First, if you're feeling overwhelmed...
1) Know that God cares about you.
It might sound cliché, but it's true. God cares greatly about your well being. Jesus said that our Father cares enough to feed the birds and cloth the flowers. "Aren't you of much more value than they?" (Matthew 6:34) Contrary to popular belief, God is not aloof, distant and cold. In fact, He was willing to cloth himself in human flesh in order to save humanity. (John 3:16) He is not far off out in some outer galaxy. He is willing to draw near to those who humble themselves. (James 4:8) He is not too busy or concerned, that's really our problem more than it is His. God takes our calls, even in the middle of the night. (Jeremiah 33:3)
2)Turn your care into a prayer.
If God said, "I care" and left it at that, we'd not be much better off. But continually throughout the Scriptures we hear God encouraging His people to bring Him their cares in exchange for his grace, love, power and peace. Not a bad deal if you ask me. "Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he shall sustain you." (Psalm 55:22) As we pray and give our cares to God, He promises us His peace that passes our own intellectual comprehension, now that's pretty good. (Philippians 4:6,7) And you've got to love Jesus' promise to those weary and heavy laden, "I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Ok, so I'll take one order of peace with a side of rest!
3) Evaluate your current workload and obligations.
Are you burnt out because you've taken on too much? Here's an easy solution, reduce your workload. It sounds idealistic, but it might just be what the doctor ordered. Maybe your child doesn't have to go to dance class, play soccer, have piano lessons, be in the school play and clean their room all before Saturday noon. And maybe you don't need to spend that extra two hours toiling over work every night. Take this proverbial advice, "Don't overwork to be rich. In your wisdom, show restraint. Why do you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." (Proverbs 23:4-5)
4) Delegate some responsibilities or ask others for help.
If you thought delegation was a modern day business idea you're wrong. Delegation is as old as God himself. It's interesting to see the workings of delegation even in the Trinity. The Father sent the Son to the earth, the Son sent the Spirit. Sharing responsibility with others can help give people an opportunity to grow and lighten your load. I love the advice Moses' father-in-law gave him when he saw Moses toiling day and night to settle the people of Israel's disputes. "What you're doing is not smart. You're going to burn yourself out fast! You can't do all this yourself, go teach the people the law for themselves and then train up some responsible God fearing men to take over this task for you." (My paraphrase of Exodus 18:17-21)
5) Take time to get away from the situation.
Jesus might have felt the greatest pressure of being overloaded with work than anyone on the face of the earth. Mark 1:32-34 records a busy evening for the Master when people brought all those who were sick with various diseases and those who were oppressed by the devil to his care. And of course, His compassion got the best of Him and He healed them all. That's my Jesus! But early the next morning, Jesus got away to a deserted place to spend some quiet time with God in prayer - smart move. (Mark 1:35-37) If Jesus needed a break, I'm sure we could all use one too!
The second common reason for stress is the fear of the future. One of the greatest picture of this kind of stress from the Bible is the story of the disciples on the boat in the storm. Jesus was fast asleep and the water was overtaking their vessel. (Luke 8:22-25) "Master, master, wake up, we are dying!" I don't know about you, but I've often found myself in situations where it felt like God was asleep and I was drowning. Here are some ways to help calm the storm in your life.
6) Live for the day and not in the future.
"Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient." Let's face it, we can't change our past, we can't control our future, and we've got enough to keep us busy today. So why worry about those things that are out of our control? Which leads me to the second reason to avoid fearing the future...
7) Recognize the futility of being anxious.
Last I checked, worry never paid the bills, never got us to our appointment on time, never watched over our children when they were out of our sight, never found us a job and never met the deadline. "Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?" (Matthew 6:27) The only thing worry is good for is to make you grow older sooner than you'd like. The next time you want to worry, remember this little phrase, "Worry equals Wrinkles". If not for any other reason, maybe our own vanity can keep us from running off to play with worry.
8) Plan for the future, but don't be presumptuous.
We can't control the future, but we can plan for it. The Bible calls us to plan for the future, but it also reminds us to submit our plans to God and trust Him with our future. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty." (Proverbs 21:5) "A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) To avoid planning is foolish, but to presume our plans will pan out regardless of the Lord's will is equally ignorant. (James 4:13-16)
9) Do what is in your power to do.
Praying through our fears is good. Planning for the future is great. But we can't forget to take action with the responsibilities before us today. One of the most practical means of reducing stress over the future is to take action today. "To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) "But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?" (James 2:20) Nothing may feel as rewarding and be as helpful to reducing stress as checking off actions on our "to do list" and getting the job done.
10) Learn to trust God with your future and situation.
At the end of the day, after we've prayed, after we've planned and after we've worked, we must entrust our future into God's hands. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:3-5)
One final note that I hope you'd consider as you go through the stress of this life is to remember that at times stress can actually produce good results in our life. As you submit your life to God and trust Him through your trials, He can work in you to refine your character. (James 1:1-4) I will leave us with a prayer that may best encompass the lessons the Bible teaches us about stress managment. It is known as the Serentity Prayer and was penned by Reinhold Niebuhr.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.