Stress is epidemic in the western world. Over two-thirds of office visits to physicians are for stress or anxiety related illness. Stress is a major contributing factor, either directly or indirectly, to coronary artery disease, cancer, respiratory disorders, accidental injuries, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide – the six leading causes of death in the United States. Stress has also been linked to immune deficiency and memory loss as well.

There are various symptoms that could be stress or anxiety related. Some of these are; palpitations, cold hands or feet, rapid heart beat, chest pains, constant worrying, anger and irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. These could occur as a result of pressure at work, financial difficulties, a troubled marriage or even little junior driving you up the wall as a result of his constant crying. One thing is for sure, when you’re stressed, your body knows it and it effects you in more ways than you think!

There are all kinds of stress management books; seminars and tapes out there, some of which can be very helpful in relieving the pressures of stress and anxiety. But there are also some very practical and effective ways that a person can win over the ever nagging struggles of these two monsters without having to first swim through volumes of “how to books” to do so! Too many individuals have been programmed all their lives to worry about something. One way to stop reinforcing bad programming is to limit the amount of time spent each day in worrying. Consider the following:

Laughter: Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is a good medicine…” The power of joy and laughter have been proven mentally and physically medicinal for hundreds of years. To laugh is to be relieved of tension and stress, the two elements that rob us of the victory of life. Catch a lighthearted movie, recall a funny time in your past, watch a good “Sinbad” HBO comedy special, laugh in your car while driving (believe me it’s contagious!) Someone once said, “Your day goes the way the corners of your mouth turn.” If you start the process, the outcome will be rewarding! Without question, laughter has proven to be a ho-ho-holistic medicine!

Music: It has been said that “music sooths the savage beast.” Well, if this is true, then stress and anxiety definitely fall in to the “beast” category. Clinical study after study is showing that the effects of music, in particular classical and mood music are playing a positive role in relieving individuals of undo stress and anxiety. Try turning on the classical station rather than the “oldies” while riding home from work. Also try putting soft music on while sleeping, it really does relieve tension, and as a result of it, many have been able to face the day with a more positive attitude.

Exercising: Getting proper exercise is crucial in tackling your stress and anxiety problem. Case studies have shown that exercising at least three times a week to the point of perspiration reduces stress and anxiety while at the same time increasing a more positive outlook on life. There isn’t enough that can be said about the mental and physical redeeming values of proper exercise. This could be as simple as taking a brisk walk three times a week or even running in place while watching the news.

Backing Off: One of the gravest errors we make when going through a stressful or anxious time is to not know when to “retreat and regroup.” Any successful war general will tell you, to retreat is not to say we’ve lost the battle, but rather to be able to better calculate our next move! Backing away from the problem (the stress) whether that’s taking a walk, driving a few days in the mountains, time at the ocean, etc. offers a chance to regroup. Placing “distance” between you and the stress allows you to be refreshed to face the challenge another day.

Spiritual Strength: 1 Peter. 5:7 says; “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” Based on the premise that man is made up of body (physical), soul (psyche, mind) and spirit (God breathed life), it stands to reason that when any one of these aspects are not functioning properly, it will add to the deficiency of the whole person. Unfortunately, too often this part of the person is left unmet. Several psychiatrists such as Dr. Frank Minirth and Dr. Paul Meier, as well as psychologists such as Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Everett Worthington, have been advocating for years that mental health and faith go hand in hand for a healthy construction of the whole person. Try to attend a church of your choice, you’ll be amazed to find out just how much stress and anxiety can be lost as a result of one hour of spiritual strength!