In his book God At Work, Ken Costa gives seven practical ways that a Christian can cope with stress in the workplace. I thought they were quite useful, so here’s a quick rundown:
1. Stay Healthy
Taking regular breaks, holidays and exercise so our bodies are in decent physical condition. this may men walking to wrk, joining a gym or simply taking a coffee break. Our bodies are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor 6:19) so we need to treat them with respect.
2. Fight Fear
Psalm 112:7 says that people who trust the Lord will ‘have no fear of bad news’. Sometimes God warns us that bad news may be coming, but even if he does not, God’s sovereignty over all things means that he is never out of control of a situation, and can be trusted even when the bad news arrives.
3. Take joy Seriously
Stress can make us focus solely on the thing that is stressing us out. 1 Thess 5:1 tells us to ‘be joyful always’. How is this possible through stress? By taking time to recognise God’s good work in the world and the beauty he has put into it. For example, a bird chirping in a tree, or an elderly couple holding hands can remind us of God’s enduring values and love. These small things in life can give us joy in the midst of a stressful situation.
4. Take an emotional break
No-one performs under unrelenting stress. Often, taking a break by doing something completely different can take our mind of things and allow us to come back refreshed. [I often find that whilst our main thoughts are taken up by doing something new such as gardening, playing the piano or cooking, our brains continue to churn along in the background on the problem at hand without us really noticing.] Ken suggests phoning a friend or writing an email to one who is unconnected with your problem. Instead of a dinner for two with your spouse where the days issues often get churned up again, why not doing something else where you can enjoy being together without the need to rehash your problems, such as a game of tennis or a trip to the cinema. Ken recommends times of sung worship to retain his intimacy for God as well as take his mind off the stress.
5. Minister in the opposite Spirit
In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul was hard pressed on every side and bad mouthed behind his back (particularly in 1 Cor 4:12-13 and 2 Cor 4). Ministering the opposite Spirit means that we don’t just deal back what is given to us. If we are criticized, we should aim to answer gently in the knowledge that God is the one from whom our worth is derived. In the heat of the moment this is hard to do, but taking a step back and consciously asking for the help of the Holy Spirit can give us the strength that is needed.
6. Take control of thoughts
In times of stress and anxiety the mind is often overcome by negativity. Some of these doubts may be well founded, but the likelihood is that most of them are not. Taking control of thoughts means weeding out al the negative thoughts that are without substance, and learning from the ones that are not. Ken also likes to remind himself of the many attributes of God that are praiseworthy and dwell upon those for a while. (Phil 4:8). This can be done in a number of ways. One worker likes to go to a quiet place in stressful times and stay there for a while. Another sets aside a ‘worry time; – a set time of the day when he will deal with all the most awkward emails and things in his intray. Breaking time into small manageable chunks for different purposes can help this too, e.g. morning to lunch, early afternoon to coffee break etc. Jesus’ words were ‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will sorry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’
7. Pray and read the Bible
This one should be first really. Phil 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition present your requests to God’. This can be done in the morning, in the lift, at lunchtime on a quiet park bench, or anywhere. As we read the Bible more, we hear of God’s actions, and learn to hear his voice and see his touch more. “Prayer is the vital Oxygen for living”. it offers a reality test. We need to be careful when we pray that we are not just worrying all over again. Intercessions are a legitimate and vital part of prayer but it should also include praise for God himself, Thanks for what he has done, and some self reflection and confession. This action helps us to build up our memory backs and to be prepared for dealing with stress when it does happen.