Authored by Marie Story
I have a six-year-old nephew who loves video games. The other day I was sitting with him while he was playing a racing game on his Wii. The levels were getting progressively more difficult, the speed was faster, and the courses were more hazardous. As I watched him, I could see him getting more and more stressed—his face was getting red, his hands were getting sweaty, and he couldn’t stay in his seat.
Finally, it got to be too much for him. He burst into tears and yelled, “I can’t take it anymore! I’m just too stressed out!” All of a sudden this game that he so enjoyed had become the bane of his existence. I had a little chuckle at his dramatic outburst, and then turned off the TV for a bit so he could take a break.
The very next day, I felt like yelling too. Several big projects came in at once, and deadlines were short. It was all work that I enjoy doing, but I felt the pressure building up and I wanted to yell, “I just can’t take it anymore!” I didn’t burst into tears, and I didn’t throw a tantrum, but I felt like it. That’s what stress will do to you.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, stress is a reality. Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental, or emotional response. Since the teen years are a huge time of change in your body, your emotions, and in the way you think and act, you’re likely dealing with quite a bit of stress right now.
You’ve got schoolwork and grades to keep up. You’ve got relationships with family and friends, which take time and effort. Major changes are going on in your body, and they cause their own physical and emotional strain, and if you’re not getting enough sleep, this adds more stress. Then there is your future to think about: where are you going, what are you going to be and do? And that’s not factoring in all the special and unique problems that are just yours.
Your life is a delicate balance, and while some stress is natural and good as you move forward in life, too much pressure in any area can leave you feeling stressed out.
So how can you tell if you’re getting overly stressed? Stress affects everybody differently. Some people who are stressed out begin to have trouble sleeping; others who are naturally social and like being around people, start withdrawing and prefer to be alone; others may have a hard time controlling their emotions; some might get sick more often, etc. To know if you are experiencing negative effects from stress, you’ll need to look at the state of things in your life—your health, your emotions, your behavioral patterns—and see if anything is obviously imbalanced. You might benefit from an outside perspective too. If you determine that stress is building in your life and you’re starting to feel negative effects, then it’s time to take action and do something about it. The longer you wait and allow it to build, the more hazardous it can be.
So what are some ways to deal with stress? Well, stress isn’t a new development—it’s a problem that’s been around for ages. Because of that, the Bible is full of solutions to stress. Here are some important ones:
When you’re feeling stressed out, sometimes it really helps just to talk with someone. Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens.”1 Go to your parent, a mentor or counselor, or a friend, and talk about what you’re going through. They may not be able to solve your problem, but often just being able to unload all your troubles can be a huge relief. And many times, once you’ve talked it out, your problems don’t seem so massive anymore and you can tackle them without feeling stressed or overloaded.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can help to break things down into smaller goals and more manageable chunks. If we’re under too much pressure, it could be because we’re trying to tackle too much at once. Jesus tells us that His yoke (or workload) is easy, and His burden is light,2 so if your burden is too heavy, maybe you need to set some of it down for a while.
Along the same lines, don’t expect too much of yourself or others. That’s just taking on unnecessary pressure, and it’s not part of Jesus’ “yoke” for you. If you or others aren’t able to meet your expectations, maybe you’ve set them too high, and you need to reassess things.
Next, focus on things you can control and let go of things you can’t. Jesus tells us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”3 There’s enough to think about today without stressing over stuff in the future. And “tomorrow” isn’t just talking about the day after today—it means anything you don’t have control over. If you can’t do anything about it, just trust that God’s gonna help you handle it when the time comes.
Another important way to fight stress is to take care of yourself physically. Often when everything’s piling up on you, that’s the first thing to go, because you just don’t feel you have the time to take care of yourself. But that’s exactly what you need to do. If you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to exercise regularly, you’ll feel better physically, which will help you to face challenges with more confidence and energy.
And of course, taking breaks is important too. Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”4 Sometimes all you need when you’re stressed is a little break. Taking time to rest and relax will help to clear your head, which means that you’ll come back to your studies or other activities refreshed, happier, and more focused.
Most importantly, taking time with Jesus each day will help you to keep those feelings of stress in check. He says “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”5
King David, who faced extreme stress in his life, advises us to “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you.”6 Peter also tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.”7 Talk to Jesus about your troubles and ask Him for His solutions and advice. He has promised an easy yoke, so if yours is too heavy, He can show you how to lighten it.
Remember that Jesus understands the pressures you’re facing. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are.”8 As you take your cares and concerns to Jesus, He’ll give you the strength to handle each task and responsibility—without getting stressed.
1 Galatians 6:2 ESV.
2 Matthew 11:28-30.
3 Matthew 6:34 NLT.
4 New International Version.
5 Matthew 11:28 NIV.
6 Psalm 55:22 NIV.
7 1 Peter 5:7 NIV.
8 New American Standard Version.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International