I don't know about you, but when the seasons change...the stress seems to build around here. This seems to be a season with quite a bit of change as all the kids are now in school and I've been trying to figure out the right balance of work vs. family/home time. And of course, what seemed like a simple transition got a bit more complicated when an unexpected job possibility popped up...and then ultimately dropped off the radar as suddenly as it appeared, leaving chaos and stress in it's wake.
Why is that? You'd think after quite a few years of life on earth, us humans would be a little more adaptable. I even claim to be a pretty laid back person, but a change in routine or even thoughts about change can send me into hyper-stress mode...
So I give you my solution: Stress Be Gone! (Only $19.95 plus $7.95 processing and handling. Act now and get one free and pay only the processing and handling fee. A double blind study in Timbuktu shows fast results for 63% of participants. Avoid where prohibited. Not valid in New Mexico. Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness and constipation.)
So I found myself generally freaking out with adjusting to the school schedule and suddenly filling out a job application and finding references and researching going back to school(for a PART-TIME job, mind you!)...when I had to stop and breath and figure out a plan before jumping over the edge. Here are my tried an true stress relievers. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!
1. Don't neglect your time with God. It's so easy to skip that quiet time when the routine gets disrupted and life is overwhelming...or miss church a week or two...neglect serving at church or elsewhere...but DON'T DO IT. If anything, it's time for me to spend a little more time in the Bible and prayer. To keep at what I said I would do for church. To sit at the piano and just play and praise until the anxiousness fades away.
2. Share your stress; there are those who can share your burden even though vulnerability is hard. I'm a bottler. I will keep everything locked up inside sometimes until it explodes. So it's good for me to schedule a time to meet a friend when I'm feeling pressured and we get to catch up and eat something yummy. And there's a few awesome friends out there that I can share my worries with and I KNOW they will pray me through it! And my husband is a great sounding board, too. I may not always agree with his take on my decision, change, dilemma, worry, circumstance...but he certainly lends a more objective perspective that whittles down the mountains I make out of molehills.
3. Determine what kind of stress it is. There are some stressful circumstances in which I have absolutely no control over. None...nada...zilch. With those things I can continue to stew, letting it steal my time, mind, heart and energy. Or I can decide to trust God, give it to Him, and keep giving it to him each and every time my mind wanders back to worry. Sigh. It's my default setting. God's been working in me a lot on this for the past, oh...20 plus years. However, there are some types of stress that I have created myself and could do something that will improve it. Sometimes I need to have a conversation I'm not looking forward to. Sometimes it is doing a task that I have been putting off. Sometimes it's simply making a decision. When I act, the reason to be stressed is gone! I know I've done all I can do! Then like the other stress, I give it to God. Yet sometimes I'm tempted to play the dramatic stressed victim a little bit longer before I am pushed to action. Woe is me! I do declare, how whilst I ever survive this terrible stress?!? That's just unnecessary. And not Godly. I DO need to be careful and think through my decisions and actions. But more than a day of contemplation for me usually just adds drama.
4. If I've worked through 1-3, my next step is to do "happy things." If I'm feeling pretty good, it's a dog walk or a bike ride. A visit to somewhere pretty. A little browsing at Goodwill. Listening to my favorite music. Reading something light. Talking to my hilarious kids. Doing some porch sitting with my hubby. Drinking a good cup of coffee/tea. Eating ice cream/chocolate/that stupid key lime Greek yogurt that has become way too much of a staple in my diet... I'm fortunate to have lots of good "go-tos" I've developed over the years that keep my mind and emotions in a healthy place. And I've learned to work them in here and there even when there's a LOT to get done in a day.
OK, all jokes and Greek yogurt aside, some stress is more than we can handle even with the stuff listed above. Illness, death, heartache and tragedies are on many of our doorsteps. The long term really tough and really real things in life require a network of supportive people, God's continual grace and encouragement, and many times professional help to overcome. And I don't want to minimize that. I just know that much of my personal stress is not big things. It's little things that inch their way into my heart and set up camp where the one and only, true, living and loving God should be. "Oh for grace to trust Him more," right?
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I do have a part-time job. Well, three actually. 1. A few music students one afternoon/evening a week. 2. I frequently watch a couple of awesome kiddos after school. 3. I will be starting to volunteer for AmeriCorps I think next week (training tomorrow!). And although it's technically "volunteer" work, I will get a living stipend each month and money towards going back to school. So all in good time, maybe that other job option will work out. But for now, work plus school plus not quite enough money to pay for school equals...you guessed it...too much STRESS! :)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:6-7)
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