A Plan to Handle Stress and Anxiety

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The holidays are right around the corner! I love this time of year and all that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year hold as far as hope! But, for many, this time of year is filled with hurry, stress, and chaos. Gift-giving, extended family gatherings, and church commitments can leave us feeling exhausted. How do we create a plan to handle the anxiety and stress of the season so that we can enjoy the wonder of the incarnation without sabotaging our peace?

In Psalm 37, David gives us a few keys to sustaining our sanity even during seasons of chaos. This alphabetical Psalm has been a comfort to me more times than I can count. It was a Psalm where each pair of lines begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It’s a beautiful instruction course on how to live stress-free.

Principles on Stress-Free/Anxiety-Free Living

Don’t Fret. The dictionary defines fretting as “to express worry, annoyance, discontent” And then it goes on to describe that fretting is like “gnawing of the soul.” Ah, it’s so descriptive, isn’t it? We get ourselves all tied up in knots of silly things. We go back and forth in our minds over all that could go wrong. We analyze all the possibilities. Rather than fretting, spend time praising God that He knows what will happen. He understands relationships. He is the provider and He will go before you into the new year with the promise of hope. Worry is so easy, but it simply doesn’t help us. However, because worry tangles us so easily, we need a plan. Here’s mine: Turn your panic into praise. Every time you feel your mind spinning with worry and obsessing about the best plan to move forward, stop. Shift your focus to the LORD. He goes before you and will sustain you!

Dwell and Delight. Practice dwelling in the presence of the LORD. It’s easy, particularly during this season, to rush our tie with God. We have so much to do. We may just say a short prayer or read a quick verse, but we’re really not internalizing and enjoying our relationship with Christ. Our mind is a million miles away. Practice settling your soul before the Lord. I use worship music to do this. I light a candle. I acknowledge that I want to enjoy God’s presence. I practice a few minutes of silence. I remind myself that the LORD is right with me. He longs for me to delight in Him. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me release the thousands of thoughts that pummel my mind each minute. Instead, I shift my focus to God Almighty. I dwell on the fact that God’s love was so great that He sent His Son as an infant to walk and talk among us – to hang out in our neck of the woods. It’s mind-blowing. When I dwell on Him, my immediate response is worship. I bow before His greatness and simply worship Him.

Commit Everything to Him. Everything? Everything! Every. Little. Thing. God cares about the intimate details of your life. He cares how you relate to others. He cares how you raise your kids. He cares how you spend your money. As a loving Father, He wants to hear about it all! During this season of wonder and wildness, learn to carry on a constant conversation with the Lord. Ask Him about each decision you are trying to make and trust that He will lead. He knows and understands your desires, your dreams, your cares, and your concerns. So, dump it all at His feet. Pour out your heart authentically. When we commit everything to the Lord there is a peace that pervades our souls that goes beyond human understanding.

Be Still and Wait. The whole season of Advent is about waiting. We live in a world of injustice, evil, hunger, and hatred. Yet, we live in the words of theologian N.T. Wright: “Between Advent and Advent; between the first great advent, the coming of the Son into the world, and the second Advent, when he shall come again in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.”[1] We stand as believers, rejoicing in the first Advent and the glory of the incarnation, longing for the second Advent – the second coming of our King. In the meantime, we wait with eager anticipation. We take the time to be still and know that He is indeed God. We worship and we wait. This is the posture we need to embrace in the crazy wonder of the holiday season.

Lord Jesus, I worship You. I celebrate the wonder of the incarnation. I bow before You and fall at your feet. As I live in this broken and fallen world, I live with the eternal hope that You will come again. You will one day rule with power and authority. When I am tempted to get anxious and stressed, help me to pause and reflect on your glorious nature. May the peace of Christ rule in my heart during this season and may all who I come in contact with sense the presence of Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Here are a few great gift ideas for this Christmas!

Psalms for the Anxious Heart

The Extraordinary Power of Praise

How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk

[1] N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer, (Grand Rapids, MC/ Cambridge, U.K., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 8

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