5 Crucial Principles for Managing Stress

Manage stressAn interesting progression took place while blogging about stress this past month – I became more stressed. No, writing didn’t negatively stress me. Stress, yes, but the good kind resulting in stretching and growing, the therapy kind.

Do you have any good stress in your life right now?

Maybe the increased awareness of stress in general played a role. For sure, a large part came from an increase in stressors, most through others and out of my control.

My first reaction, my automatic response, is to eliminate stress as much as possible. That’s not always the best option, though. Sometimes my focus must be on recharging and then continuing, letting stress be and not trying to control it. With that, I realize that I must…

Persistently pursue time to recharge and refocus.

Relieve stressIf Jesus needed to do this (Matthew 14:13-34), I definitely need this habit. So, instead of trying to fix everything (which is impossible and only adds to stress), maybe letting it ride, living within it is best. In other words…

Acknowledge the stress, then keep commitments and fulfill responsibilities by simply doing what’s next.

As I’ve learn to keep moving through the stress, I’ve also gotten better at not letting stress constantly eat away at me, at not worrying about what I can’t control. I’ve learned to counteract stress with healthy outlet activities (exercise, reading, talking, etc.), and I’ve learned to pray… a lot… about everything (Philippians 4:6). Do you have healthy outlets for stress relief?

In that, I begin to focus on controlling my attitude and responses during stress. Out of that comes a realization that I need to apply a principle I’ve told my boys many times, namely…

Understand what you can and can’t control, and refuse to dwell in the wrong place.

Prepare for StressWhen I realize what I can and can’t control, I must then focus my energy and effort on that which I can control, even if only slightly. One of the most difficult areas to realize control involves the volume of what we take on, what we commit to and assume responsibility for.

And what I see happening is a lot of people drowning in a perfectly floatable boat simply because they’ve weighed it down by taking on too much. They’re sitting in a sinking boat because they’ve put too much in it, and the only way to keep from drowning is to get rid of some of the stuff. Really, it’s best to never take it on in the first place, but at some point, we must…

Learn to say “no” – even to good – so we can say “yes” to better and best.

As stress ebbs and flows, and as I realize my inability to truly control its existence, I increasingly understand the importance of a habit of consistency regarding stress management. I realize that stress exists mostly as a mental battle, that it’s the atmosphere of my inner self that truly determines whether or not I sink or float. Do you have any consistent habits to help manage your stress?

Psychcentral says “most negative symptoms [of stress] can be corrected if you take action.” My experience with stress – and a crash and burn resulting from not managing it well – supports this fact. With that comes the final principle for managing stress…

Find ways to manage your stress on your own terms before your body forces you to on its terms.

Dealing with stress really isn’t an option. You WILL deal with it one way or another. The question is, will you deal with it by choice or by force?

DISCUSSION: What can you do today to better manage stress? What advice do you have for others?

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23 Replies to “5 Crucial Principles for Managing Stress”

  1. Great quote by, Psychcentral

    A few years back God brought a Christian mom into my life. Numerous times a day I hear her say, "oh well, it must not have been God's will", or "If it's God's will, it will happen, I'm not going to think about it" or something along those lines.

    It's really helped me re-evaluate circumstances in my life and not try and control things (as much).

    Her simple faith and trust has really begun to rub off on me 🙂

    1. I too have examples of simple faith that help me in my own struggles, which are made worse because I tend to complicate faith (and everything else for that matter). We really are the sum of the people we hang around with, and nowhere is it more obvious than in our faith walks.

      1. I'm blessed God has put in touch with people on similar faith walks as mine- some are ahead of me, helping me in areas I'm struggling and some are a little behind me and I'm able to share what God is doing in my life.
        It's awesome to see God in so many lives. To know He's alive and working!

  2. The Serenity prayer helps me when I start to get out of control and stressed. Not just the first few lines that appear on things, but farther down, where it says, “taking life as it is and not as I would have it”. That is what I struggle with, so I keep going back to the basics. I just have to remember to DO that. I have the tools, it is the applying part that I get stuck on quite often.

  3. I do think we have to realize that we bring stress into our lives by our choices at times. That does not mean it is bad. If I choose to take another job and the learning curb is steep then it causes stress. If I use that stress to encourage me to become better at the job then over time the stress lessens. Stress can be a motivator. Take care of this and the stress will lessen. We must be intentional in our response to stress. We have got to do those things you mention to help us deal with stress but we also have to have an attitude of willingness to work through stress to get to a better position.

    1. Two keys stand out from what you said. First, we have to be intentional in our response to stress. Second, we have to be willing to work through stress. In other words, doing nothing means stress will eventually gain the upper hand. If we take an active role, then we get the ebb and flow that we need. Thanks, Mark!

  4. One of the biggest things that fuels stress for me is perfectionism since most of my stress is writing-related. It's been helping to work through that. I'm currently reading a great book on the subject that Melanie Wilson recommended, although at the moment I can't remember the name! I like your idea of cutting down on things, Kari. This book said that perfectionists always make goals that are way too high and then beats themselves up when they don't achieve them. That's me. I believe God will set me free from it – looking forward to that day and continuing to renew my mind in this area.
    My recent post 10 Things to Thank God For When You’re Trying to Lose Weight

    1. Totally understand where you're coming from, Barb. Perfectionism used to rule almost every aspect of my life. Over time, through small changes, I learned to not let it. Though, when I am stressed and overwhelmed, it tries to take control… always ready to do so, actually. For me, simplifying helped conquer my perfectionism. The less divided my focus, the less perfectionism is an issue because I am actually able to be better at what I'm doing anyway. I think perfectionism flares when I am unable to be excellent at what I do because I have too much going on. Keep moving forward in this, and refuse to quit. You do that, and you'll conquer this… as the Holy Spirit leads you through!

  5. Hello Kari,

    Beside going to God I try to use methods like eating healthy food, working out, spending time with those I love. These things nourish me and lowers my stress. Fantastic post!

  6. I get stressed when I have a mountain of tasks in front of me. As you mentioned, the best thing I can do to alleviate that stress is to start working and see work being accomplished. Also, I have to get away from it all at points during the week by getting outdoors, hiking, and exercising.

    I spent much of my childhood serving in the church in various way. However, for the past 10 years or so, I have really scaled back the time I spend involved in volunteering and taking part in church activities. I have been needed more at home with my wife's chronic health condition and now even more so with a newborn. Otherwise, I would have been adding mountains of stress to my life. We even have to limit good things, such as church service.
    My recent post Stop Waiting on God or Someone Else

    1. So right, Chris. We definitely have to learn to say "no" to good things simply because there are better things we need to say "yes" too, and it sounds like you've had to come to terms with that. Simple? Yes. Easy? No way. Are you finding that by doing this, you are able to do more with excellence? That the things you are choosing to spend your time with have better quality?

        1. Amazing how overload and simply "too much" impedes our creativity, isn't it? I too have found that the more I simplify my life, the more fulfilled I am in discovering excellence in fewer things. Thanks, Chris.

  7. Great post. Thanks for sharing the post. Stress is very difficult to handle and mange. Prayer is one of the most effective way to lower the stress levels. If you believe in prayer pray for sometime, regular practice of prayer will helps to lower the stress levels.

  8. Thank tou for this article on how to deal with stress. It came on the right day and the right hour! I have taken notes to remind me how to deal with it. Many thanks and blessings to all here.

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