We’ve all been there. The caffeine-filled, deadline-driven craze: cramming for a test, swamped at work, or just plain sleep-deprived.
Stress gets to us all. And it’s good, in a way. It’s a remnant of our evolutionary fight-or-flight response, a way to escape the roaring saber-toothed lions and fight for our food. But here in the 21st century, there aren’t a whole lot of lions roaming around.
And that’s when stress backfires. Threats we can’t run from (tense relationships, a tough career path, exams, and studies, etc.) weigh on us more and more. Our body is always ready to run, to fight, but it rarely gets a chance to let out all that tension.
It’s not a fun way to live, and it can strip us of our joy if we’re not careful. Remember, Christ calls us to live “life to the fullest,” with Him at the center–not stress. So if you feel like a lion’s chasing you, if you’re overworked and overburdened, here’s what to do about it.
For starters, prolonged stress isn’t good for us. It weakens our bodies and immune systems because all our energy is going into fighting that imaginary “threat.” Add a nasty cold to the mix, and things only get worse.
Sleep and rest aren’t for weaklings. They’re restorative. They’re necessary. God spent six days creating, but then he re-created. He rested (recreated). Each Sunday we recall that intentional rest, and we ought to imitate it, too.
Try to get more sleep. Try to eat healthily and exercise. If you can, taking Sunday off to rest is a great place to start. At least, God thought so.
Care for the Vessel
Our bodies are vessels of the Holy Spirit! That’s no small feat. It serves us well to keep that in mind as we pump perhaps our 5th cup of coffee into that vessel.
We’re all too quick to run ourselves down, but if we stop and think about our bodies as God’s gift to us — and our very lives as God’s gift to us — doesn’t that change things? Then we can see ourselves as cultivators and guardians of a beautifully complex body, worthy of respect. Treating our bodies well, especially in how we take care of our stress, is an invaluable way to respect ourselves.
When we recall this true purpose, the fact that He’s entrusted us with these vessels, we can better care for what God has given us, restoring ourselves and one another to our full dignity.
You Restore my Soul
You’re not supposed to scrape by, frazzled and on edge. You’re meant for authentic joy, for life to the fullest! When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Christ wants to restore us. He wants to lead us beside green pastures and out of tribulation. Does that mean we’ll never encounter difficulty? Of course not. But it means that, when we turn to Him in prayer and bring our stress to Him, He helps bear the load. The more we rely upon Him–and our Church community–to care for us, the lighter our crosses become.
Fear and worry are not from Christ. Rather, peace and assurance are signs of His steadfast presence.
Living for More
When you’re busy, double your prayer time.
When I first heard this advice, I thought it was crazy. By worldly terms, it makes no sense. However, in times of stress, the single worst thing we can do is cut ourselves off from God.
We should always have time to pray. So, when our schedules fill up, we should waste time with God. Because time with God is never a waste.
The crazy thing about prayer is that the more time we spend in God’s presence, the freer we are to work with joy, the more time we suddenly seem to have. It’s a paradox, I know, but I’ve seen time and time again, that the more time I give to God, the more joyfully I can tackle the day’s task–with purpose, with eagerness, and with tranquility.
Why is this? I can’t quite explain God’s mysterious ways, but I see an overarching theme: We are made for more than this Earth. When we connect with that true purpose, everything else falls into place.
Putting God First
As St. Therese said, “the world is thy ship and not thy home.” The stresses of earthly life matter, and the way we deal with them shape our character and our spirit. However, these burdens come to us to prepare us for the next journey in Heaven, where we will despair no more and rest in active, life-giving love.
Stress has its time and place, but the focal point of life should never consume us to the point of emptiness. But with Christ at the center, we can’t be shaken by the troubles of the world. We can charge ahead, affirmed in our God-given purpose, and restored with true peace.
Concern with what’s worldly leads us to feelings of anxiety, insufficiency, and inability. But concern with what’s heavenly recreates our soul and gives us a glimpse of the heavenly rest we hope to one day enjoy.
Breathe. And know God’s got you!