Anxiety. Stress. I wanted to write this follow-up post much sooner. I planned to do it last week, the day after I wrote the introductory post about stress. But I was too stressed with school starting and unpacking and settling back into life that I didn’t have time to write about stress. But God knew! He knew my Sunday School lesson would cover Philippians chapter 4 and this very subject. It was exactly what I needed to hear and exactly what He wants me to share with you friends.
Before I start, I want to confess — I am not there yet. I am going to offer advice that I myself need to follow. I do not write anything as one who has mastered anxiety and stress. I do not sit on a pedestal above the stress and preach at you. No, I’m right here in the mess of life with my own heaps of stress and headaches from anxiety, and I’m learning. Some days, I let the stress get on top of me. I’m irritable and difficult to live with, and I just want to hide in my room with a bag of M&M’s and a book. Honestly, lately, the stress has gotten on top of me more often than not. But I am learning to run to my Father and let Him pick me up over the stress and anxiety.
To begin with, I want to discuss practical tips for handling stress, or better yet, avoiding it in the first place. In Part 2, I’ll share some Bible verses and spiritual truths about stress.
When I am at my best with handling stress, I try to plan ahead to avoid stressful situations. Or, at least, to diffuse them. For instance, when I had toddlers and needed to nurse a baby, I knew that a toddler playing in the toilet or dumping out an entire box of oatmeal would be stressful to me. So I barricaded my toddlers in the living room with me while I nursed. I put up baby gates or trapped them in play-yards and either read to them or put on a video or I put on some music and set up the Little People town. This little bit of planning ahead avoided some potential stress.
Another example — if 4:30 to 6:00 is a crazy time in your home, figure out why it’s so crazy and try to reduce that stress. Is it because you’re making dinner and the children are hungry and fussy and you’re waiting on your husband to come home? Perhaps you could make the crock-pot your best friend. You can prepare dinner in the morning and have it in the crock-pot, freeing you up from 4:30 to 6:00 to take a walk or play a game or read books. Perhaps your children are hungry and grumpy. You can give them a healthy snack at 4:30 — maybe while you’re taking a walk or reading them a book.
From the moment my children get home from school until my husband gets home at 5:00, the stress-factor in our apartment is astronomical. We haven’t settled into our routine yet, so it’s really crazy these days. But I have hope that it will get better! Having dinner waiting in the crock-pot or waiting in the fridge to be popped into the oven really helps because I cannot help with homework and supervise chores and keep everyone calm AND make dinner without losing it. I just cannot. Having a routine also helps. The children are re-learning that as soon as they come home from school, they put their shoes on the shoe shelf, put their backpacks away, empty their lunchboxes and put them away, and wait at the table for a snack. This simple routine eliminates the stress that comes from backpacks and shoes strewn across the living room and children standing in the kitchen shouting about a snack.
Know what your stressors are and plan accordingly. I know that when the apartment is a total wreck, I am going to begin to shut down. When everything is a complete mess, I get overwhelmed. I have horrible headaches and I don’t know where to begin, so I tend to want to nap or spend time away from home so I don’t have to see the mess. Avoiding this level of mess by routine de-cluttering and keeping up with the dishes and laundry and picking up the toys and stacks of papers really helps keep my stress levels low. I am not always successful in this plan, though. Sometimes life just comes at you and messes happen. Big messes happen. And the stress suffocates me. That’s where the tips in Part 2 will be helpful.
All the planning and preparing cannot prevent stressful things from happening. I know that, perhaps better than anyone. However, some planning can help. Observe your life for the next week and make note of those times that are most stressful, those times when anxiety threatens to over-take you. Prayerfully think about what you can do ahead-of-time to avoid those situations or, at least, diffuse them of some anxiety.
Next, we’ll take a look at what God’s Word says about stress and anxiety. And we’ll review Paul’s advice for battling anxiety.
In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all in process.