By Amber Kinloch
Almost everyone has to deal with work-related stress. The causes vary, but the negative impact it has on us and our work is universal. That said, Catholics are far from being stuck in a hopeless position. Here are tips for dealing with stress from a Faith-filled perspective.
1. Identify the Cause
If you don’t know what’s stressing you, devote 5–10 quiet minutes to figuring out why. Is it a bad boss, gossiping coworkers, or difficult clients? Is it the seeming lack of progress and rewards? Do you seem unable to get yourself organized? Are you overworked?
Nail down the general issue that trips you up and then some specifics. Personally, I tend to be a perfectionistic “all or nothing” type. I’ve struggled to absorb the truth of my mom’s off-repeated mantra “something’s better than nothing.”
The result has been that I procrastinate. “If I can’t get it 100% done, why bother starting in the first place?” has too often been my mindset. In my homeschool work, I would also put off challenging assignments. Spending time on subjects I struggled in felt unfulfilling, so if I couldn’t check an assignment off with relative ease, I avoided it.
2. Go to God
If you know the cause of your stress, take it to God. If you don’t, ask Him for light about it.
Don’t shortchange your times of prayer. Rise early or stay up late. Lock yourself in the bathroom or go for a walk. Do whatever it takes to get that time alone with Him. This is the time to ramp up your prayer life, not to neglect it.
Above all, stay focused on what He wants. If He desires something that goes against your will or what others want, don’t brush Him off. He knows what’s best and only wants your good. Listening to Him is the first step to regaining your peace and serenity.
3. Seek Input from Others
A priest once told me in Confession about how he was reading The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena. He told me about a conversation in which Our Lord told St. Catherine: “You are not an I AM.” I barely managed to save myself from breaking down with laughter at this blunt remark of Our Lord’s.
I’ve often acted as if I’m God, invincible, all-wise, and all-knowing. In the past, one of my major faults was failing to seek advice from others. I was set on striding down my own road, and feared being hindered by people. I counted on my own strength and was so weak because of that. As it is, I’ve now blessedly discovered what a gift it is to be in a position to ask for help.
Perhaps you’re reluctant like me. Maybe you’re afraid of being seen as foolish, weak, or incompetent. Don’t let that stop you. Find a trusted family member, friend, or mentor to speak with. Perhaps all you need is a listening ear or a few kind words of encouragement to regain your sense of joy and humor.
Remember how God sent the Archangel Raphael to accompany the young Tobias on his journey (Tobit 5). Or think of how Jesus sent the seventy-two disciples out in pairs (Luke 10:1). God desires us to seek aid from others. That’s why He places them in our path. You may even offer them something in return without realizing it.
4. Make Specific, Concrete Changes
It’s no good going to God and others for help if you’re not open to accepting their guidance and making whatever changes are necessary. Perhaps your trial is one of being stuck in a tight spot with no definite way out for the time being. In that case, the virtues of patience and fortitude are your allies.
If people are the cause of your stress, look for just and charitable ways to deal with them. Accept their character defects, talk with your boss, etc. Don’t just sit about and complain.
Struggling with a lack of time? Go over your schedule and duties and axe out unnecessary things. Budget adequate time for yourself and for your loved ones. Have a plan or goals, even if they’re simple.
5. Let Go
If you can’t change something (like an annoying coworker’s personality), accept it and let go. Remember some of Jesus’ advice on living the present moment without anxiety.
“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:27-30).
God wants us to be happy in the present moment. And happiness is being close to Him, trusting that there’s a purpose behind whatever’s going on. He might not tell you what it is. Perhaps you’ll never know in this life. That’s alright. The saints were all in the same boat and went sailing with God all the same.
Lean on God and don’t build a great cross out of what’s really a bunch of twigs.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.