The problem with consistent stress is that if we’re not careful, it consumes us. It raises our blood pressure, robs us of sleep, tempts us to eat poorly, keeps us from exercising, and diminishes the overall quality of our lives — and relationships. (Have you noticed how angry people seem to be these days?) The truth is, there’s a tremendous amount of stress in America. It’s coming from all angles, constantly. One of the most important things you need to do is learn how to consistently plan — and take — time to relax.
What I want to help you do is rediscover the importance of consistent relaxation — and to make some basic changes in your life starting this weekend. It’s important, for your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health, to take time to relax – often. Every week — and every day throughout the week — you need to take time to relax. Let’s jump in with 5 things anyone can do, immediately, to reverse the stress trend in your life. Give one (or all five) a shot and see how they positively help you.
5 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO BEGIN REDUCING YOUR STRESS
1. GO TO BED, AND GET UP, 15-30 MINUTES EARLIER. This is a small adjustment in your life that will pay off big time. Doing this creates “quiet time” for yourself. There is so much noise in our lives, that we need to be deliberate to shut it all off, and do nothing but relax, sit quietly and recharge your battery.
My best days are those when I go to bed early, get up early, and sit quietly, with my Bible, and read, think, and pray back to God what I’ve been reading and thinking about. As time passes, you may want to increase this time from 15-30 minutes.
Remember, however, that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Start with this small increment. It will convince you of the importance of a daily quiet time in reducing stress, reconnecting with your Creator, and living a better life all around.
2. EXERCISE — BUT DON’T TRY TO BECOME AN OLYMPIC ATHLETE IN A MONTH. It’s better to exercise consistently, even if a little, than to adopt a “feast or famine” approach. Take time to exercise daily, or at least three to four times a week.
Resistance training (like using weights or performing pushups and sit-ups), as well as aerobic exercise, is good for you. It not only affects your body, but also your mind. It releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural chemicals that create a positive mental outlook. In other words, what you do or don’t do with your body will affect your outlook on life, one day at a time.
3. MAKE ONE DAY OF THE WEEK YOUR REGULAR “SABBATH.” Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Long-term, working every day of the week will work against you in every way. It will decrease, not increase, your productivity, mental alertness, sense of humor, ability to listen, and just about everything about you.
These are good reasons why God, our Architect, commanded us to take one day off from all work each week. Since I’m a pastor, my day off is Friday. Are there times when I don’t really take it off? To be honest, yes. But is that a good practice to get into? Not at all. I’ve found that taking one day off a week is the best thing I can do to make the other six days the most enjoyable and productive. I think you will, too.
Don’t get hung up on which day of the week you should take — but by all means take off one day of the week as a day of rest from all your regular work. If you are married and have a family, make it the same day, so you can enjoy it, together.
I learned this the hard way: you will get more done, and enjoy your life far better if you take God at His word and take one day off as your day of rest. God commanded you to rest because He knows you need it. These days, we need it more than ever.
4. DON’T LET SOMEONE RAIN ON YOUR PARADE. People are angry and stressed-out these days, and this is manifest by their tearing other people down. When someone is rude to you, consider that it’s a reflection on them, not you. I used to take it personally when someone called me names, was rude, testy or inconsiderate.
Once I learned the value of #1 and #2, above, I found that negative, rude, angry people didn’t affect me as deeply as they used to. I think you’ll find the same to be true for you. When your own stress decreases, it’s more difficult for the stress of others to rub off on you.
5. STAY ENGAGED, BUT PAY ATTENTION TO THE OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF, TOO. This is the most difficult thing to do, but it’s something you need to master in these turbulent days in America. Too many people have disengaged altogether, become apathetic, and are out of touch with what’s happening in our nation.
I’m reminded of this important statement, the origin of which is uncertain, but the truth of which is undeniable: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” You need to care deeply about the moral, political, racial, financial and other problems in our country, and be part of the solution. But you also need to make sure that paying attention to the bad stuff doesn’t keep you from focusing on the good stuff.
If you have a family, love them. Pay close attention to your spouse, and your children. One day, you won’t have the time you now have, to revisit. Be present in mind, not just the body, when having conversations, sharing a meal, doing things “together.” Make sure you are paying attention, because the only life you’ll ever live this side of eternity is happening — right now.
WHAT CHANGES HAS THIS BLOG HELPED YOU CONSIDER MAKING THIS WEEKEND AND IN THE COMING WEEKS? DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO COULD BENEFIT FROM READING THIS?
ABOUT ME: Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life I’ve learned through failure. I typically publish my blogs Tuesday through Friday, here and on Facebook. We welcome and read comments from readers just like you because they help us (and others) think and grow. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
My first book, published by Thomas Nelson, is slated for release in March 13, 2018. For more about me, click here. If you’d like to request an interview, or to explore the potential of my speaking to your group, click here.