Oh the Stress!
Every fall I find myself stressed out, and I’ve battled it for too embarrassingly long. I suffer from Competition Stress Anxiety.
I just made that term up, but it sounds about right.
If you’re not into sports, this post is still for you because we all have something in life that stresses us out.
It might be of minor importance like mine, as in the I Just Moved to a New Place and Have to Make New Friends Stress Anxiety or the I Have Too Many Things to Do and No Matter What I Do the List Only Gets Longer Stress Anxiety.
Or it might be quite serious like My Medical Bills are Piling Up With No End in Sight Stress Anxiety or worse I Just Lost My Child And Don’t Think I’ll Ever Be Happy Again Stress Anxiety.
Insert whatever your stressor is into the blank: ________ Stress Anxiety.
Trying to EnJOY But Can Only EnSTRESS?
Before and during the Clemson vs Louisville game, I felt my stress magnify to the point I nearly gave up football.
Before and during the Clemson vs Florida State game, my stress magnified to the point that even though we won, I did give up football.
For a day. Then reality hit.
My husband and I host football parties every game we’re not attending. We love sports, we love our friends, and we love to combine them.
I’m not going to tell my husband we have to give them up just because I magnify my stress. And I’m not going to hide in my room during the games and ignore our guests.
Besides, I want to be able to watch AND enjoy football.
See the word “joy” tucked in there? It’s not “enSTRESS.” It’s “enJOY.”
Lord, Help Me!
I need help only God can give because this is ridiculous! It’s just football, Jean!
So I prayed. A lot.
I prayed and asked God to help me remember that He is both loving and sovereign, and thus if Clemson loses, it’s ok.
God let Paul get imprisoned. It wasn’t fun, but it was purposeful.
I prayed for God to remind me He has far greater plans for each of the players than just their win-loss record. It’s ok for them to lose because God will use it.
God let Joseph get sold into slavery by his brothers, but God allowed it because He had plans for Joseph to one day become second in command over Egypt.
I prayed I wouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s just a game, not a real problem. Real problems involve cancer, unemployment, and life or death situations. Not football — unless you make your living playing football.
God led Israel to the Red Sea. He boxed them in with their enemy charging toward them in war chariots, ready to drag them back into slavery. That’s a real problem. That’s serious stress.
I prayed. A lot.
And I’d have momentary success. Super-sonic fast fleeting success, but not lasting joy.
I’ve Magnified the Forest So Now I Can’t See The Trees
Yes, I know the phrase is “can’t see the forest for the trees,” but in my case, all I could see was the massive forest. I missed the beauty of each individual tree.
I could only see the whole season — we must win every game, especially the National Championship.
I couldn’t enjoy each beautiful tree — every hard-fought, well-earned win.
As I talked about my all-or-nothing mentality with God, I remembered a time years ago when I prayed and prayed for God to remove a negative mindset I couldn’t seem to change.
All day, every day I prayed and asked God to change my thinking to one that encouraged, rather than depressed, me.
I prayed and experienced similar fleeting success as my competition stress anxiety.
Then someone said:
You can’t stop thinking about one thing until you start thinking about something else.
All my many prayers about my problem kept my problem on my mind. And that caused my stress to magnify and peace to minimize.
I now knew the solution:
Quit Praying So Much
As crazy as that sounds, I needed to STOP praying all day about my problem. It only increased my stress.
I needed to bring my stress to God once in the morning and then let it go for the rest of the day and then turn my prayers into praise.
It overcame my stress back then. It should overcome my Competition Stress Anxiety too.
No more praying, “God, I know it’s just football, and you’ll use a loss for their good and Your glory. . . Lord, help me to rejoice even if Clemson loses . . . Father, take away my anxious heart about whether we’ll win or not . . .
Instead, praise, “God, you are . . . ” and then let every amazing truth I know about God flood my heart and mind with no mention or even thought of football.
Praise Magnifies the Name of God and Minimizes Stress
Like the Israelites who marched around Jericho once a day and then returned to their camp, we need to march around our problems in prayer once a day, and then return to our day.
When stress is highest, praise needs to be higher.
We must stop worrying and praying about our problems incessantly.
Praise magnifies God’s name. It puts our minds in the right perspective.
The Proof is in the Praise
I tried my Prayers into Praise strategy at the next game — The Pitt Game! Yes, the game Clemson LOST.
And guess what. It worked!
Each time my stress began to rise, I took a deep breath and began to praise God.
I didn’t praise Him for the Clemson Tigers. Or that He’ll use a loss for good.
I praised Him for being God.
I took my mind off of football and my stress and put it onto God.
I worshiped Him for being loving, powerful, sovereign, and ruler over all. I imagined what it will be like one day when we His people are in heaven worshipping Him in one voice. I let His powerful presence awe me.
As I praised Him in spirit and in truth just for being God, I magnified His name and felt my stress melt away.
It’s like the little minimize button on the computer that takes a big window and makes it small. The potential of losing — my source of stress — was still there but it was so small as to be almost invisible. Until something happened that clicked on the maximize button and my stress began to fill the screen of my mind. But then I praised — not prayed — again.
I praised God a lot during that game.
I was truly sad when we lost, but my stress level never rose near what it had been during the games we won, nor did it stay elevated long.
Try magnifying God’s name next time your stress level rises. Take your mind off your worries and focus on who God is, not what He can do for you.
Magnify by We Are Messengers
Listen to We Are Messengers sing Magnify, and let’s magnify God’s name together.
O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.
Your turn: What helps you maximize your peace and minimize your stress?