By Jen Roland
According to the American Psychological Association, 77% of Americans face physical symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, headaches, and difficulty sleeping, but only 28% of them manage their stress well. About 40 million adults deal with anxiety disorders and 1 in 6 Americans take at least one psychiatric drug to treat mental illness. However, just because these numbers are on the rise and seem to be the norm these days doesn’t mean we have to accept them as a way of living.
One way we can come together and support one another is by being a safe place for others to share what they are going through and assure them that they are not alone in what they are feeling. Women are craving a place to express their thoughts without being judged and this connection is important in overcoming anxiety. It also helps shed the shame that many of us feel because we’ve believed the lie that no one else can relate, stress or anxiety are a sign of weakness, or that we are lacking in faith.
We can also help by holding one another accountable to putting proactive strategies in place. This might mean checking in with a friend to make sure they got their daily walk in or inviting them to meet you at church, sign up for a class, or be your workout partner at the gym. Most Americans don’t handle stress well–they turn to TV, social media, or food to distract themselves or numb their feelings instead of healthy coping strategies such as reading, prayer, exercise, and in-person conversation. We can help others by supporting them in building healthier habits to combat stress and anxiety.
If you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, know that whatever God has given you, He knew you could handle with Him. The saying, “He won’t give you more than you can handle” is not true–God intentionally brings us to the end of ourselves to teach us to depend on Him and draw us closer to Christ. You can find healing through Him and the community of believers He surrounds you with.
In our journey toward wholeness–wellness of mind, body, and spirit–we have both a passive and an active role. Through daily surrender we invite the Holy Spirit’s power to work through us so we can be transformed, but we also are responsible for making healthy, God-honoring choices. Here are four strategies to help you win the war against stress and anxiety:
1. Take Your Thoughts Captive
One of the best things we can do is slow down, develop a greater awareness of our own spiraling thoughts, and cultivate intentional practices to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), focus on what is true, and be fully present in the moment instead of thinking far into the future. This can be done through deep breathing or centering prayer–choosing a word or phrase to focus on and intentionally practicing on returning to that word/phrase when new thoughts arise.
2. Keep Company with God
Another useful strategy is to “keep company with God,” by spending time in the Word, talking to Him throughout the day, and engaging in activities that help you feel more connected to Him. For some, that’s being out in nature; for others, it’s listening to Christian music or journaling. Find a practice that sparks joy and connection with God and carve out space in your schedule for it. Matthew 11:28-30 tells us that this is how we learn to live freely and lightly instead of burdened and overwhelmed.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
3. Carve Out Space for Rest
Notice the importance Jesus places on rest Matthew 11:28-30. Rest helps us reconnect with Christ, and one of the best ways to do this is through reading His Word. God speaks to us through the Bible and helps us align our lives with His will. We learn what to prioritize and what to let go of. We gain clarity on our calling, which lessens decision-making fatigue. And, we find connection and peace as we walk closely with God, watch “how He does it” (Jesus was never in a hurry), and imitate Him.
4. Practice Regular Self-Care
Burnout happens when we continually pour out of our cups without refilling them. This is why self-care is so important. If you’re not sure where to begin, start small with ten minutes of quiet time to prime your day, a one-minute pause when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or simple a prayer to re-center yourself when you feel your stress levels rise. I once had a client who, when stressed and was tempted to turn to food, would read a devotional, write down five things she was grateful for, or go outside a take a picture of something she found beautiful. She knew ahead of time that when she had the urge to eat for comfort, she would turn to one of these practices instead. Over time, these new, healthier habits became routine and she was able to move forward with a calm, peaceful spirit.
Other strategies for preventing burnout include engaging in meaningful work that taps into your passions, picking up a new hobby, exercising, eating nutrient-dense foods, listening to encouraging music, and putting away your cell phone to engage in face-to-face conversation. For additional strategies to combat stress and anxiety, click here.
Above all, remember stress and anxiety do not define who you are–they are not your identity! They are a product of living in a broken, fast-paced, performance-driven society and, through Christ, we can overcome them!
As believers, we can cling to the truth that our worth is found in Christ and there is no condemnation for those who follow Him (Romans 8:1). Together, let’s invite God to shut down any shame-filled thoughts and replace them with these powerful truths: He is for us. He is with us. He is in control and is working all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). When we only see the underside of the tapestry–the messy, loose, tangled, and even ugly threads–we can trust that God is weaving it all together to create the beautiful story He has planned.
In Him, we can have peace (John 16:33). Through our battle with stress and anxiety, we learn to trust. Our limitations can be a blessing when we invite God into them to complete His work in us. In your weakness, His power is made perfect (2 Cor 12:9). Bring your brokenness to God and watch how He will transform you from the inside out and lead you toward healing, health, and wholeness.
About the Writer: Jen Roland is a writer, speaker, board-certified Christian mental health coach, and women’s ministry leader with a passion for walking alongside others toward wholeness. She helps others implement positive lifestyle practices and develop a deeper relationship with God. Since her neuropathy diagnosis, Jen has focused her ministry on serving those with chronic pain and illness. Jen lives outside Baltimore, MD with her husband and three children. For free resources to improve your physical, emotional, and spiritual health, visit www.jenroland.com. Find Jen @jenroland on IG or @coachjenroland on FB.