Medical findings consistently show that stress effects not only how we feel but it also affects us physically, psychologically (including chemical shifts in the brain), and how we relate with others. There are various resources for how we handle stress - some that we feel may work for us. But, how do our vices change our outlook? Do the things we do to combat stress actually help us in the long run or are they just temporary solutions for a here and now change in feeling with a negative effect on future occurrences of stress? Dr. Archibald Hart, in his book The Anxiety Cure, would argue that we heighten our stress responses with more cortisol and adrenaline that then feed into more stress and anxiety. As he continues his discussion on stress he goes on to talk of the physiological aspect of stress and how it is important to make good practices a habit to build up more "happy" messengers in the brain to combat the effects of adrenaline and cortisol.
Research shows that faith in a religion can help overcome and prevent stress. But, what practices does religion offer to prevent and reduce stress? Simply put: Spiritual Discipline type activities like creating a sense of quiet and peace, giving up control, increasing meaning, enhancing a sense of connectedness, maintaining a sense of purpose, and gaining perspective. What do these activities look like from a Christian perspective? Creating a sense of quiet and peace can be done through meditating on God and scripture. Think of his word and promises to us (his followers) and take meditation back from the connotations that it is an activity of Eastern religions. Giving up control involves just that - letting God do the work he intends to do with your life. So often Christians can get caught up in a fight over desires that they miss the point of God being in control. This can create undue pressures and a feeling of needing to do it all and do it all quickly. Increasing meaning involves evaluating the situations being faced and reviewing them to see how they can be used for a benefit. A good mantra here would be to remember that all things work for God - will these things make a positive or negative impact on you through your perceptions? Enhancing a sense of connectedness is very important for the Christian faith. Larry Crabb, in his book Connecting, speaks of the importance of investing in others and seeing the vision of God in them. Connecting with others to bring the Holy Spirit in you to the Holy Spirit in others. The support that can result from true connection is boundless in its power. Maintaining a sense of purpose involves doing the things that please God. Do not ask how does this benefit me or get me ahead, instead ask how does this glorify God and further the kingdom. Finally, gaining perspective, when combined with the other activities, helps us see that God is ultimately in control. We are in the world, but not of the world. Our problems are temporary and relatively small compared to the vast power of a faithful God.
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:7-10
We cannot combat stress, anxiety, or suffering on our own and God never implied that we had to. He is there for us, to deliver us, and to be a lighthouse on the horizon as well as a guide on board with us to steer us to safety, to supply us with his grace, and to deliver us from our sin corrupted selves.