The Daniel Fast has been shown to help restore physical health, but did you know it can also help you manage stress?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God”Philippians 4:6
Having spent 22 years rising in the ranks of corporate America, I understand the work pressures. Some stressors are self-imposed while others are externally derived—to meet deadlines, manage team dynamics, and deliver bottom-line results. The perceived need to check your mobile device on the weekends and even during that much-needed vacation gets reinforced, especially when your boss, coworkers, or customers enable this behavior by responding to your emails and text messages. So even your break might not be much of a break. Our fast-paced culture, where we move swiftly from one project to another in a hustle, can make us forget to allow God to walk with us during our most stressful moments.
For this and other reasons, I contend that stress management works best when we let go and rely on God to handle our stress. This mindset works when it becomes a part of a daily spiritual routine—and not just something we try to do during weekends, or when we go to church, vacations, and holidays. Deciding to partake in the Daniel Fast can be a bridge to help you reset and develop new rituals of handling stress that allow you to tap into God’s strength. Below are three principles that you learn while doing the Daniel Fast: A Bridge to Healthy Living program that promote making stress management a daily spiritual practice:
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Small daily annoyances can build up to a point where you are feeling your jaws clench and your eyebrows furrow with stress. Journaling is a key principle during the Daniel Fast; documenting how you feel emotionally and physically is essential to developing your prayer request. The Bible states that we should not stress and should have a heart of thanksgiving. At a fixed point every day, jot down one thing you are grateful for. It could be seemingly small, such as I’m grateful for that delicious cup of lavender tea I just consumed. Or it could be a bigger, life-changing event such as I’m grateful for my daughter being born. Just find one thing that you are feeling grateful for in that moment. This is the fastest way to bring the presence of God into your circumstance.
When you keep a running log of what you are grateful for, it starts to put things into perspective. You begin to see things from a Godly perspective. Those small annoyances—like someone cutting in front of you to take that perfect parking spot or a distracted coworker texting while you’re presenting at a meeting—have less impact when they’re balanced out by important things for which you are grateful.
A Pre-Meeting Prayer
The Daniel Fast will prepare you to carve out time to pray throughout the day. Before diving into the throes of a meeting, consider taking about two minutes to do the following: Sit comfortably in a chair with feet on the ground and hands on your lap. Close your eyes and take a deep cleansing breath. While you exhale, feel your shoulders drop from your ears, your brows and jaw relax. Feel your body being supported by the chair and the ground. Focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice the air going in and then leaving your body. Visualize God sitting with you; acknowledge his presence with all your senses.
If you find your mind wandering, try counting your breaths. One to inhale, two to exhale, three to inhale, four to exhale…continue slowly to ten and then start over at one. Repeat this as many times as you need to feel your body relax. I have found that it usually takes about two minutes to feel a noticeable difference. Whisper a prayer asking for guidance and strength. The prayer can be as simple as saying help, teach, strengthen, give me hope, peace, and joy.
Completing the Daniel Fast: A Bridge to Healthy Living will help you reset your focus on God and the things that truly matter. Being present means not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. It is the ultimate surrender to God. It’s about seeing God in your life here and now. Sounds easy, but it’s very difficult to do. Practicing this concept of being present can be done anywhere. Personally, I find this best done outdoors where it’s easier to connect with God in nature. Consider going outside. Find one thing to look at or listen to and just focus on that one thing.
For example, if you walk out of your office and there is a large pine tree, just look at that tree and notice everything about it. Give God thanks in that moment, for that tree. The needles, the texture of the bark, the way it moves in the wind. Notice the bird that’s perched mid-way up the right side, and that there is a slight piney smell in the air. Give God thanks for that bird! Keep looking and noticing everything about it. During that moment, when you’re not thinking about anything but that tree, you will find invoked the presence of God and feel a sense of calmness and peace.
The Daniel Fast can help you reset and build your spiritual muscle for managing stress. By combining faith and whole plant foods, you will be better equipped in mind and body to handle daily stressors. The key is this: Just as you keep up with your projects, emails, and status reports, keep up with your spiritual practice of prayer and thanksgiving. Don’t let the stress pile up and make your inner world feel like a mess. If you practice, then when your weekend or vacation arrives you might find you’re already relaxed!
Learn more about how the Daniel Fast can be a bridge to long-term healthy living.
A version of this article was originally published in mytrueself.com.