Life is an amazing privilege with many opportunities. But let’s face it: life is also really hard – especially when you are managing long-term stress.
Stress is an unpleasant, yet common condition that rises when pressure mounts and stakes are high. It surfaces when work load is increased and deadlines loom. When performance and character matter. When the buck stops with you. Stress can be short- or long-term. Most of us get through the short bursts. It’s long-term stress that takes a toll.
Everything changes when your world is threatened with long-term stress. Your time, energy, and schedule become side elements that run parallel to invading stressors, yet they still need to be managed.
Sometimes stress lasts much longer than you ever dreamed it could. In fact, it can claim huge chunks of your life against your wishes. And you are left to manage the fall-out as it tsunamis into your life. It can also claim your health, your well-being, and negatively impact relationships.
So what does it look like to manage stress that is “here to stay?” How do you get through it well?
Helpful Steps to Manage Long-Term Stress
As you daily address inevitable drain of your stress scenario, you are aware that your life is changing without your permission. Most difficult is the stress imposed on you by someone else’s terrible decisions. How do you manage the long-term consequences?
Start by stopping. That’s right: pause. Breathe in and out – and choose to be thankful for life. Feel your heart beat: it’s a blessing you still have. Get your bearings. Resolve to respond, not react. Practice this daily, perhaps several times a day.
In your pause, focus on the Giver of life. God has unlimited power and has promised to help you through all stressful troubles. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33b) You need this Guy on your team. He is not a genie to grant three wishes. The God-man loves you and is always with you, ready to roll up sleeves and help. Every name God calls Himself matches one of your needs. So, you can conclude God intends to meet your needs.
Pay close attention to His names and His promises. A good place to start with God’s names is Isaiah 9:6 – “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He promises to be all this for you. That’s exactly what you need in any crisis!
After pursuing wisdom from Wonderful Counselor, power from Mighty God, intimacy and belonging from Everlasting Father, and peace from Prince of Peace, begin to lay out a plan to address your stress levels. Record your plan, keep it in front of you, and tweek it as you move through lasting elements of on-going stress. Eliminate all “self-induced” stress. You have enough to manage without that. Track God’s help, promises, and provisions as you carry out your plan.
Practice daily cheer. Cheer is not a feeling. It is a decision to have a specific perspective and disposition. You can celebrate something precious each day, even in very stressful times. If you exercise cheer, you will look back on difficult seasons and be amazed how many pleasant memories occupy the same time line as the stress. Daily cheer keeps you in touch with goodness still present in life. Daily cheer promotes hope.
Live a balanced life. Don’t let stress rob you of fun, healthy relationships, taking breaks, reading a good book, taking a vacation, etc. Get good sleep. Exercise. Laugh. Don’t sacrifice daily time alone with God. Enjoy sights, sounds, smells, and memories. Close your eyes and bask in God’s goodness. It’s still all around you, and He is still with you.
As time passes, resolve to always praise and thank God. A heart full of gratitude somehow produces energy and perspective – in good times and in bad. (Hab. 3:17-18 – this is an excellent passage.) Worship the One who is helping even before you see the help.
Even if you must accept a new norm, determine to finish well. You started by pausing. End by pausing again. In every “end pause,” tell God everything in your heart, even unfinished processes. Tell Him your feelings and disappointments. Give Him your burdens. Just be close to Him by faith. Accept His grace to enter new seasons the hardships of life may have forced upon you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6) God is always, utterly loving and good.
The Short List:
- Focus On The Giver of life.
- Pay Close Attention To His Names And Promises.
- Begin To Lay Out A Plan.
- Practice Daily Cheer.
- Live A Balanced Life.
- Always Praise And Thank God.
- Determine To Finish Well.
In ages past, a tree was selected on a hill top. Other surrounding trees were cut down. This tree was left to bear up under the stress of wind and storm. It was exposed to burning sun. Long-term. Alone. After time, this tree was cut down to become the mast of a great ship. It’s quiet, assuring strength centered and balanced the craft, giving safe passage and bearing the weight of the ships propulsion system of sails. The long-term stress it endured alone on the hill top was redeemed as it became hope to all who traveled the seas on that ship. The mast was the strength of the great vessel.
Why not relax into God’s miraculous methods of forming you into a critically needed mast? Why not say “yes” to God, even during long-term stress? Be part of His redemption.