“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew. Yet trying not to worry is often extremely difficult, and sometimes feels impossible. That is especially true during times when our news feeds seem to be full of tragedy, war, violence, and uncertainty.
Here are 5 ways you can effectively respond to stress:
Turning to God in prayer should be the first thing we do when we are feeling worried or stressed out. If you are near a parish that has Perpetual Adoration, go and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament for a period of time. Christ wants us to hand over our worries to him. Your prayer does not have to be perfect – God knows what you are going through and will simply be happy you stopped by. A simple Our Father can be enough to help you place your trust in God.
Reading the Bible can also open your mind and heart up to trust in the Lord. The psalms in particular are a great gift for those of us who are anxious about the future. Everybody knows Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”), but there are many other beautiful psalms that can bring you peace. Some of my friends open up their Bible to a random page and eagerly expect God to speak to them.
The stress you are experiencing is not all in your head. It also has a physical component. Deep breathing, stretching, and getting exercise outdoors are all activities recommended by professionals when dealing with stress and anxiety.
If the weather is bad, even walking up and down the stairs while listening to music or a podcast can be helpful. Or get up to wash the dishes or do some cleaning. It will take your mind off your problems and when the task is done you will feel that you have accomplished something and now have one less thing to worry about.
TAKE A BREAK
It can be difficult to stay productive and effective if you are stressed out. Take a day or at least some hours to get away. Try to avoid the temptation to stay in bed all day, though if you desperately need the sleep, go ahead and take it and don’t feel guilty about it.
A lot of the lethargy and fatigue you are feeling may be mental, in which case a good strategy would be to go someplace beautiful or interesting. A museum visit is always medicinal for the soul. You can walk on the beach any time of the year. Taking a stroll in a park or visiting an interesting neighborhood might also prove beneficial.
If the weather is not cooperating or you cannot travel, try watching an old Hollywood musical. Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, or Top Hat are all good choices. It’s all but impossible to think about your problems while Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly are dancing in front of you.
Verbalize your worries
Talk to a friend, family member, priest or religious, or to a licensed therapist about what has you worried. The simple act of verbalizing your worries may be enough to lower your sense of stress.
When we keep problems all to ourselves, they often grow larger in our minds than the reality warrants. A supportive listener can help you understand when you are blowing a problem out of proportion. And if a situation is indeed serious, the other person can help you to articulate a plan of action to deal with the problem.
Most of the great artists (and many minor ones) had complicated lives that were full of problems. Often, these artists poured their anxieties into works of art. You may not be a Van Gogh or Picasso, but you can write a poem, take photos on your phone, or create a new dish in the kitchen. Knitting, woodworking, or other manual activities can be particularly beneficial.
Creative activities help make the world better and more beautiful and are a way to respond to your worries in a positive and affirming way.
And here are 3 Things NOT to do to when you are stressed:
- INDULGING — “Stress eating,” chain smoking, taking drugs, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. These behaviors are easy to fall into, but they will not relieve your stress and will only make matters worse.
- LASHING OUT – It can be very easy to turn your stress into anger at another person. If someone is irritating you and says something that angers you, try to walk away. Never take your stress out on your family members, co-workers, the other drivers on the road, and especially never on your children.
- DESPAIRING – It can sometimes feel like the world is going crazy or that the walls are closing in on you. You might be tempted to give up hoping that things will ever change. At those moments, it is particularly important to turn to Jesus, who told us “ask and you will receive.”
Finally, if you find yourself engaging in any of the above behaviors, or if you feel like you are suffering from serious or chronic anxiety or stress, please speak to your doctor or to a medical professional.