Part 2 of a 2-Part Overcoming Stress in the Family Series
We live in a stressful world and we all encounter stress in our daily life. As we go through the day, we are constantly challenged as to how we respond to stressful situations. In my previous article, I discussed the effect that stress can have on the family, showing how easily we hurt those who are closest to us. Stress does have some benefits, but when it begins to dominate our lives and makes us react in negative ways, then we need to find healthier ways of dealing with it. In this article, I suggest some concrete ways in which the insights of Christian counseling can help us to cope with stress in a psychologically healthy way.
Stop and ThinkIn order to handle stress in a more positive manner, we need to first stop and think about the circumstances that are causing the stress. This allows us to decide how to respond and to execute a plan. It is better to stop and think rather than simply to react.
It is easy to tell people to stop and think, but the reality is that many of us are “reactors” who find this difficult. We tend to react rather than to stop to think. You are not alone if you can identify with this personality trait. Yet I have seen how different individuals have changed simply by refraining from reacting, and by training their minds to stop, breathe and think about what to say next. Your tendency to react can be changed by making a conscious effort to change the initial emotional reaction.
Take a Deep Breath
Together with stopping to think, you can also lower your stress level by forty percent simply be taking a deep breath. This means that you can reduce your stress level by almost half simply by taking a breath! Looked at in another way, if you have a stress level of six on a scale of one to ten, simply stopping to breathe can reduce it to three and a half. You will be starting to feel better even before have started to execute your plan. This can also help you if you suffer from panic attacks, for keeping your breathing under control is one of the healthiest ways to prevent the negative reactions that stress can cause.
Listen to Your Body
Apart from stopping to think and controlling your breathing, it is important to be attentive to your body’s reactions to stress. We should consider what our body does when we feel stressed, and learn to recognize which circumstances bring on those sensations. For example, if you experience the tightening of the chest described above, you can learn to recognize your personal bodily reactions, and can begin to anticipate them. By beginning to breathe deeply, you can get ahead of your body’s reaction and thus avoid the unwanted effects of stress.
Communicate With Others About Your Stress
Finally, it can help your psychological health to tell those around you how you are feeling. If you are stressed and can express this to your spouse, child, or co-worker, it will be easier for them to understand what you are going through. They may also be able to help you by relieving you of some of your workload, letting you rest, or giving you a moment to think.
Christian Counseling Can Help You To Deal With Stress
Dealing with your stress may involve taking stock of your life and making some strategic decisions. You may need to balance your priorities in order to bring your stress level down. If you are able to recognize the reactions your body has to stress and can use your breathing to lower your stress level, you can create a more stress-free mindset before making your plan. A Christian counselor can help you in this process as you consider how best to reach your goal. Christian counseling helps you to share how you feel with those around you and can help you to regain control of yourself. If you would like to explore how a Christian Counselor can help you deal with the stress that is affecting your family, please call feel free to contact us here.
Brimhall, A. S. & Gardner, B. C. (No date) Altering the Abyss: Externalizing negative interaction cycles. The Couple and Family Therapist’s Notebook.
Gottman, J.M., & Notarius, C. I. (2000) Decade review: Observing marital interaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 927-947.
Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J., & Jackson, D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Wiehe, V. R. (1998). Understanding Family Violence. Treating and Preventing.
Images from freedigitalphotos.net; “Woman With Mask For Oxygen” by Ambro; “How Should I Face This Major Problem?” by stockimages
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