Last year I developed some digestive problems. At first, I thought the internal aches and pains were just part of "getting old," but as the issues persisted, I realized that there was more going on. In addition to my churning stomach, I found myself getting angry easily, fidgety, and basically unpleasant all-around. I finally realized that STRESS was the main culprit. I didn't have the time or money to go spend a few months in Hawaii on a de-stressing retreat, so I had to figure out some practical ways to bring more peace to my daily life.

These seven principles below are what I'm learning and trying to implement in my own life. They're helping me a lot, and I hope and pray they help YOU as well. Life's too short to live stressed out!

7 ways to instantly reduce stress

(in no particular order):

1. Let go of any grudges you are carrying

Grudges create stress, but forgiveness creates freedom. If you're carrying around a big, invisible scorecard of everyone who has ever wronged you, it's going to create a lot of unnecessary strain and stress in your life. When you choose to forgive and move forward, you're not saying those betrayals didn't hurt; you're just choosing to live in freedom instead of a prison cell of anger.

2. Schedule more uninterrupted family time

At the peak of my stress, even when I was hanging out with my family, I was in a different world. I was allowing myself to be preoccupied with all the stuff on my to-do list instead of being fully present in the moment. Choose to give your family the best of yourself (even when you're not feeling your best). That time with loved ones can replenish your soul.

3. Pray about it

Prayer isn't putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out into an ocean hoping someone will read it. Make prayer a first response; not a last resort! Prayer is talking to the all-powerful Creator of the universe who loves you and wants only good things for you. Let Him carry your burden for you. He actually wants to do it. The Bible says, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7)

4. Spend time with encouraging friends

Some of your "friends" might be adding to your stress. Remove yourself from people who are bringing any "drama" to your life and surround yourself with friends and loved ones who will encourage you. Be thankful for friends like these. They are a gift!

5. De-clutter your schedule

Much of my stress was self-inflicted from saying "yes" way too often and overwhelming my schedule. I'm learning to say "No" much more so that I'll have more margin in my life and I'll be able to say "Yes" to the people and priorities that matter most. Give yourself permission to rest. If you don't protect your schedule, no one will!

6. Stop trying to be impressive

I had to come to the hard conclusion that there was some vanity at the foundation of my frantic, stressful schedule. I was trying to be impressive at the expense of being healthy. I was worried more about building a good reputation that I was about maintaining health in my relationships. Free yourself up from running on the treadmill of performance and reputation and walk in the freedom of knowing your job isn't to impress people; only to love them.

7. Remember who you are

Your identity doesn't come from your performance, your successes or your failures. Your identity is wrapped up completely in the fact that you are loved by God and nothing will ever separate you from His love. You are His child. Let that sink in. Let the reality of His perfect love and grace lift those stressful burdens you've been carrying. God wants to replace your stress (and mine) with peace.

This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.

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