Franciscan Spirit Blog

Faith-Based Ways to Conquer Stress

Man in anguish

Before the sun rises, I have a routine: I shower, eat breakfast, and get centered. And then I meditate. I put in my earplugs, listen to soothing music, and close my eyes. I focus on one thing only—either my body or my breathing. And after five or 10 minutes, I am ready for the day.

These actions do not eliminate the inevitable stresses waiting for us in the day ahead. But they center us and place us on a firm and balanced foundation. By beginning each day within ourselves, we are able to tap into our spirits and manage stress holistically.

The Damages of Stress

Let’s be honest: COVID-19 has inflicted unimaginable stresses. And stress can wreak havoc on us—mentally, physically, and emotionally. When we are anxious, stress chemicals and hormones are released that affect our bodies, which, over time, affect our health. Chronic stress can suppress our immune system, rendering us susceptible to illness and heighten our risk of chronic diseases. In the moment, stress interferes with our happiness, the quality of our relationships, and our overall quality of life. Stress can also cause us to be irritable, depressed, or angry. Physically, we may experience sleeplessness, headaches, stomach problems, or bodily discomfort such as neck or back pain.

Conquering stress can be broken down into three distinct steps. As you continue on your holistic journey, consider incorporating these thoughts and actions into your daily routine:

Tune into your body. Common things to look for are increased or decreased appetite, upset stomach, muscle tension, headaches or migraines, and lack of sleep. Emotions that spring from stress can be moodiness, sadness, or apathy.

Recognize your stressors. Everyone responds to situations differently. What makes one person nervous may present an interesting challenge to another. Stressors can be big or small, acute or chronic, positive or negative. Traffic, laundry, children, work, marriage, divorce, deployment—the list is endless. What bothers you? What causes your stomach to turn or your neck to tense? Start with the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed.

Understand stress management. Some of the most effective practices are breathing techniques, muscle relaxation exercises, and physical exercise. Deep breathing can even be done in the heat of the moment without anyone’s awareness. Exercise can help dissipate those stress hormones and release feel-good hormones as a replacement. Prayer, meditation, and yoga induce a calmer, more centered mind. When we are centered and focused, we are able to solve problems more effectively. We are better equipped to act rather than to react. Adopt appropriate techniques for your specific stressors. If your days start out rushed and stressful, wake up 10 minutes earlier to center yourself. Small, manageable steps like this can make a huge difference in your life.

Take good care of yourself. When you start the day working on the internal, you will cultivate the resilience necessary to face the external.

Quick Tips for Managing Stress

Choose. Surround yourself with people you love.

Pray. Have a one-on-one conversation with God.

Talk. Express your feelings.

Sweat. Go for a walk or a jog.

Indulge. Take time for hobbies and interests.

Organize. Prioritize and make lists.

Breathe. Take slow, deep breaths when stress levels rise.

Think. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

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