Let’s face it, life is stressful.

Life isn’t always easy. And when the unimaginable becomes your reality it can leave you eternally stressed out.

Your heart is broken. Your emotions are shot.  You are triggered continuously. You have difficulty concentrating at work or completing simple tasks.  These are all common in strained relationships and in dealing with heartbreak no matter what the cause.

I can honestly say that I have been stressed out for the past eight years.  My stress skyrocketed as I walked through one major life change after another. Everything from getting married, having kids, losing loved ones, changing careers, moving across the country, opening, running and selling a failing business, to the struggle of heartbreak in my marriage.  So if you are looking for an expert on being stressed out, look no further.

The good news for you is that through a lot of trial and error I have discovered a few secrets on how to deal with stress in a healthy fashion.

As you know my mission in life is to equip you with practical tools to handle the unexpected chapters in life with grace and truth.  And one of the best tools I can equip you with is how to deal with stress.

Here’s the bottom line: When you don’t deal with your own stress, it compounds in your relationships.

Today I want to walk you through three stress management tools that have kept me sane through nearly a decade of stress overload!   These three tools allow me to feel less stressed and show up better in every relationship in my life. One thing I LOVE about these three tools is that they are all proactive, meaning when I use them on a regular basis they actually prevent stress.  They won’t change the relationship directly, but when you are less stressed you will show up differently.  Being proactive about stress management means you can

  • act rather than react to triggers,
  • work through your emotions before you are about to lose it
  • move through the healing process of mending your shattered heart
  • increase your concentration.

So let’s stop talking about it, and let’s jump in!

1. Prioritize Your Time with God.

I began spending time in the Word on a regular basis when I was about 12.  And I have to say, this practice prepared me for life’s battles.  But when the biggest battle of my life happened a few years ago, I really struggled with spending time alone with God.  I was angry at Him, and my heart struggled to believe the truth.

But I continue to show up because my heart, mind and soul need to be fed the truth in order to overcome the stress in my life.  The compounded stress in my life left me living in survival mode for years.  Deciding to be proactive about spending time with God was the first step to moving out of survival mode and into living the abundant life Jesus promises.

Before crisis became the new normal in my life, my time with the Lord was very different.  It was very regimented, and it was amazing.  So when I struggled with reading my Bible and praying I began to judge myself.  Which again only lead to lies and more stress.

Thankfully, I finally decided to stop comparing new normal to my old normal.  I gave myself permission to use this time to connect with God in whatever way I need to on that day.  I gave myself permission to deviate from the plan.  Now my time with God includes listening to powerful worship music, reading God’s Word, reflecting on what I read and praying by writing my thoughts down in my journal, and meditating on Scripture.

Meditating on Scripture always sounded a little out there for me, so I never did it.  But when I hit rock bottom I was willing do anything to connect with God.  So I tried it.  I meditate on truth found in God’s Word.  When I feel rejected, I often meditate on the truth that I am chosen and that I am loved. I curl up in my recliner, close my eyes, slow my breathing and as I breath in I say to silently myself, “I am chosen.” As I breath out, I say, “I am loved.”  I repeat these two truths over and over again allowing my heart, soul and mind to begin believing these truths.  When I am feeling on edge with my kids, I take a few minutes to remind myself that “love is patient” and “love is kind.  Then I remind myself that I am patient, and I am kind.  Reminding myself of the truth allows me to conquer the lies that are stirring up stress in my heart.

In my devotional Loving? My Life, I walk you through the process of identifying lies you believe and replacing the lies with truth.  Meditating on the truth is a great way to begin believing truth.

2. Build Margin into your Life.

I was recently introduced to the idea of building margin into my life, and I have to confess I LOVE IT! At first, building margin in my life was not easy for me. I like to pack as much as humanly possible into each day, and then crash when I hit the pillow.  When I stay busy, I can avoid dealing with the reality of my messy life {and the messy emotions that come with it}.  Staying busy is my favorite unhealthy coping mechanism I use to avoid dealing with my mess.  It is my favorite because I can pass it off as having a strong work ethic.

However, in an effort to walk through my mess and find healing, I decided I needed to slow down.  This doesn’t mean I threw my planner out the window.  For those of you, like me who like to plan down to the minute how to spend your day, DO NOT PANIC!  The planner stays!  It just gets tweaked a little.

On Sunday nights, I LOVE getting out my planner and blocking out my week.  When I schedule my time, I first pencil in the items on my wellness plan. This is a list of things I do to be well spiritually, emotionally, and physically and relationally. This includes my time with God, time with friends, my workouts, my small group, etc. I will hit on this in a coming blog, so stay tuned for more about my wellness plan, but for now, know that these things take priority on my schedule.  Next I schedule my top priorities onto my schedule, and finally I schedule time to relax into my schedule.  It isn’t healthy to constantly be on the go, so I intentionally schedule time to decompress.

As I work through my work week, I also leave room for error.  I leave time for mistakes and to catch up.  Instead of continuously adding things to my to do list, I figure out what is most important, tackle that first and fill in the rest later. This new strategy leave me less stressed on days when my car dies at the gas station and I spend the afternoon getting a new battery {this was me two weeks ago}. Knowing I planned for the unexpected keeps me more calm when the unexpected inevitably happens.

3. Take a timeout.

When I am stressed out, I literally have to call a time out and burn off the uneasy energy that is causing my heart rate increase.  Timeouts help me take one step back from the problem and determine the real issue.  In the heat of the moment I can’t think straight, my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty, and I feel like I am about to lose it.

When I take a few minutes to step away from the problem, I give my heart a chance to slow down, my head a chance to clear, and myself a chance to regroup.  My timeouts often include physical exercise.  I walk or run, go for a bike ride, do kick boxing, whatever feels freeing and is appropriate at the time.  My goal is to work through the emotion in a healthy way, clear my head, and bring my heart rate back down so that I can make better decisions.

For many years, I thought time outs were just for calming down and attempting to not be angry.  Now I understand that being angry is healthy, so instead of using timeouts to tell myself that I’m not angry, I use them to work through the anger and help brainstorm healthy solutions to whatever is making me angry.  {We are talking more about how good girls deal with anger next week, so stay tuned!}

Remember, you don’t have to wait until you feel like you are about to blow before you take a time out.  Taking regular breaks during the day to move and clear your head can actually increase your productivity. I plan my breaks, and then I take them!  I try my best not to power through my day to get “just one more thing done.”  Giving yourself a mental and physical break lets you recharge and refocus.

I love these three stress management tools because they are proactive.  You don’t have to wait until you are stressed out to take action.  You can take action in advance so that you are in a healthy place when stress comes.

When I implement these tools in my relationships, I operate at a lower stress level.  This means I am less reactive, I manage my emotions better, and I work through triggers more easily. These continue to be huge wins for me, and I pray they will be for you, too!

I would love to hear in the comments:

1. What stress management tools you use?
2. Which of these tools you are going to try?
3. How did it go?  {report back after implementing these strategies!}

Have questions about any of these strategies?  Post them below or send me a message here: facebook.com/speakinginfaith.  I would love to dig in deeper!

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