Using Stress For Our Good

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It’s the beginning of the year! This is the time that we reevaluate, read, set goals, and try to establish change that drives us forward. I would argue, this is also the time to determine sources of stress and determine why they are there. While some sources of stress are due to unhealthy choices, others are designed to help us grow in areas we are ignoring! Those are important, as successfully completion of these hurdles mean that we are actually being prepared for the next steps in our life journey. We see this in scripture:

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2

If I use my own path as an example, there are areas where I need to be more aggressive if I want to become stronger financially. The change started with internal shifts due to the pressure I personally felt. It caused me to reflect on where I could be professionally if I worked harder on this area, and how I could be a source of generosity to my family and community with strides in this area. And, honestly, I also hate the way it feels when something unexpected comes up and I have to juggle financially.

Your area may be similar, or different than mine, but we can still work to tackle them together. There are numerous ways to tackle our sources of stress. Here are just a few:

Reflecting On How To Use it For Good

One method is to determine why we are being pruned. If we take part B of the above scripture, this means that pruning (i.e., stress and pressure) is used to help us produce more fruit. The change in perception then can help us to become more open to the process and engage in change with a higher level of motivation. If we continue to use finances as an example, our ability to be good stewards is tied to growth in most areas of our lives. We are really unable to effectively save for retirement, live debt free, save for our children’s futures, or give generously to others without stress when we have unhealthy budgets. By attending to our finances, it releases us to also bring positive light to other areas. This same example works when we think of other areas:

  •          Becoming a stronger spouse would allow your spouse to live in a world where they know they are loved, valued, and supported and considered to be a priority
  •          Being intentional parents helps our children to live in a home where there are stable schedules, healthy meals and positive messages being given
  •          Becoming stronger in our professions: doing well in our current position to move into leadership roles
  •          At church: consistently serving in the roles we are given as volunteers helps others to see that we can be trusted with larger projects

Determine Our Stance

For every change, we have to determine our stance. Each of us have methods we naturally take to tackle problems. Some of us are naturally motivated to approach any problem head on, while others take a more avoidant stance.  Another paradigm is the one seen between emotion focused and problem focused coping styles (i.e., whether we focus on the aspects of the problem or the emotions that arise when facing it). Neither stance is necessarily a liability in and of itself. The problem comes when we look at what action is needed. For example, if a problem presents that cannot be changed, the stance should be to move into a place of acceptance. If we attack it, it creates additional stress and turmoil instead. In contrast, if it is a stressor that will not change without action, avoiding it will likely allow it to grow worse. In sum, the goal is to determine the best approach and ways to become insightful enough to be flexible in our approach.

Find Ways to Increase Your Strength

When we really want to grow and improve, we have to find ways to increase our knowledge and strength. The best way to do that is to seek out knowledgeable sources to help us get rid of myths and errors in thinking that may have led to our current position. With my path on growing stronger financially, I have set a goal to read a new book on personal finance each quarter. As I read, I make changes to my budgeting plan based on this new information.

Increasing my strength also means making sure I have supports in place to remain on track. This means making my goals known to those around me that I trust to also hold me accountable. We see the need to have strong partners around us throughout the Bible and in life lessons (e.g., Proverbs 27:17). And, we are also reminded that receiving sound criticism that helps us to grow stronger is a requirement for improvement (e.g., Proverbs 27:6; Proverbs 15:31-31; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 12:26).

Time To Get Started

  •          So, where will you get started?
  •          What might the stress you experience be helping you to change?
  •          Who can you talk with to begin this journey and obtain accountability from?

Additional Reading & Food for Thought

Baker, J. P. & Berenbaum, H. (2007). Emotional approach and problem-focused coping: A comparison of potentially adaptive strategies. Cognition and Emotion, 21.

Elliot, A. J. & Thrash, T. M. (2002). Approach-avoidance motivation in personality: Approach and avoidance temperaments and goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 804-818.

Tips to Manage Stress. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/07/11/10-practical-ways-to-handle-stress/

The Love Dare: http://lovedarestories.com/

About Tamara Reeves Ph.D.

Tamara Reeves, Ph.D., grew up in Oklahoma City, OK, and graduated from high school from Douglass with hopes of becoming a psychologist. Dr. Reeves went on to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Central Oklahoma in psychology and graduated Cum Laude. At UCO, Dr. Reeves applied for the Ronald McNair Scholar’s program, and was accepted into the first cohort at this institution. She completed two research projects within this program and began working for a federally funded clinical research trial during her senior year in college. In the fall of 2002, Dr. Reeves began her graduate work at the University of Memphis. She subsequently completed her master’s (May 2005) and doctoral degree (August 2008) within the clinical psychology program. Dr. Reeves initially began her graduate work with an emphasis in child and family studies. While completing her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Dr. Reeves began working within two grant funded programs that helped develop clinical services for adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Following this year of training, Dr. Reeves moved back to Oklahoma and worked for three years within the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office at the University of Central Oklahoma. At present, she works as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the owner of Keys for Hope, PLLC in Oklahoma City where she provides psychological evaluations, and grant writing and reviewing. She also serves as a full-time faculty member for the University of Phoenix and as a dissertation chair for Grand Canyon University. Outside of these pursuits, Dr. Reeves spends most of her time with her daughters, Kelsey and Kamille, and her son, Isaiah. She also enjoys the work she is able to do at her church, People’s Church, and staying physically active.