Posted on Wednesday, Apr 29, 2020 by Sabrina Beasley McDonald with FamilyLife
My husband and I often walk through our neighborhood park. Recently, our 9-year-old daughter wanted to tag along. While Robbie and I grumbled about the stress of being stuck at home for so long, 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 chaos and irritation, Katherine was carefree, even enjoying the extra family time.
I wanted to be her in that moment—a carefree 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, especially during a national crisis. Instead of taking time to enjoy our situation and the quietness of the mind, imaginations 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, and he explains how prolonged time with others actually creates anxiety. 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!”
And in the case of a life-threatening illness, the stress level goes up. In order to have healthy marriages and families, we must learn how to reduce stress in our lives. Particularly if it’s at an overwhelming level.
Wondering how to reduce stress now? Here are seven ideas to help.
1. Evaluate your stress level.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey designed The Pressure Test in their book, Pressure Proof Your Marriage. It helps you measure the amount of stress weighing on your marriage and family. 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 planted by streams of water … In all that he does, he prospers.” Reading Scripture will equip you with wisdom, peace, and courage to help your daily battles. It’s a necessary investment in your life as you struggle with how to reduce stress.
Find a place to get alone with God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are 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 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, Himself even rested after six days of creating the world (Genesis 2:2). If He needs rest, you do, too!
While planning your weekly activities, set aside one day with no plans or meetings. Make it a family night. Connect by solving a jigsaw puzzle, playing games, or making popcorn and ice cream floats and watching a movie.
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.”
4. Seek peace with others, especially at home.
Unresolved conflict can cause high anxiety. Proverbs 29:9 says, “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.”
As Christians, we’re told to be at peace as much as possible (Romans 12:18). That includes your spouse and children. Being stuck at home with tension makes life harder and more stressful.
Pray for a heart of forgiveness for those who offend you and a heart of humility as you face how you might offend others. Then make a list of relationships that need restitution. For a complete guide on how to resolve conflict, i.e. how to reduce stress, 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 offer video meetings.
5. Take one day at a time.
Humanity thrives on schedules. We like routine and knowing what to expect. The Coronavirus has ruined plans for weddings, graduations, school schedules, births, and even funerals. How can you plan vacations or birthday parties if the future is unreliable? How do you reduce stress when this contributes to the stress you already have?
You may feel out of control, but God is still in control. As Job marveled, “Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” (31:4). Put your life in His hands and try not 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.
When you’re feeling frazzled and wondering how to reduce stress, some order will help. Here are a few ideas:
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, use this time as a faith-building experience, and trust God to take care of everything.
Sabrina Beasley McDonald has been writing about God’s plan for marriage and family for over 19 years. Sabrina holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University.
About FamilyLife: At FamilyLife we believe that families and marriages with God at the core are those where the rest of life falls into place. For 40+ years we have focused on making every home a godly home. With over 3 million people attending annual marriage events like Weekend to Remember, 1.6 million weekly radio listeners, and resources in over 100 countries, FamilyLife helps you live out your faith in context of your marriage, family, and the world at large.
Article reposted with permission from FamilyLife.
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