I’ve logged enough hours counseling, leading funerals, making hospital and nursing home visits and watching the rise of Trump to see how modern-day stress is dragging us into various levels of anxiety, discouragement and depression. In the past year, who hasn’t faced one of these Top 10* stressors?
- Death of a spouse/child
- Marital separation
- Death of a close family member
- Personal injury or illness
- Dismissal from work/unemployment
- Marital reconciliation
Ironically, statistics reveal that even though we are living more comfortably and conveniently than ever, we are more stressed than ever. If that’s not enough to make you feel a touch insane, try doing the same things over and over and expect your stress to go away. If there’s no change, there will be no change.
So do you need medication to start feeling better? Do you have to take anti-anxiety medicine to manage all that unbearable stress? Many, many people do and are taking prescription pills to face the mounting “stressors” and “depressors” bearing down on us. By all means, if you need a medical doctor to assist with some very treatable chemical imbalances, pursue their help. Do your homework, consult with friends and family who can offer valuable insight and be careful but persistent.
Yet much of our stress can be reduced through basic, intentional efforts and simple life changes. If you don’t need to start with medical attention for treating your stress and anxiety, try implementing any variety of these 8 life hacks for reducing stress and growing your soul:
- Stop feeling guilty about not reading your Bible more. Instead, start listening to it on your device. There’s a variety of easy ways to do so. Fill some of your dead and down time with soothing Bible truth.
- Ditch the fake television shows and cable news in order to watch more real life documentaries. Specifically, browse for the ones that specialize in capturing the beauty of creation, artisan creativity, nature, and my personal favorite — cooking.
- Cry a little more and smile a lot more. Go ahead and try to add a little more of both than comes natural. Lean in and embrace the memories of people you’ve lost, watch “This Is Us” (a guaranteed tearjerker if you have a heart) and tell your face there’s a lot more to smile about than you think. Crying and smiling are physiological valves that work wonders for letting the “stress-ure” out.
- Tell the people you love how much you care, respect and value them.If you wait for their funeral, they probably won’t be able to hear you. Don’t assume that they already know how you feel.
- Pray for the people who have hurt or upset you the most. Pray for them by name. God has shown you an abundance of grace, and you’re not allowed to keep it for yourself. Show them the same abundant and undeserving grace He has shown you.
- Arrive at your destinations five minutes early in order to sit in your car in the silence and reflect on what you’re thankful for. Turn off the radio, put away your device, close your eyes, breathe deep and tell yourself what you’re thankful for — out loud. For a little stress reduction, listen to the heartfelt gratitude.
- Start tackling your to do list with the easiest thing first. Productivity experts may tell you otherwise, but I’ve learned that productivity has a momentum factor. It might help you change gears from your procrastination speed and build momentum by starting with the small and doable tasks first.
- Every day, reduce 20 minutes of time wasting in the evening in order to sleep an extra 20 minutes every night. It might be a stretch to challenge you to eat cleaner and add some physical activity to your life, so why not start with going to bed 15 minutes earlier? That’s an hour and a half or more of extra sleep a week. It might be just the right amount to carry you across the finish line each day.
We may not have to work harder to reduce stress, we only have to live smarter. Since most of what stresses us out is beyond our control, why not start by adjusting a few of things we can control? You may not see results tomorrow, but it won’t take long before you’re growing your soul.
Here are some extra resources to help you get started:
Bible Reading App: Download the “North Central Church” app and utilize the “Bible” section
Watch NBC’s “This Is Us” television show
Check out this Netflix cooking series trailer for “COOKED”
Read “Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem” by Kevin DeYoung
Learn about the importance of sleep (and the difference 20 extra minutes can make)
*According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale
Authored by NCC Lead Pastor Dan Williams | northcentral.org