Stress is something we all encounter; if you live in a city like London, it’s easy to find yourself always on the go; the hustle and bustle never really stops.
It’s important to identify stress as stress and work towards managing it. Not recognising symptoms or acknowledging increasing stress levels can be dangerous. Ever heard the saying ‘stress is a silent killer?’ well if you haven’t, I can tell you that it is.
When we read the story of creation, we are told that ‘…in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.’ (Exodus 20:11).
I don’t think God rested because He needed to, I think it was to demonstrate to us the importance of taking time out to Rest, Relax and Recover.
‘Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ (Mark 2:27)
I believe these 3 Rs ought to be practised regularly.
Rewind a few weeks, I failed to realise my symptoms of stress. Why? Because I had been stressed before and didn’t think this time things had reached that level, in my eyes it was just the normal demands of everyday life. My GP explained that there is a spectrum, and just because I wasn’t on the extreme end of breaking point, it didn’t negate the fact that I was still stressed. And I agreed.
In hindsight I was physically exhausted and mentally fatigued, so much so that my body didn’t even tell me to slow down; it told me to shut down!
These 5 tips helped me get myself back to optimal functioning.
1. Get Organised!
I am a diary and notebook junkie. I have am old fashioned so prefer to write things down as opposed to store them electronically. My work diary never leaves my desk at work, my home diary lives under my pillow and I have a small carry around diary that lives in my bag. Notebooks; I have these in abundance, for daily to-do lists, ideas, revelation, expenses- you name it I have a book for it.
Having all these organisers started to become counterproductive. I had so many there was often a lack of harmony between them. So I cut back to 2! One diary for work and one for home.
It took me half a day to consolidate my to-do lists. I sat down to write and schedule all important dates, appointments, meetings, lunch breaks (do not skip this!), life admin and time to rest. I created a colour coded system that meant even if I glance at my diary I know what I would and should be doing.
Whether it’s electronic or hardcopy, keep a diary and plan in advance what needs to be done.
2. Ask for Help!
We often walk around with an invisible ‘S’ on our chest like we can do it and be it all. Reality check, we can’t! Our frail bodes have limitations, and that is okay. God knows this and is compassionate: ‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103: 13-14). This is why we work together as a team and care for one another; my weakness is someone else’s strength and vice versa.
‘ As it is, there are many parts, yet one body […] This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other’ (1 Corinthians 12:20-25).
If you can’t do it, if you don’t know how to do it, if you don’t have time to do it, ask for help! It is important that we understand this and utilise other parts of the body to help and assist us.
3. Eat Right.
When we are tired, fatigued and stressed our bodies crave sugar and fat. This boost of energy is very short lived, and often times we need more and more to satisfy the craving.
Let me tell you about Caffeine my friend and foe. Caffeine fooled me into believing I was all there and strong. I was wrong; I was often working on false energy, which was again short lived.
Because I do not believe in totally depriving yourself of most things. I did not give up my love for caffeine. I understand most things are okay in moderation: ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31 ).
So I just stopped overdoing it. I reduced my caffeine intake from 4 cups of tea to 1 and 2 coffees to 1 per day. I upped my water intake and forcefully incorporated more greens into my meals especially spinach and kale – for the iron. And to get the rest of my 5 a day, I incorporated fruits and veg into my snack time and drinks.
4. Rest! Getting Enough Sleep Is Key.
I recall a sermon that my pastor preached on being busy. When talking about rest, he said something to the effect of ‘it’s not cool to live off 3-4 hours of sleep everyday’. He was explaining that some people think you always have to be busy in order to be effective and successful, and comments such as ‘I’ve only slept for 3 hours doesn’t make you cool, it makes you a fool’.
Getting enough sleep, enjoying the fruits of our hard work is what God wants for us, ‘It is useless to get up early and to stay up late, eating the food of exhausting labour— truly he gives sleep to those he loves’ (Psalm 127:2 ).
Getting enough rest especially sleep is vital not only for one’s body to function optimally, but also aids spiritually alertness. When we are worn out and weak it is easier to be caught off guard and tempted.
5. Spend time with God in His Word, in Prayer and in Fellowship with others.
When I feel stressed I find that my prayer life suffers, because I am so busy trying to meet deadlines and targets. Not prioritising God causes me to go on a downward spiral. Because the time I would spend with Him, most times isn’t spent doing anything worthwhile. It’s usually spent stressing about what I need to do and haven’t done, and then I feel bad for ignoring that inner call to pray.
Time with God is important because it is a safe space where we can offload and fellowship with The One that is All Knowing and All Powerful. If you need strength- He can give you strength. Need wisdom? He’s got that too. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29).
When we feel tired and weary, He urges us to come to Him:
‘Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’
I’ve shared my tips I’d love to know what you do to manage stress, please leave your comments below.
In truth and with love