Daily practices such as praying and chanting may help reduce stress.
Even the person who often appears to be calm and collected isn’t immune to the long-term effects of stress.
Tensions from work, finances, friendships, and family life can feel like a permanent weight on your shoulders, affecting your mind and body. Over time, chronic stress can make you more vulnerable to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Safe, healthy coping mechanisms to regulate stress can make a huge difference in your long-term health.
Spiritual practices — such as prayer, chanting, and reading spiritual texts — can be used as coping strategies.
People define spirituality in different ways. There’s no single definition of what being “spiritual” is.
Spirituality is different than being religious. Religion tends to be a set of rules and rituals that are organized around beliefs shared by a group. The more strictly your life adheres to these rules, the more religious you might be.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is a more fluid concept than religion. A
Spirituality is often connected to God, the Divine, or a higher power, but may also be felt in your connection with others.
Spiritual practices may help relieve stress because of how these practices frame your life in the context of meaning and a Higher Power.
Some spiritual traditions emphasize forgiveness, compassion, and humility — all of which may help mitigate certain stressors.
A 2020 study of social workers and social work students showed that trained social workers who practiced spirituality had less stress and fewer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after giving assistance to trauma victims.
The same study discussed how practicing forgiveness toward yourself and others can be an effective coping mechanism for exposure to trauma.
Spirituality may also provide you with a set of supportive people who are seeking purpose in their lives in similar ways, according to a
Traditional churches can provide this sense of community, as can gathering like-minded people who are seeking to access a Higher Power in less traditional settings.
Spirituality encourages private practices, such as charitable giving, caring for the needs of others, and volunteering in your community. These practices facilitate community connections. They can also help foster a spirit of gratefulness for the life you have.
It’s natural to experience different types of stress depending on the season and stage of life you’re in. Research is emerging that helps us see how spirituality can help you navigate stress, according to what you’re going through.
For example, a 2016 study of over 5,000 adolescents in grades 6-8 found that high levels of stress were associated with increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. That same study found that lower spiritual beliefs were associated with higher substance use.
But these studies were limited and more research is needed on the link between spirituality and stress.
A growing body of research shows a connection between spirituality and better mental health outcomes.
According to a 2021 review, people who practice spiritual coping mechanisms may have lower rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and substance use disorder than people who don’t.
Depression and anxiety disorders can be the result of unresolved, long-term stress. So, this review suggests that embracing spirituality may help you manage stress, which can lower your chances of a mental health condition.
Keep in mind that spirituality isn’t proven effective as a substitute treatment if you currently have a diagnosed or suspected mental health condition.
In your embrace of spirituality, remember that it isn’t safe to swap out your prescription medication or therapy appointments for spiritual practices.
If you’re concerned or your stress is affecting your daily life, consider reaching out to a healthcare or mental health professional. They can help rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms and recommend treatment if needed.
There are several ways you can begin to cultivate spirituality, including:
- attending spiritual gatherings
- reading spiritual texts
- practicing mindfulness
- finding a spiritual director
- planning a pilgrimage to a religious, sacred, or ancient place
- participating in online forums where people are discussing spiritual topics
You can pray to a Higher Power (even if you never have before) whenever you’d like by speaking aloud, meditating in silence, or simply directing your energy to the Divine.
You don’t need a spiritual jumping-off point to nurture and foster your relationships, though it can help. You can also try:
- investing in quality time with loved ones
- planning time in nature with like-minded people
- trying new things (spiritual or otherwise) with a trusted friend
- turning off devices for a set period of time when you’re at home
- joining a local, in-person interest group that shares a hobby such as crafting, fishing, or a sport
Pursuing your spiritual life might feel different or even a little bit silly at first. But for many people, establishing a firm connection between your body and your soul can be a rewarding and lifelong experience.
A healthy mechanism to cope with stress is just one of the many benefits a rich spiritual life can give you.
If you’d like to get started with a more spiritual approach to life, ask your local librarian or bookseller to recommend a book in the spirituality section for you to read. You may also consult with a trusted friend or loved one to see if they can recommend spiritual practices to you.
Spirituality doesn’t cost anything, and you can try different strategies to see what works for you. Many faith traditions that are centuries old imply that whoever sincerely seeks out God and spirituality will find the thing they’re looking for.