A Truce with Stress

📅 July 13, 2020

Monday’s topic this month is “Managing,” so when I decided Stress would be our second topic, I almost wrote: “Managing Stress” as the title.

But do we ever really manage stress, especially since “manage” means: “take charge of, handle, direct, govern, or control”?

You may think you have handled the stress in your life, only to find you cannot sleep, wake up often when you do, or sleep all night only to meet the morning with an ache in your mouth because you ground your teeth all night.   

Stress is an enemy we simply cannot corral into a corner and say, “Stay there.”

We must learn to live peaceably alongside, co-exist, and call for a truce.

There are any number of published lists of ways to control and reduce stress. This article will review these suggestions and intersperse them with personal experience where applicable.

These suggestions may or may not work for you. But maybe you will find one good hint, and perhaps move through the day and coming week with a little more ease and confidence.

Guard your mind and body.

Mind: Knowledge is power, but much of the information we take in is of no useful value. Restrict yourself to what is absolutely essential.  

A steady diet of news…particularly the sensational, inflammatory variety…will only make you fearful, suspicious, nervous, and panicked.

Limit the time you are allowing outside sources to access and influence your mind. Achieve balance between being informed and inflamed.   

This applies to phone, e-mail, and texts as well. Restrict the toxins you allow into your mind.  

Body: No matter what list of hints you search about managing stress, they will all warn against alcohol and excessive caffeine intake.

Eat good food…in moderation. Eat smaller portions more often. Drink plenty of water.

Get adequate sleep. Learn your bio-rhythm. Are you a morning person? Then go to bed earlier and get up earlier to take advantage of your peak hours when your mind is clearest. And even if you’re a night owl, go to bed at a reasonable time.

One practice I have found especially helpful is to get off the computer by 4:00 p.m. This gives my neck and shoulders time to relax and unwind before I try to go to sleep. If you work right up till bedtime and fall into bed, exhausted, without giving yourself time to relax, of course you won’t go to sleep. Your mind needs time to shut down.

Get up and move.  

Find which exercise works for you. Don’t buy into commercials that want you to purchase expensive equipment (unless that works for you and you can afford it). Don’t do sit-ups just because you see some trim young female illustrating them in a video.

A simple walk in your neighborhood will suffice. Beyond that, walking is good for you. The “right-left-right-left” of your feet helps exercise both sides of your brain and center you and your rambunctious thoughts.  

As for me, bike riding is the perfect activity, and it doesn’t take too long to get back from the farthest corner of the neighborhood.

I also highly recommend yoga, which helps with breathing, flexibility, and balance. Mature people: yoga helps reduce the likelihood of falling. And there are plenty of exercises for people over 50.  

Any of the above activities can be done at home in solitude (my preference) or if you need fellowship, find a walking buddy, or workout partner.

But do something…to help your mind if nothing else.  

Give yourself a break.  

This is a tricky one for many of us, who find it almost impossible to sit down and do nothing. The words, “I should be…” so often come to mind.

But you must relax.

Here again, the key is to find something you enjoy occupying your mind with.

My father did crossword puzzles…in ink, but I find this practice too challenging.

Some like jigsaw puzzles. (Did you know there are competitions for this activity?)

Whatever you enjoy, set aside some time every day to allow yourself that diversion.

Aristotle said, “We are never more truly ourselves than when we are at play.”

And by the way, if you have young children still at home, it’s important to take time to play with them.

Get organized.

Much of the stress we feel is from a lack of control over our own environment or our own schedule.

Start writing things down. Get a calendar. Keep track.  

If there is clutter in your house, stop bemoaning it and start tackling it—in small increments, setting reasonable goals. If you can’t face the mess and can’t live with it either, set a timer for half an hour or an hour. Start working and make yourself keep going till the timer goes off.

Never underestimate the value of 15 minutes.

If you’re doing too much, if you’ve taken on too many jobs, volunteered for too many good deeds, let go of those you can.

I went through a very dark time many years ago. I was working full-time, bringing up three children, serving in my church.

I was playing the piano in our Spanish ministry, working in the nursery, helping with youth activities, helping with children’s ministry. I was so overwhelmed—by this and a number of other factors—I was crying all the time, having panic attacks.

Something had to give.

I couldn’t stop teaching or parenting. But I gave up everything else. One by one, I went to the people in charge and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.” Without exception, they understood. You know what? The various activities went on fine without me. And I started to get back on my feet emotionally.

The only ministry I did not give up was Spanish ministry, because not many people know how to play the piano in Spanish.

Stress is here to stay. If we want to succeed, we are going to continue to demand things of ourselves, but stress need not wound us.

Call for a truce.  


  1. Mrs. Kathy D. Wells

    Thank you for taking your time to give us helpful ideas to unwind ourselves especially during this pandemic .

    • Holly Bebernitz

      Thank you, Kathy. And thank you for taking time to tell me.


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association