All Stressed Up and Everywhere to Go
Solutions to De-Stressing Your Life and Recovering Your Sanity
Gaylyn R. Williams and Ken Williams
Relationship Resources, 2010, 191 pp. ISBN 978-0-9721728-7-5
This is a Scripture-oriented, easy-to-read, practical, interactive workbook on managing stress to be used individually or as a small group study. Each chapter includes suggestions for helping yourself and others plus discussion questions. Ken and Gaylyn are a father-daughter team. Ken served with Wycliffe Bible Translators for 53 years and founded International Training Partners. Gaylyn is an author, motivational speaker and the executive director of Relationship Resources.
Part One: Investigate the Issues
When we focus on our problems we can be blinded to very real opportunities and blessings. Focusing on stress, pain and chaos creates even more stress, pain and chaos. But applying God's Word to our situations can provide peace and joy.
"Stress is defined as: Our response as a whole person to any demand."
"Stressor is defined as: Any demand put on us that causes stress." (8)
"An optimum amount of stress stimulates, invigorates and motivates us. Only when we become overwhelmed by it does it become destructive." (9)
Some key insights: Unresolved stress accumulates. Spiritual resources provide immeasurable potential for resolving stress. We handle stress better in supportive relationships. Even when handled well, stress often causes distress. (11) In what areas are you most overstressed right now? Check Hebrews 12:1-3. How do these verses help?
Internal stress is "the burden of unresolved mental and emotional stress we carry with us and bring to new stress situations." Often we can't distinguish external stress and stress accumulated within us. Most of it may be inside. (18)
Internal stress often arises from unrealistic expectations, destructive attitudes, and sore spots (emotional wounds that haven't healed). (19) Internal stress distorts our perception of reality. "As we allow God to renew our minds, our expectations become more realistic through His knowledge, and our attitudes become the very attitudes of Christ. See Philippians 2:1-8." (27) What unrealistic expectations, sore spots and destructives attitudes are causing you stress?
"Burnout is extreme mental, spiritual and/or physical energy exhaustion caused by chronic, unrelieved stress." (35) We adapt, and adapt, and adapt and something snaps. Burnout can be caused by prolonged stress, too much work, caring for others, unrealistically high expectations, too little sleep, and a bunch of other things. Symptoms are listed on p. 37. An inventory is provided on p. 38 ff. The best secret for avoiding burnout is to learn how to say a "prayerful no." Steps to take are suggested on p. 41.
Part Two: De-Stress Your Life
Determine what is causing your stress. Make a list of causes over the past 6 months and rate each one according to how much stress it is causing. Go over the list with a good friend and talk about ones you can begin doing something about.
Understand your reactions, how it is affecting you. Plot how well you are functioning (Y axis) against the amount of stress (X-axis). Some stress helps you function better. Too much stress shuts you down. Where are you on the curve? Note external symptoms such as fight or flight reactions and internal symptoms that may be spiritual, emotional or physical. See the checklist on pp. 65-66.
Stop the Pain! Look up the various kinds of distress experienced in Scripture and rate yourself on how often you experience each kind (73-75). Note Jesus' example in Scripture [He was angry, deeply moved in spirit, distressed, afraid, grieved, and troubled] and how he handled it. Lower your stress by marking the distresses you are experiencing. Allow yourself to feel the full force of it. Take each one to the Lord and express it to Him. Share it with a trusted friend. Work on forgiving anyone who has brought you pain. Write down one thing to remember and/or do.
Harness your resources. Enlist God's help. Review the chart on how well you are using your spiritual resources (p. 82-83).
Relieve pressure. You may not have to passively accept your circumstances. Ask whether you can get out of the stress situation. If you can, will God be pleased or displeased? Escape may not be a good option. Ask whether this is simply junk stress - "any stress in which the cost of keeping it is greater than the benefits and it is not sin to dump it." (88) This may include activities, commitments and responsibilities that are not essential to your life. It might include fears when there is nothing to fear, worries about the future, false guilt, etc. Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you (Psa. 55:22).
Transform your circumstances by focusing on God. 2 Cor 4:16-18.
Part Three: Maximize Your Resources
Our objective resources come from God as we view his identity (Who He is), his attributes (What He is like), and his functions (What He does for us). Many Scriptures help us focus on these resources. Our subjective resources include our faith, our spiritual vision, prayer, affirmation of our identity in Christ, spiritual warfare, and others. Second Corinthians and Psalm 31 give us examples of healing and handling stress.
Other resources include sleep, diet, exercise, physical and mental relaxation, lifestyle changes, relationships, and Sabbath. Additional strategies can be discovered in the life of Paul. "Emotional health does not mean never feeling bad, or never being hurt emotionally." Choosing gratitude can be a great help. We have the choice to rejoice. Look beyond present circumstances to eternal realities.
Part Four: Recover Your Sanity
I don't have to do everything myself. Some things I have to get help or let go. Examine your lifestyle. Is it balanced? Do you have sufficient reserves of time, energy (spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, and physical), and money? Sufficient means enough to handle life's unplanned demands. See the check list on pp. 148-49. Note that living a balanced life is your responsibility. If you don't control your schedule, Satan may take advantage. If you have more than you can possibly do, it may not all be from God. What do you have to change to balance your life? Write out a commitment of what you will do.
Design your strategy to juggle life's demands. Some suggestions: Leave work at work -- both physically and mentally. If you feel guilty, identify the source and determine if it is true or false guilt and take care of it. Handle pressures by clarifying your values, prioritizing your tasks, and considering options. "Not everything worth doing is worth doing well." (164) Where do you struggle most? What is one thing that would help you achieve balance? What will you let go?