Today I will be covering positive (having a good effect; marked by optimism) coping strategies. I talked in a previous post how stress is any circumstance that threatens or is perceived to threaten one’s well-being and taxes one’s coping abilities. Our bodies and brains are made to handle only so much before it can take no more. Physically, when we overload our bodies with food, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, it is only a matter of time that our bodies break down and can no longer function normally. The same holds true when it comes to our emotional well being. If you have too much stress coming at you all at once, it is only a matter of time that you will break down emotionally.
Remember, your emotions are there to tell you something. Listen to them. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and do an evaluation of what is going on in your life to find your sources of stress (Coping Strategies ~ Part I has a list to get you started). After you find the sources, then you want to sit down and rationally think through changes that you can make to alleviate some of those sources. Your stress could be causes by too many activities, bad relationships, sin, poor time management, unresolved issues, etc. Evaluation is important because making quick decisions without evaluation can bring more stress. Brainstorm on what changes you can make in your life to lessen your stress level. Do not try to put into effect all your ideas at once (that could set you up for failure). Start with one idea and implement it.
Often, you are not able to think clearly when you are on stress overload. If you are unable to evaluate your stress and necessary changes, it is important to call in reinforcements. Seek God’s face and listen to His still, small voice. James 1:5-6 is one of my favorite verses that I claim often, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” Talk to someone who you trust who can help you think more clearly. This person could be a family member, a friend, a pastor, or a counselor (make sure the person you go to has their life together and you can trust them to give you godly counsel). ~ Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” Do not be embarrassed and try to do it on your own. God has placed people around you as a way to be there during your trials. When you turn others away, most often, you are turning away help from God. ~ Proverbs 13:10 “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.
There may be times when there is unexpected, added stress, such as a tragic death of a loved one, losing your home to a fire or natural disaster. It is imperative during those times that you let others know you are overwhelmed and let them know of ways that would help you. People do not know that you need help unless you let them know you are stressed. Again, do not be prideful. People are blessed when they help others. Do not steal their blessing!
Exercise is a wonderful way to release stress. Your brain releases chemicals when you exercise that are good for your mood and body. Relaxation can do wonders. Having some down time where you can go “brain dead” for a little time is nice. Humor is a great stress releaser. I have certain friends that just crack me up. I always feel better after I have been with them. Go call that friend, read a funny book, take a nice bath, go out to eat, etc…
Positive reinterpretation is a way to help you evaluate your situation. Many times negative thinking brings depression and unneeded stress. Positive reinterpretation is looking at the positive that can come from what you are going through. It is making positive comparisons. An example would be that your car will not start in the morning. Instead of focusing on the frustrations of the car breaking down, thank God that you are home and begin to do the necessary steps to take care of the issues that resulted because of not having the car. No one is exempt from the struggles in life, so it is important to stay calm and work through them when they come upon you.
Whatever you do, do not hold in your feelings and think they will go away. Humble yourself and share with someone what you are going through and allow God to work in your situation. Remember, as Christians, we are there to walk alongside of each other and help each other see that there is hope. We serve a risen Savior who is alive and well. He will see you through to a better tomorrow if you trust Him, seek help, and be willing to do what is necessary to regulate your stress.