10 Surprising Reasons You're Stressed Out

I didn’t understand why I was so easily impatient with my kids, when I really wanted to help them with homework. Instead, I got frustrated, lecturing them in a way that was unhelpful and discouraging.

When my husband came home after work, my sour attitude hung like a cloud. Although I cooked dinner, did my chores and technically, nothing was “wrong” that I could put my finger on, I felt stressed and my bad mood spilled over to everyone.

“What’s going on?” hubby asked, after we tucked the kids in bed.

In the past, I’d launched into self-shaming words or I’d blame it on this-or-that, launching us into more conflict. Later, if I confided in a “friend” who was quick-to-judge and slow-to-give-grace, I’d carry extra spiritual guilt of not-trusting-God or praying enough. This cycle of try-harder-then-feel-worse repeated, adding to my stress! 

Do you ever feel stressed, but don’t really know why, too?

When stress eventually turned into anxiety and depression, I decided since Jesus said, “Come to me those who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28), there must have a better solution. I started an amazing, life-changing journey to learn what God says about stress and how He helps us, researching loving Scripture and simple soul care tips based on scientific research to improve our emotional well-being.

To my delight, I discovered 40 reasons why we stress and powerful ways to de-stress with soul care and prayer, based on God’s love for us, which I wrote about in my book Whispers of Rest.

Today, I’d like to share Ten Surprising Reasons Why You’re Stressed and Simple Ways to Restore God’s Peace to your soul too!

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1. You’re good at taking care of others, but bad at filling your own tank.

Why are we so hard on ourselves, when God’s love is gentle? Extend yourself the comfort you want to give others. How can you fill other’s needs, if your tank is empty?

Soul Care Tip: Prioritize enjoying what brings you joy. Take a walk outside today. Let God touch you.

Don’t think about it. Just put on your shoes and go. You’ll return refreshed. Studies show just 10 minutes outside refreshes and helps with anxiety — depression in school, work, and everyday life.

We may feel selfish prioritizing filling our tanks. Yet, God says we can only comfort others, with the comfort we first receive ourselves! (2 Cor 1:4) 

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2. You are good at problem solving, but what you need is rest.

Most problems that stress us can’t be solved in a day. We are such strong thinkers, but it leads us to easily ruminate, which means to obsess about situations or relationships, leaving us feeling depressed or anxious. One way to reduce rumination is by enjoying activities that foster positive thoughts.

Soul Care Tip: Listen to a worship song.

Songs give us a simple way to practice the presence of God. Music is used in therapy to uncover hidden emotional responses in children, helping them find words to express themselves. It’s not just for children. Music helps us pray without words. It’s shown to bring calm and alleviates pain. When you feel too stressed to pray, put on a favorite worship song and let God love on you.

 “He has given me a new song to sing.” Psalm 40:3

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3. You are good at listening to others, but find it hard to share your hardships.

We don’t want to bother others. But, what we doubt is whether we’re worth loving. Notice how you feel better after talking to someone about your troubles — even if the problem hasn’t been fixed?

Soul Care Tip: Call a grace-filled friend to have coffee.

Tell your friend about both your hopes and anxieties. Research shows depression is eased, anxiety is reduced, and people bounce back sooner (resiliency) when people share their stories and talk about how they feel when events impact them (rather than just describing what happens).

Carry each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)

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4. You’re busy getting things done, but you forget to breathe.

Did you know you hold your breath when you’re stressed? Shallow breathing creates tension in your body, raises your blood pressure, and makes your muscles ache with tension and pain.

Soul Care Tip: Pray a Breath Prayer

The minute we stress is a special opportunity to invite Jesus into our day and be refreshed. A powerful, simple way is to pray a breath prayer. It’s a contemplative prayer practiced by the early church to experience God’s peace and “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

An example of a breath prayer:
Inhale and whisper the name of God you connect with—“Good morning, Jesus.”
Exhale and whisper how you feel or a request—“I love you” or “Help me today.”

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5. You zone out on social media, but you’re actually stressing yourself out.

Research shows the more time people spent on Facebook, Instagram and social media, the more they felt dissatisfied, depressed, or anxious. People avoid sharing negative feelings, so what you see isn’t real, but tweaked.

Soul Care Tip: Take a digital break. Enjoy doing something that makes you smile!

Research found that experiences make people happier and give you a greater sense of vitality— “feeling alive.” Happiness enjoyed during the experience carried lasting benefits. Simply by recalling the memory sparked happy brain activity, elevating good mood. 

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6. You’re reading before bedtime to relax, but still can’t fall asleep.

Reading an e-book? The blue light from your digital devices wakes your brain up to think it’s daytime!

Soul Care Tip: Read a printed book.

Research shows reading a printed book (it helps more than reading on your tablet) is the best way to relax, and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds, according to research by Sussex University. Snuggling up with a good book returns tranquility to your brain and body as you get lost in a story and unplug from constantly multitasking during the day, which is exhausting.

“The Lord your God is in your midst… He will quiet you with his love.” - Zeph 3:17

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7. You pray about what you can do for God, rather than how your heart is doing: your desires, worries and fears.

We often put our worries to the side when we pray. But, the most powerful prayer comes from intimacy, emotional honesty and letting God love you.

Soul Care Tip: Write a letter to Jesus. Confide in the One who calls you beloved.

Grab a piece of paper and start writing about what’s important to you, how you’re feeling, and your worries. You’ll feel better!

Studies show you don’t have to “keep a journal” to reap the benefits of writing. Research shows just 15 minutes of expressive writing makes a difference, leading to behavioral changes and improving happiness.

“Cast all your anxieties on the Lord, for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

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8. You are always planning and thinking ahead, but experiencing God’s grace comes only one day at a time.

Our culture trains us to plan ahead. But, when it comes to parenting, marriage, and friendships, people are not plans. Hearts are more like gardens to nurture with grace. One day a time. We plant seeds and fruit grows slowly, nurtured with faith and patience, instead of stress and coercion.

Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for grace:

Hold onto me, God.
Thank you for never letting me go.

“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Psalm 143:8

Whatever’s happening this week, hold onto God’s hand. He’s not letting go of you. He’s walking into every situation you’re facing, with you.

Ask for the strength to do what you must do, just for this one next step. Trust He will provide what comes next. Jesus will not abandon you. You are His beloved.

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9. Your strengths are being reliable and responsible, but you find it difficult to ask for help.

Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for help:

Help me, Jesus.
Thank you for the gentle ways you love me.

“For great is your steadfast love toward me…” Psalm 86:13
“Your right hand supported me and your gentleness makes me great.”- Psalm 18:35-36

We may not know the way but the God who loves you not only knows the way – He intimately knows your way. No matter what, He will lead you all the way.

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10. You are good at performing, but God wants your heart, more than your work. God sees what your soul needs is to be known and loved.

We stress when we hide our hearts and go into survival mode, going through our checklists and ignoring what we need most: love.

Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for courage:

Dear Jesus,
I’m worried about too many things.
Give me the courage to lay down burdens You never intended me to own.
Give me the courage to choose what’s better for me today— to simply rest.
I choose You. Amen.

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him… between his shoulders.” Deut 33:12

Don’t wait until your life is stress-free before spending time on what really matters to God: loving your heart. Let Jesus hold you and your worries together so you can take a break and choose what’s better: feeding your soul.  Be renewed. Be loved.

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To read more simple soul care tips from Bonnie’s journey to rest in God’s love, check out her bestselling 40-day devotional, Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul.

Bonnie Gray is the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace and Whispers of Rest. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit her at thebonniegray.com.


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