What do you think of when you hear the word “bully?”
For me, the word invokes images of giants; fairytale-variety-kind or even the infamous Goliath- take your pick. All are formidable and intimidating who prey upon others for their gratification.
What’s interesting is that we all have a bullying giant in our life, whether we want to recognize him or not. This giant goes by the name of "Stress." He is a real-life nasty fellow that targets us with a mission of domination and destruction. It is to our detriment to think otherwise.
May I remind you, stress can negatively impact your body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It can cause poor performance in all areas of your life to include school, work, and relationships - left unchecked it can cause high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, insomnia, and chronic anxiety.
So, if stress is a giant how do we defeat him?
Let’s take a look at the Bible story of David versus Goliath to see just how a giant was successfully conquered.
Background- David, a young shepherd boy, armed only with a stone and a sling agrees to go toe-to-toe in battle against a mighty, 6-foot-9 Philistine giant named Goliath.
The heart of the combat is captured in 1 Samuel 17:48-50:
“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
So, David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.”
Lessons learned- recognize the giant, take steps to confront him and use techniques that may appear small on the surface, but can do the most damage to your opponent's weak spot.
Here are a few practical “stones” you could use in your arsenal against stress:
Be kind to yourself.
Find something to “let go of” and replace it with something helpful. Maybe spend less time on activities that are draining with no “mental” or “health” benefits- i.e., limit time on social media, refrain from political arguments and instead read a good book, take a relaxing bath or get a massage. The list goes on…
Learn to say no.
Believe it or not, it is OK to say “no." You have permission to decline an engagement, project or invitation. Sometimes you need to prioritize yourself- your health and well-being above others. Realize that there are opportunities that your "no" can become someone else's "yes." Guilt is a powerful influencer that can leave you unnecessarily drained.
Get in tune.
Music soothes the soul. Play some of your favorite tunes at work, home or on your commute. If music isn’t your jam- save your favorite podcast or book on tape to help distract you from negative forces- like traffic and road rage.
Have some fun.
Dance like no one is watching. Play a game you loved as a child. Try something new- painting, photography, rock climbing, sky diving or a cooking class. Do something that you love and laugh until your sides hurt.
Take a break.
Seriously, take a nap - it’s not just for babies or the elderly! Take a day off. Take a vacation. Give yourself a break. Whether small ones throughout the day or a serious vacation. We all need time to rest and rejuvenate.
Keep it simple.
It is so easy to make assumptions and over complicate things. Life doesn't have to be so hard. Boil it down and ask yourself, "Will this matter in five years, one year, a month?” When you believe the best in others and aren’t so easily offended life becomes far less complicated. There is beauty in simplicity.
Studies show that exercise can be a powerful stress-reliever. We've all heard how aerobic activities are beneficial because they release “feel good” endorphins, but there are many other types of movement that balances out the negative impact of stress by promoting relaxation. Some of the best exercises for promoting relaxation are those that focus on coordination, flexibility, strength, and balance. Great examples: Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Kickboxing/martial arts and even Dancing. If these aren't your "cup of tea" take a walk and enjoy nature – it can work wonders.
There is power in positive thinking. Guard your thoughts and dwell on what is pure, right and lovely. Find something to be grateful for every day and remember that life is short- don't waste it with worry and fear.
Heather Brewer gives excellent advice - "Bullying is a horrible thing. It sticks with you forever. It poisons you. But only if you let it."
If you ignore, dismiss or deny the bully of stress (over time) you may realize this giant has poisoned your health, outlook, and happiness!
Stress doesn't have to get the best of you- arm yourself and believe victory is possible!
Father, with you by our side victory is always obtainable. Help us to remember that when we fix our eyes in faith, knowing you are alive, Jesus wins every single time. Arm us with the weapons we need to overcome stress and allow your peace to reign.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” ~1 John 4:4