Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
March 15, 2009


Seven secrets for handling the stress of daily living


The word "stress" has multiple meanings. So many, in fact, that it has been called the most imprecisely defined word in the dictionary. Much like the word “love” the word stress is used in a dozen different ways in ordinary conversation.

Your physician may order a "stress test" to determine the condition of your heart. Worrying about the outcome of the test can cause you to feel “stressed out.”  

You may feel that your job is too demanding. The constant pressure makes you tired and irritable. You feel drained, overworked, and unable to cope. So you conclude the stress of your work is ruining your health. It is also affecting your home life. You are no longer fun to live with and you know it. You long for relief from the pressure of so much stress.

The solution may not be a different job. It may be simply learning to handle the stress tests of daily living. Instead of quitting your job, consider these seven secrets for managing daily stress:

1. Start thinking positively about stress. There is good stress and bad stress. It is not all bad. Some stress is necessary to make us productive. We endure the stress of work to avoid the stress of going hungry. Stress is like salt and pepper; a little of it makes food tastier while too much ruins it. Life without stress would be boring. The only people completely free of stress are stacked neatly in the cemetery. You are alive and life is stressful. Stress is a necessary element of life.  

2. Take charge of your attitude. Learn to control the way you react to stressful situations. Assume command of your mind; you alone can determine how you will react to whatever tension you are facing. Make up your mind that even if others around you fall to pieces, you will remain calm. You cannot control the behavior of others. But you can control your own. Though that is a big assignment and a lifelong challenge, you can do it.

3. Find something to laugh about no matter how tough things get. Remind yourself it could always be worse. Remember a time when it was and you got through it anyway. Laugh at yourself. When someone does something stupid, smile instead of getting angry. Recall how many blunders you have made. Think about how ridiculous it is to get bent out of shape over the silliest things. A hundred years from now, who will care? A little humor can ease the tension and restore your sanity.

4. Refuse to surrender to stress. Think of it as a monster trying to reduce you to a bundle of nerves. It has been on your back before and you survived. You did it once; you can do it again because you are a survivor, not a victim. If you feel you are about to go over the edge, walk away. Take a breather.  Leave the struggle for a spell. You can tackle it again tomorrow. Every battle does not have to be won today. If you go to pieces, stress wins. Refuse to lose.

5. Get some rest. It is amazing what rest will do for the human body and the mind. Eight hours of sleep can often restore your capacity to think clearly. Stop trying to "get everything done" today. Most of it can wait until tomorrow. Quit bragging about how little sleep you need at night. A good night’s rest may be the best medicine you can take to cure the fever of stress.

6. Step back from the scene of your stress. Think objectively about your situation. Ask God for help. Ask for wisdom to pinpoint the major problem. Answer these questions honestly: Are you trying to do too much? Is your plate too full? Would the universe collapse if you eliminated nonessentials and simplified your life? Would your life be freer of tension if you were content with doing fewer things, and doing them well?

Instead of expecting other people to make your life easier, start doing what you can to help yourself. Quit blaming other people for the tension in your life. Give them a break. They may be doing the best they can, given the fact that they must put up with you.

7. Stop giving people permission to make you angry. No one can irritate you unless you give them permission to do so. Refuse to give people such power over you. Stop allowing anyone to rattle your cage. Keep your cool. Remain unruffled and in charge of your own disposition. Then, when you put your head on your pillow at night, you can sleep like a baby. You can fall asleep thankful that you remained calm under the pressure that someone else tried to dump on you.

Stress can destroy us or bless us. Either we handle stress or it will mangle us. It all depends on our attitude toward it. Embrace it and manage it on a daily basis. Once we learn how to handle it we can make it work for us, making it more a friend than a foe. The inward calmness we gain from effective stress management is worth our best effort. + + +