How to Break Down S.T.R.E.S.S.

Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Stress! The mere sound of the word can conjure up feelings of uneasiness, just knowing there is something tied to it that is unpleasant. So let’s take a minute to examine the word and find a way to fight stress with S.T.R.E.S.S. Stress is often unavoidable in life, so like many other things, it cannot be fully eliminated but it can be managed effectively if appropriate steps are taken.

Stress is a natural reaction to a perceived threat, fear and excessive worry. If it goes on too long and turns into chronic stress, it can begin to impact our overall health both physically and mentally. Below is acronym for S.T.R.E.S.S. on how to help manage it and make life a little bit easier. While it may be impossible to eliminate stress altogether, getting a handle on it can be a good start.

S. - Slow Down. Don’t try to do too much too fast. A great stress producer is trying to do too much in too little time. Take smaller steps and just do one thing at a time to slow down the pace. The idea is not to bite off more than you can chew. If your life seems overwhelming, it might be time to throw some things out, delegate responsibilities and not be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and colleagues to lighten the load.  

T. - Task Management. A technique for managing tasks is to sit down the night before and write out a list of 10 items to get done the following day. Don’t fret if all of the tasks are not finished. Additional stress can often be created by trying to meet unrealistic self-induced demands. Have a stop time, let it go and let the remaining items roll over to the next day. Add them to your list of next 10 items.

R. - Relax. Find a way to relax by creating a distraction. After the task list has been put down for the day, find something else to do. For example, read a book, journal, call a friend, go for a walk, go fishing, spend time with a pet, or meditate on God’s word. Creating a distraction from what is racing through our minds removes the burden of those things. Christ gave us a great example about worry and over-thinking things in life in Matthew 6:25-34. Basically, the idea is to let yesterday go - tomorrow has enough problems of its own - and just focus on today.

E. - Exercise. We don’t all like to do it, but exercise can be a great way to get away from everything and it releases healthy feel-good chemicals such as endorphins. Get creative as sometimes going to a gym can get monotonous. Walk, ride a bike, rent or borrow a kayak and spend part of the weekend out on the water. Exercise doesn’t have to be about getting on a machine and hammering out a routine, it can also be fun and relaxing.

S. - Source it. Find out where the stress is coming from and deal with it at the root source. Ask probing questions about the validity of the stress, such as what purpose is it serving and what can realistically be done about it? What is going to be achieved as a result of stressing? If it can be realistically changed, think of ways to change it (think management) in order to reduce the stress.

S. - Serenity Prayer. Sometimes the serenity prayer can be a real sanity saver in the long run. To be able to accept the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. Lift those things in your life that cannot be changed up to God. Christ says His burden is light. Offer up the stressful things to God and let go.

The idea of managing stress is to control it rather than have it control us. When we become subjected to things in life that create stress, we take on unnecessary worry, doubt, fear and the feelings of loss of control in our lives. Take a look at the big picture, slow down and think about ways to reframe how your life is being lived out.

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