"Stress is not stress if one does not perceive it that way," says psychiatrist and author Dr. Frank Minirth.
Stress is something we all face. However, it is our coping techniques, or lack thereof, that will make us or break us.
It is our response to stress and events that counts. What causes stress for one person may not be stressful to another. Stress events vary from loss of a loved one, divorce, a change in sleeping habits or even Christmas.
Below are defense mechanisms and coping techniques from "Happiness is a Lifestyle" by Frank Minirth, M.D., to overcoming stress this holiday season:
Anticipation, looking forward to future, happy events is a simple healthy defense in times of stress. We all need something to look forward to. It can be as big as an elaborate vacation or a favorite TV special. Always have something to look forward to.
Laughter is a wonderful defense because it releases as much tension as crying and is a whole lot more fun. Humor releases endorphins and enkephalins, which are our natural antidepressants.
Forgiveness: Through forgiveness we can relieve a tremendous stress. The No. 1 stress factor seen in the Minirth/Meyer clinic in Texas is anger at other individuals. He cites: Ephesians 4:31-32 - "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you."
Faith is more than a defense, but it probably relieves stress better than anything else. Faith in Christ, and faith in Scriptures.
Love: The giving and accepting of love is a wonderful defense against feelings of loneliness and inferiority that cause stress. Love is a choice. Love is a behavior. Since calm feelings tend to follow loving behavior, this is a defense that should be primary. Remember: Our feelings follow our actions.
Now here is the secret to overcoming stress:
Perception is everything when it comes to stress. The Scriptures were written to alter our perception. Minirth said, "It is possible to be under stress and yet not distressed. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." 2 Cor. 4:8-9
For instance, find comforting Scriptures and write them on index cards. I did this in Bible College, and have started again, and find it a comforting way to redirect my mind throughout the day. And I find comfort and peace, and so can you. Here are a few:
If you find a situation hopeless, meditate on Jeremiah 32:27- "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?"
You feel alone: Read 2 Kings 6:15-17 about Elisha and his servant being in quite a "pickle" and the servant's eyes were opened to see the great host from heaven surrounding them. ... awww ... he found peace. You are not alone, my friend. Psalm 91 is our family chapter and we've read and quoted it during the most difficult of times.
Your stress is an individual who is being mean, and you are afraid: Psalm 118:6 - "The Lord is for me. I will not fear, what can man do to me?" Also: "Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." Deuteronomy 20:3-4
You feel alone in your stress or situation: "I will never thee leave nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5
You feel these stressors will never end. "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You: and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by." Psalm 57:1
Whatever your problem area, find a Scripture and either commit it to memory or write it down on a card. Now, here are two more thoughts to overcoming stress:
Develop a Fighting Spirit - There have been many studies done with folks with cancer and the ones with a fighting spirit did much better than those without it. Minirth states, "An aging sage said to me years ago, 'Pray to God but row to shore.'
In other words, God will help, but we must do our part. God wants us to be brave, and have a fighting spirit to combat the effect of the stressors in our life. You can, muster a fighting spirit, by God's grace."
Lastly, Minirth's final admonition: "You may want to alter your lifestyle. Perhaps altering your lifestyle would help alleviate some of your stress. You may need to slow down, get a different job, go on a vacation, move to the country, lay aside some of your burdens, avoid certain individuals or bring an end to some other ongoing stressor.
Our world is filled with many stressful events, people and places, but through identifying your stressors, using defense strategies, memorizing Scripture, developing a fighting spirit and altering our lifestyles, we can have peace and calm even in the midst of a storm.
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom, and a counselor and licensed chaplain at Cornerstone Christian Counseling Center. Contact her at: 304-637-7018 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.)