Stress is a normal part of life and a certain amount can actually be beneficial as a motivator. However excessive stress and worry is one of the major causes of ill health and bad relationships. For this reasons learning how to manage stress is vitally important to a stable, healthy, joyful life.
Stress management has a lot to do with self discipline combined with a generally healthy life style, both of which require the implementation of certain planned good practices. The aim is that these good practices become life style habits as through good habits, the bad “habits” of stress and worry can be managed. Putting good practices in place requires prayer, focus, resolve, self control and above all TIME. This issue of time management is probably one of the most crucial disciplines to living a peaceful, healthy, holistic lifestyle.
As a family man (three grown up children and three foster children), businessman (property developer and administrator), self supporting minister, and trustee of a number of non profit organizations, it has always been a big challenge to manage the stress and worry that a busy life produces. I have learnt, and am still learning, how to do the things I need to do and yet live a healthy, joyful life where my soul is at rest despite the difficult circumstances, trials and tribulations that are a part of everyday life.
Here are some pointers gleaned through forty years of trial, error and learning from others.
PERSONAL SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE:
Jesus called us not be worry or be anxious. Therefore dealing with stress is part of our spiritual calling and warfare. From a Christian perspective it goes without saying that each of us need to hear what the Spirit is wanting us to do, as we are all different, however we are all called to learn from others and much of this advice has good historical Church roots. Interestingly recent research has found that most of these spiritual disciplines have proven physical and mental health benefits. Regular peaceful spiritual exercises relieve stress. (the times indicated below are minimum suggestions).
1. Meditation; spend 20 minutes a day in quieting prayer.
2. Pray with your spouse daily (10 minutes).
3. Withdraw to a quite place at the start of the day, hand the day to the Lord and ask the Spirit to show you how to order your day. (15 minutes). Then plan your diary.
4. Systematically read the bible and journal the things that stand out and what you feel the Spirit is saying (daily).
5. Fast for 2-3 days on a regular basis (quarterly).
6. Set aside weekends for retreats (quarterly).
7. Set aside quiet mornings (monthly).
8. The above must be centred around handing burdens over to a loving God and abiding in His grace.
9. Regularly meet with a peer group (of the same sex), pray with them and be accountable to them.
10. Find an elder to be your spiritual director.
11. Attend a graceful church and commit to fellowship.
12. If your church is legalistic, religious and works orientated, move on.
13. Times of solitude and silence are good for the soul.
Regular exercise relieves stress and acts as a barrier against the damages of stress.
1. Look after you body, avoid injuries, if you don’t you will suffer as you age.
2. Get a minimum of three 30 minutes sessions of aerobic exercise weekly. Preferably outdoors in fresh air. Walking, swimming and cycling are best as they don’t damage the joints.
3. Use sun screen and wear a hat. Avoid too much sun.
5. Avoid lifts, walk up stairs. Walk or cycle when you can.
6. Find out what your optimum weight is and stick to it – this is one of the most crucial aspects of good health.
7. Be aware of your body and changes in your body, consult a doctor if you are not sure.
8. For those who are married, put aside specific regular time for making love. Good sex is part of a good marriage and good health.
Stress prevents your body from metabolizing food properly, therefore good eating is part of the war against stress.
1. Eat balanced healthy whole foods. Avoid processed foods. Avoid fast foods & sugary foods. Go organic. Grow some vegetables. Drink raw milk. Use olive oil. Avoid excessive meat consumption.
2. Drink one 750ml water, first thing in the morning and 2 litres a day. Keep hydrated, but don’t over hydrate.
3. Avoid using prescription drugs and antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. The body heals itself with rest and time.
4. Eat probiotics foods; good yoghurt, raw honey, etc.
5. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, at least six portions daily.
6. Fresh berries and raw nuts are top anti-aging foods. Eat a handful daily.
SLEEP AND REST
Good sleep us critical to good physical and mental health. Stress often attacks our ability to sleep.
1. Find out how much sleep you need. A young adult normally needs eight hours.
2. Set aside time for adequate, regular sleep.
3. During the week try to set fixed times for sleeping so it becomes a habit. e.g. 10pm-6am.
4. As much as possible make sure your bedroom is dark and sound proof.
5. Don’t use your computer or phone before sleeping as their light will put your body clock out of sync.
6. Switch off your phone at night.
7. Keep a note pad by the bed. If you wake up worrying, write things down, pray silently and go back to sleep.
8. Avoid coffee and too many caffeine drinks. One cup of good coffee a day.
9. Ten minute power naps at lunch time are helpful.
10. Avoid using sleeping tablets. They are addictive.
11. Keep your bedroom for Sleeping, resting and love making only.
12. Take turns in massaging each other at bedtime. It’s good for sleep and good for marriages.
13. If you can, set aside Saturday as a Sabbath (a day of rest).
14. Delve into Gods grace, as it’s a position of inner rest and peace.
15. Make sure you do lots of fun things.
WORK AND FINANCE
For a Christian work must be seen as a great blessing. We work as unto the Lord with thankfulness. However it’s important to put our work in its right place. Our work is there to serve us, we are not called to be slaves to our work or boss.
1. Pray for your work and your boss.
2. In the longer term try to work towards you own business or independence.
3. Work should be enjoyable, if it’s not, you may be in the wrong job.
4. If your work is overwhelmingly stressful it may be time to look for something else.
5. Use a diary to order your day – this is essential.
6. Keep a “to do” and deal with the easy issues first as this gives a sense of achievement.
7. Work out the critical path for the things that are must does.
8. In prayer plan you month, week and day
9. Be pro-active, don’t manage by crisis.
10. Put systems in place. Every mistake should result in an improved system.
11. If you don’t know something, get help and expertise.
12. Think about getting a personal coach.
13. Equip yourself properly for the work you do.
14. Don’t let work encroach on your spiritual and family time, put sensible boundaries in place.
15. Plan and budget financially.
16. Stay out of debt.
17. Live a simple life, avoid materialism. Each possession requires time and attention.
18. Be generous and hospitable.