Why Agency Is the Most Important Aspect In Helping Latter-day Saints Manage Their Stress

One attribute that makes the biggest impact on preventing, altering, minimizing, and managing stress is choice. Our life is a reflection of the choices we have made. If we want our life and our stress level to be different, we need to make some different choices. Making wise choices can prevent, alter, or minimize some of the events that cause us stress. Making wise choices is critical in managing stress. Choices occur before, during, and after stressful events.


Let’s refer back to that War in Heaven, which was about one topic: agency, the right to make choices in life. Having agency to make choices was critical to our mortal experience. Our life is filled with opportunities to make choices. We learn from the choices we make. We learn from the consequences of choices, both good and  bad. When we make poor choices, hopefully we learn that we don’t want to suffer those consequences again and therefore make different choices in the future.


Our choices have a direct impact on our stress. Our choices can minimize our stress or intensify it. As we learn our way through life, we are going to make our fair share of good choices and poor choices. There is a difference between making choices that don’t turn out the way we plan and making choices that were poor choices from the beginning. Sometimes we make every effort to make a wise decision but either we don’t have adequate information or things change or there are unexpected complications that get in the way. Sometimes a good choice turns sour over time. Even when we have made every effort to make good decisions, things occur that we can’t predict or avoid.


Sometimes, we make a poor choice right from the start. Those choices occur when we don’t make any effort to study out the options, when we are aware of the consequences but ignore them, or when the only thing we care about is doing what we want to do when we want to do it. As much as we don’t want to admit it, a great deal of our stress is the consequence of our own poor choices. We need to be vigilant in trying to avoid making poor choices. So, how do we make good decisions?


Luckily, there are many classes and websites that teach indepth decision-making principles. One quick search on the Internet will provide you with many different processes from which to choose. One of the biggest causes of preventable stress is bearing the consequences of our choices. Those consequences can be small, frustrating annoyances, like having to pay a late charge for an overdue bill, or the consequence could be a large life-altering event like losing a job, going to jail, or premature death.



Accountability is taking responsibility for your choices, owning that you made the choice, and accepting the consequences that accompany your choice. It is not hard to take full credit and accountability when our choice turned out fabulously. Where we struggle with being accountable is when our choices brought consequences that we absolutely do not want to bear.


If we make poor decisions, we reap the stressful consequences. Most of us don’t like to admit that the stressful event that we have to  endure is the result of our own choices. So, many people will place the blame on someone else or deny that they had anything to do with it, or worse, they begin to make excuses to lie their way out of it, destroying trust in the process. Consequences are meant to teach us to make better decisions in the future.


Unfortunately, for all who shift blame to someone else, deny any responsibility, or make excuses and lie about what happened, they may feel like they got away with it. Instead, they merely impede their own progress and increase their own stress. If we don’t feel accountable for the consequences of our own behavior, we will not learn to stop the behavior. We will just continue to do it and therefore continue to increase our own stress.


A few words of caution: Accountability does not mean beating yourself up for making a poor choice. It means taking responsibility for the choice you made, accepting the consequence, and learning the lesson so you can move forward. For each choice we make, we should automatically take a short look at it retrospectively, evaluate what can be learned from the experience, and use that knowledge to make better decisions in the future.


What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!


The following was taken from the book Stress Mangagement: Lessons from the Savior by Karen Shores, currently on sale at cedarfort.com.