• Kara Abernathy

Combatting Negativity and Stress in 2020

Starting the Year Positively

Well-intended resolutions usually start with a goal to increase healthy behaviors. Whether a person wants to exercise more, eat nutritiously, or get more sleep, most resolutions are action-oriented.

As a teacher, I experience two “fresh starts” every year. In both August (with a new school year) and January (with a new calendar year), I make goals and set firm self-expectations with the intention of more success or happiness.

The problem arises as time passes because of a little something called stress. It’s easy to slip into negativity the more stressed I become.

Negativity feeds off of negativity, so it’s no surprise that when I surround myself with negative attitudes, I continue to add to the noise.

Combatting Negativity

One way to replace negativity is to replace temporary setbacks with the eternal hope of Christ. I think it’s no accident that Christmas is at the end of the year. There’s no better way to remind yourself of the overwhelming love of Christ than celebrating His humble birth.

Between December 25th and December 31st, the world seems to slow down. People lose track of what day of the week it is. We spend more time with family and friends. We rest. I’m thankful to begin the new year with a week of a bit more sleep and definitely more laughs.

As we approach January, we must remember that Jesus offers us something beyond what we experience in the here and now. As life gets busy again, we should remember that Jesus is with us in all of it. He’s already come to bring salvation, and He’s coming back to redeem the whole earth.

This eternal hope doesn’t promise immediate happiness today because we still suffer pain, loss, and disappointments.

In order to combat negativity, we should share those disappointments with those we trust. There’s a difference between complaining and counsel. Who in your life can you turn to that will help you be real about your disappointments? Who in your life will speak truth to you and remind you of God’s goodness?

Complaining only breeds more insecurity, doubt, and frustration. Seeking godly counsel brings hope, truth, and light.

Satan wants us to keep our pain bottled up so that he can isolate us and influence us. God wants us to be vulnerable and turn to Him in our pain, trusting that He will take care of us.

Pray to Increase Gratitude and Reduce Stress

If we want to maintain a positive mindset in 2020, we need to rely on prayer. God tells us we should lift up our burdens to Him.

“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:15-18).

If we approach each day with an attitude of prayer, it will increase our gratitude and joy. How would you live differently if you took every obstacle, challenge, and setback to the Lord instead of dealing with it on your own?

A New Beginning

January is a new beginning. It’s a fresh start. At the beginning of this past year, I wrote a post about Four Pitfalls to Avoid in the new year. To summarize,

  1. Disordered priorities – What is my top priority? Myself or God?

  2. Discouraged perspective – Am I letting comparison stop me from pursuing God’s plan?

  3. Distorted expectations – Do I expect instant gratification? Am I surrendering to God’s timing?

  4. Distracted fear – Do I worry about temporary circumstances or do I trust that God is with me?

Read the full post about these pitfalls here.

If I honestly reflect on 2019, I still struggle with all these pitfalls. When I am most stressed out, I am suffering from all four of these. As I enter 2020, I have no idea what this year will bring, but I do know that God will be with me to help me handle it.

He’s not going to leave me to deal with my stress on my own. He’s calling me to Him, gently whispering that He wants to guide me, protect me, and lead me.

Lifting up my concerns to Him in prayer will help me combat negativity. Turning toward the eternal hope found in Him will help me put stress in the right context.

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© 2019 Kara Abernathy

Disclaimer: my thoughts do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of my employer.