HELENH-20150326-154998537_e4cc28725b_bA Christian Counselor Discusses Stress and Effective Remedies

We live and work in a pressure-cooker world of sometimes unrealistic demands. We are expected to be smarter, faster, and better than others in our sphere of influence. We are barraged daily with some 3,000 messages (TV, radio, internet, print advertising) that psychologically push us to irrational competition with our neighbors and colleagues so that we can be the smartest, the best, and the fastest.

The effects of this are, to some degree, negative, both physically and psychologically. And all too often these effects contribute greatly to personal and professional burnout.

What Can We Do About Stress?

So, what is the point of engaging in this kind of behavior? What can we do to live and be productive in this world, but not be swallowed up by the internal and external chaos that leads us to debilitating issues?

An essential answer is to believe Christ completely when He says, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you,” (John 14:27) and to then rely steadfastly on that gift of peace. In addition, increasing our self-awareness and becoming aware of specific symptoms of anxiety, and then relying on proven relaxation techniques, will reduce the harmful effects of stress as much as possible.

The Cost of a Stressful Lifestyle

In his Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, psychologist Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. describes the physical and psychological debilitation caused by tension. He suggests tools and practical methods to gain balance and calmness, even during intense, stress-inducing experiences.

Irrespective of whether one’s bouts with tension are large or small, frequent or infrequent, the cost of a stressful lifestyle can include:

  • Anxioussleep disturbances and fatigue;
  • overeating;
  • hampered decision-making skills;
  • risky behavior (sex, drugs, alcohol);
  • anxiety (intermittent or chronic);
  • panic attacks;
  • chest pain;
  • fast and shallow respiration that reduces blood oxygen levels;
  • high blood pressure;
  • digestive issues;
  • headaches;
  • a short-temper or anger issues;
  • a poor self-image;
  • a drain on emotional or physical energy;
  • negative self-talk;
  • procrastination;
  • mismanaged and wasted time.

Can you identify any of these issues in your life? If so, you could benefit from relaxation methods.

How Can You Reduce Stress?

Stress relief, like learning to play the piano or speak a foreign language, requires consistent practice. Just a half-hour spent practicing stress reduction every day does much to lessen the long-term negative impact of stress. As methods of relaxation become a natural, ongoing part of our daily activities, we can build a natural safeguard against stress. This alerts us when we risk becoming overwhelmed and are close to losing our inner peace and steadiness. Well-practiced relaxation techniques can be called upon at a moment’s notice to help reduce the pressures-at-hand.

Dr. Bourne says that methods of deep relaxation, which is different from “just relaxing,” work to:

  • decrease blood pressure;
  • decrease heart and respiration rate;
  • decrease metabolic rate;
  • decrease the rate of oxygen consumption;
  • decrease muscle tension;
  • decrease analytical thinking;
  • increase skin resistance;
  • increase alpha wave activity in the brain.

Learning to Relax

HELENH-20150326-6812062635_d4e281112d_oPeople who practice deep relaxation methods report less intense and less frequent bouts with anxiety and panic. Some people report that deep relaxation methods have brought up suppressed and unresolved feelings or painful memories. Should this occur, it provides a great opportunity to work with an experienced Christian counselor as you deal with feelings and memories that may very well be in the background contributing to your stress.
Some ways to reduce stress by using “deep relaxation” include:

  • hearty exercise of all types;
  • long walks outdoors immersing yourself in nature’s beauty;
  • meditation using visualized imagery
  • down time that is taken when needed;
  • quiet, contemplative time in the presence of Jesus;
  • learning to say “no” to many of the requests for your time and energies;
  • delegating tasks that others could do;
  • engaging in hobbies you enjoy;
  • prioritizing your responsibilities and then doing what you reasonably can;
  • overestimating the time needed to accomplish any task;
  • realizing that a job done with care, responsibility, and purpose is “enough.”

A Christian Counselor Can Help You Deal with the Stress in Your Life

If you are experiencing stress-related issues, working with a Christian counselor can help you to launch and support new skills that will guide you in your desire to “de-stress.” I would be happy to meet with you to determine the causes and level of stress in your life and its effect upon you.

Bourne, Edward J. (2010).  Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. Chapter 4, pages 81-104.Photos
“Sonntag,” by Christian Kadluba, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Breathe,” by Mae Chevrette, Flickr CreativeCommons, (CC BY 2.0); “Macaca fascicularis,” courtesy of Rushen, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)



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