“The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:5-8
When life becomes stressful and you are not finding joy in what you do, or you are stressed by so many areas of global concern that are out of our control, it’s time to tap into God’s word and find comfort, hope and strength in Him. God also enables us to develop resilience, strength and coping strategies from our prior life experiences and the knowledge of ‘what works for others’. Below is a quick list for you to try (it is not exhaustive but provides options). See which ones you can use to help you cope.
You may choose to avoid the stressor and stressful situations where this is possible, but if you cannot avoid stressors, try to reduce the stressors’ impacts on your ability to function well. If you cannot change the impact, can you change your perspective about the stressor and its impact?
It can help to brainstorm healthy ways to cope with stress.
Choose a distraction: write, draw, paint, take photographs, play an instrument, sing, dance, act, take a shower or a bath, garden, take a walk, go for a drive, watch a positive television or a movie preferably one that makes you happy or makes you laugh, watch funny videos on YouTube, play a game, go shopping, clean or organise your environment, read, hobbies…
Choose your people: talk to someone you trust, set boundaries when it is necessary, write a note to someone you care about, be assertive, laugh, spend time with friends and/or family, do something small and positive for someone else, play with a pet, role-play a challenging situation with another person to think of responses that will help you get what you need, encourage others, accept compliments when they are given to you, make time to just sit and be with people you love, give and accept support from others when you need it.
Choose your thinking: note 3 things each day for which you are grateful and write them down in a diary, brainstorm solutions to issues with a trusted friend, lower your expectations of situations and keep them realistic, identify and address your shifting mood, keep inspirational quotes and scriptures with you and read them regularly, be flexible, write 2-3 simple goals, take a class, act opposite to your negative feelings, write a list of pros and cons for difficult decisions, reward or pamper yourself when you have success, write a list of your strengths and read it aloud every morning, understand who you are in Christ and read that daily, accept challenges with a positive attitude…
Choose tension-releasing activities: learn how to be at peace with yourself, get enough sleep and get into a sleep routine, eat healthy foods, have a daily plan/ routine, limit caffeine and alcohol, practice deep breathing, practise relaxation techniques, undertake regular simple activity, exercise or play sport, go for a walk, punch a boxing bag, cry, and laugh. Use prayer, learn to meditate, use spiritual exercises, practice reflection and introspection (for understanding an issue not dwelling on it) then pray about it, confess/repent/accept forgiveness, enjoy nature, get involved in a worthy cause and commit, share your burdens with others, especially those who have been through similar things.
Choose to set limits: say ‘No’ when this is needed, drop some involvement if you are time poor or if the activity is causing distress. If this is impossible then prioritise important tasks first and schedule time for fun. Use assertive communication when setting limits, schedule time for yourself.
Choose to focus on your strengths: “Which strengths have helped you deal with negative or stressful experiences in your past?” List five strengths you gained because of that experience. Consider additional strengths. Remember when you coped when you thrived when you excelled and recognise God has given everyone gifts and talents, strengths and assets. When negative thinking slips in, say to yourself “I choose not to think that way about this issue?” Try to frame a positive perspective to every stressful situation, so you can see the good in every situation and perhaps even see opportunities.
REST: Remember God gave us all a 24 hour day. God sets the sun every day so we can rest. Keep a regular bedtime and allow yourself regenerative sleep.
RECOVER: Keep a Sabbath day to worship God and recover your spiritual strength and allow yourself to retreat from stress and distress.
RENEW: Take regular short times of retreat to a place of rest that allows the spirit of God to renew you to whole health.
REPEAT: God commands one day of rest each week for everyone, including you! So repeat this pattern each week so you can sustain your coping when uncontrollable situations occur.
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Content Source: Ref. van Loon , A 2021, ‘Coping with COVID-19 lock downs’, Whole Health. vol 26, No 2, pp3-4. [Used with permission]