Have you ever felt stressed out? Burned out? Exhausted? Frazzled? Anxious? Or, any other of 1000 worrisome feelings? Has there ever been something unhealthy in your life and you know you need to let go of it, but you find yourself feeling afraid to do it? We have ALL been there and many of us are there right now, but we don't have to live in a constant state of negativity or frustration. We were created for more. I love the way The Message translation of the Bible paraphrases these beautiful words from Jesus…
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)
I'd encourage you to re-read this passage above as many times as it takes until is starts to sink in and breathe new life back into your weary soul. Once those words begin the displace the stress and lift that heavy burden off your shoulders, you'll naturally think something like, "That sounds great and all, but HOW do I embrace that kind of peace?"
Start by doing these three things listed below and doing them IMMEDIATELY. I stress the immediacy of this, because our stress doesn't resolve itself on its own. It only grows stronger and makes us feel more powerless as time goes by. Please don't waste a minute in doing the following…
1. Let go of what's causing the stress*
Sometimes a stressful routine can becoming something we don't want to change, because even though it's dysfunctional, it has become like a comfortable prison cell. Our stressful habits can trap us as if we were holding an angry Pit Bull by the ears. You probably don't like the situation, but you're terrified to let go!
Letting go of our stress and anxiety is so important, but it can also be complex. At first, it can even be uncomfortable. I had a friend describe it like this…Imagine you tied a rubber band around your finger as tightly as it would go until all circulation was cut off from that finger and then you left it there until the finger changed color and went completely numb. Once you decided to untangle the rubber band and life-giving circulation started flowing back into your finger, it will actually hurt at first. When health rushes back into a place where it had been absent, it can be an uncomfortable and even jarring transition at first, but that discomfort is the first step towards meaningful progress. Embrace the discomfort. It will be brief, but the positive impact it brings can be permanent.
*There will be times when you might say, "I can't let go of what's causing the stress, because it's my kids or my spouse!" Clearly, you shouldn't cut loose a child or spouse because they're causing stress, but always look for ways to bring more peace to those relationships. You have more power than you realize to effect positive change for everyone involved through your words and your actions.
2. Take care of yourself
We can rarely control what happens to us in life, but we can always control how we choose to respond. One way to have a positive response to life's stress is to commit to taking care of yourself physically, relationally and spiritually. If you won't do it, chances are good that nobody else will do it for you. There are probably people in your life who want to help you, but you need to vocalize your specific needs. Don't expect them to figure it out through your non-verbals.
Commit to getting the rest you need. Exercise regularly. Eat right. Surround yourself with encouraging friends. Get connected into a healthy church. Consistently cultivate healthy habits, and your stress levels will start to lower and your peace will start to rise.
3. Trust in a power bigger than yourself
A lot of my own stress has happened when I tried to carry the weight of the world instead of remember that God loves you and me and He's in control and He will never leave us or forsake us. When you find yourself in those moments of doubt, I'd encourage you to have faith. Faith isn't a feeling that comes and goes, but rather, it's a choice to trust God even when the road ahead seems uncertain. Pray when you feel like worrying. Worrying only produces more worry, but prayer produces more faith.
This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.