I’m not talking about the sudden life-threatening situations where our natural ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in. Those times when we need to run for our lives from a burning building or hang on for dear life when the car slides off the icy road.
I am talking about those times when we have little control over what is happening to us on an on-going basis. I’m also talking about stressful events in our lives such as getting a promotion, moving or losing a family member.
As things are ‘thrown at us’ we are constantly sizing them up to see if we can handle them. If we decide we can, then it’s not a stressful situation. If we decide we cannot, then it becomes stressful. Our heart rate and blood pressure will go up, our digestive system slows down. Our immune system will be depressed. We will not sleep well at night. Living in this constant state of stress is what takes a negative toll on our health.
Here are 6 simple steps in ABC form to help you cope.
A – Awareness – know the warning signs: nervousness, nail-biting, always tired, depressed, extreme appetite changes, increased chemical dependence (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, pain meds or other drugs), unable to concentrate, extreme restlessness, getting an “I don’t care” attitude.
B – Break up stressors – make a to-do list and then ask – 1. Does this task have to be done? 2. Do I have to do it? 3. Does it have to be done now?
C – Call for Divine Help – we can’t do everything but the Lord can (Ps 91:15); call an understanding friend, talk out your worries.
D – Develop good health habits – have a regular time for sleeping, a regular meal schedule, eating good fruits and vegetables; take time for regular exercise.
E – Educate yourself to be adaptable – plans change – be open to that change, “go with the flow” as my mother used to say.
F – Find time to relax every day – let go of the problems – take a walk outside as fresh air soothes the mind and nerves; have a change in activity, get away from whatever is making you stressed even if just for a little while.
You cannot control what stresses come into your life. But you can control your reaction to stress. Keep stress from turning into distress!