By Sister Peggy Crowley, SHCJ
Keeping the Faith Praying Through Stress “If you are slow to get angry, you are wise. But if you are quick-tempered, you only show foolishness.” -Proverbs 14:29
We’ve all been there. Our boss frowns at us and we assume it’s because we’ve done something wrong. Our fear makes us feel angry and our stress builds, leading us to snap at our co-workers all day. Later we find out that our boss was simply having a bad day. Or there’s a miscommunication about who is picking up the kids after soccer practice and as a result, you and your spouse both show up. Your impulse is to reprimand your spouse for not listening, which leads you to list numerous situations in which you don’t feel your spouse has listened to you. These situations can easily overwhelm us in life. What role can faith and prayer play in managing this type of stress? A pretty big one actually!
Did you know that in the womb, our heart starts beating before our brains are even formed? Pretty amazing! Our heartbeats aren’t just mechanical throbs of a diligent pump, but rather an intelligent language that significantly influences how we perceive and react to the world. The truth is that our emotions operate at higher speeds than our minds. (Doc Childre & Howard Martin, The HeartMind Solution) That means that we evaluate situations emotionally and we think about it afterwards. If we don’t give ourselves times to reflect and pray over the situations that upset or pressure us, stress can build and lead to overreaction. Our faith can play a significant role in helping us to manage stress.
Daniel Goleman’s research (1996) confirmed that success in life is based more on our ability to manage our emotions than on our intellectual capabilities and that a lack of success is more often than not due to our mismanagement of emotions. The good news is that the ability to manage our emotions can be developed and increased throughout life. Your faith, and especially prayer, can be especially helpful in managing your stress. Use these tips to help build your emotional resilience.
Spend time in a particular location that provides you with a sense of security such as your local parish.
Express your gratitude to God. Begin a gratitude journal in which you record what you are grateful for each day. Regularly recognizing all you are grateful can provide a natural buffer from stress and overreacting.
Trust in the Word of God. Take a few moments to recognize and remember that God is in control. Some Bible passages that can provide reassurance include Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:27, and Psalm 4:8.
Find union with God through prayer and meditation. Sign up to receive our monthly meditations in your inbox to always provide yourself with a moment of reflection and awareness where you can see God acting in your everyday life.
Undertake an activity that you find nurturing such as reading a good book or taking a warm bath.
Get together with a friend and talk through how you are feeling.
Try to take refuge in one or more things every day. Taking refuge in the things that nurture you can pull you away from stress and overreaction, and begin to fill you with positive influences. As you rest increasingly in a background of refuge, your mind and heart are quietly stitching a safety net for you. What other strategies do you have for managing stress and overreaction? Share your ideas below.