How to handle your emotions in stressful times
It’s no secret that stress comes wrapped in a variety of packages – financial setbacks, medical issues, impending deadlines, lingering grief. When the storms roll in and the valley grows deep, every emotion you experience is felt to an exponential degree. Things that are only slightly funny send you into uncontrollable fits of laughter. Minor inconveniences cause you to sob hysterically, and innocent, off-handed remarks make you burn with anger.
Unfortunately, it’s not until the stressful times are over and you’re surveying the damage that you realize most of the destruction that remains was not caused by the storm at all. Instead, it was caused by you and your irrational emotions.
If you’re like me, you probably feel completely foolish after overreacting to stressful circumstances. You wish you could go back in time and undo or unsay a million little things. But since that’s impossible, you muster up the humility to do the next best thing – apologize.
What if there was a way to stop the crazy cycle before it starts and minimize your emotions during stressful times? Is it possible to keep a level head when you’re standing on shaky ground? I won’t pretend that I’ve mastered this very difficult task, but I have found a few things that help.
1. Remember who your allies are
Why is it that so much of our energy is wasted on friendly fire? I’m guilty of it too. When I’m at my weakest, those closest to me often bear the brunt of my emotions. I accuse my husband. I yell at my children. I question the intentions of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I forget that they are on my team! They are not my enemies; they are my allies!
If your stressful circumstances have caused turmoil between you and your husband, I want to remind you of something you may have forgotten: Your husband is not your enemy. He will always be your ally because God’s ultimate will is for your marriage to be a reflection of His relationship with the church. The reason this truth is so important to remember is because it changes how you fight. When you remember that God wants your marriage to thrive, you begin fighting for your husband, not against him.
Are there times when the true enemy has such a hold on a person that it’s necessary to protect yourself from toxic circumstances? Absolutely! But even in those situations, when we remember that God’s ultimate goal is to restore every man unto Himself, it helps diffuse our emotions so that we are more likely to pray in the Spirit rather than to curse in the flesh.
2. Remember who your enemy is
If your true enemy is not the person standing in front of you, the one you’d like to attack and destroy with your words, then who is it? Who is behind your feelings of hate, anger and hopelessness during this stressful time?
Call him what you want – Satan, the devil, Lucifer – but my preferred term of “endearment” is Deceiver. Your enemy is the Deceiver, and when you look past him and attack your ally in the heat of stressful situations, he’s done exactly what he set out to do. He’s deceived you so completely that you are blind to the fact that your uncontrolled emotions are actually working for him.
His goal is to destroy your heart and the hearts of those around you. He wants to drive a wedge between you and your fellow believers. He wants to distract you to the point that you forget to pray. He wants to ruin your reputation so that you will be ineffective. Make no mistake – he will kick you when you are down. And if he can cause your external stress to become internal conflict, he’s won. What ever you do, remember that your enemy is a manipulative, dirty little liar.
3. Remember who your God is
Can I tell you a secret about God? He is never stressed out. To Him, there is no such thing as stress. Even when you feel as if your whole world is spinning out of control, He is large and in charge. Remember how Jesus slept during the storm when He and His disciples were on the Sea of Galilee? That’s how little God is affected by worries and fears.
When you remember who your God is, you can begin to see even your most stressful circumstance as an opportunity for God to show up and show off. Instead of praying, “God are you there? Do you even care?” you can pray, “God, what are you up to now? Please don’t let me miss it! If this storm is a chance for you to show me more of who you are, then thank you for this storm! Open my eyes so that I can see you at work and praise you every step of the way!”
God designed us to be emotional beings, so emotions are not inherently evil. They are gifts straight from our Creator and are integral in helping us complete the work He called us to do. But in our stress, if we fail to remember who our allies are, who our enemy is and who our God is, our God-given emotions can get out of hand. Don’t let your feelings turn into your sins.