be confident
that we can solve problems in life even if they
are "new" to us because we already know
the principles. Here's why:
- God provides the principles and gives us
the answers every time. His solutions are fool-proof.
He loves us that much! We just have to open
ourselves up to God's answers, which provide
peace, not stress.
- When we are following God's directions, problems
that seem unsolvable will suddenly have solutions:
"for with God all things are possible"
- Relying on other people is often a mistake.
Their advice, however well-intentioned, is still
just human advice. It can be wrong. Their advice
can also unfortunately be deliberately misleading.
God, however, never gives bad advice.
- When we are relying on God's principles, we
don't have to get caught up in personalities
-- what other people say about us or do to us,
what they demand or require from us. We can
relax in the knowledge that "what doth
the Lord require of thee, but to do justly,
and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy
God?" (Micah 6:8).
- When we don't take things personally, issues
dissolve more readily. Think about it. We get
upset and stressed because we feel that someone
has hurt, ignored, attacked, interrupted us
on purpose. But what the person has just said
or done is a reflection on him or her, not on
us. Their anger or demands reveal that they
have an issue to resolve. It is their issue,
- Remember what Jesus said: "your joy no
man taketh from you" (John 16:22).
This last statement is not only a promise, but a
fact. No one can take our joy from us or make us feel
stressed -- unless we give them the power to do so.
But why would we invite a thief to come into our home
and steal that which is most valuable to us? Yet,
we allow stress to come in to our homes all the time.
Now it's time to claim our God-given dominion. We
must refuse to open our mental door to stress. We
may have to push on the door really hard when stress
knocks. We may even have to kick stress out if it's
gotten in without our realizing it. But we can do
it, especially when we rely on God. God's hands are