I looked in the mirror and my reflection shifted – morphed really. First I saw a well-put-together professional; then a harried not-quite-sufficient mom and wife. Next came the frumpy look – always the fall back, and never far from the surface.
But today a new look appeared – as I watched, suddenly there emerged a nit-picky, detail-oriented, stress-ridden person. “Where has this person come from?” I wondered as I stared at my reflection, remembering my behavior through the last few days.
I’ve seen this person in other people before. Usually they need to control way too much, put stress on everyone they work with, and at the root of their life rests Fear.
The running joke in my family is that I know nothing of science. The fact is that details elude me. Yet, Ms. Detail was staring me in the face, threatening to take over my life and suck every ounce of grace out of my relationships.
We all face times where stress changes our focus and we don’t realize it until our “fruit” begins to look a little prunish.
This isn’t just a matter of trying harder and reading our bible more. Times of stress call for special spiritual disciplines.
Here is a sane way to take action and return yourself to grace and joy in the arms of God.
Acknowledge and identify your stress. As they say, denial is a river in Egypt, and a dangerous one at that. Whether you feel like you have your stress under control or not, you need to admit that this is a time of stress and why.
Consider a vacation – when you are in times of stress, for some reason, some of us seem to be geared to keep our nose to the grind stone. The problem is that we stop being sharp – we just get lop-sided. Instead, plan times to play. Don’t expect too much from yourself – you are more than just a machine. You need to be balanced, and fun helps find the balance. Laughter is good.
This has been a rough summer for my family. One of the things that keeps pushing us forward has been our ability to play. My son has been very good about announcing to our family that we need to play BS (a card game) that puts us all in a fit of giggles.
Talk up the Positive – What we speak and what we hear are powerful. Speak truth – speak what is good. In hard times, a lot of bad stuff can be happening, but it is never all bad. Figure out what God is doing, and talk about it. David talked to himself a lot. He would talk to God “God, all this stuff is going wrong” and then he’s talk to himself “but self, be encouraged. We are going to trust in God.”
Include others. Don’t isolate. Find trustworthy people to walk with and talk to them.
Optimize Routines. Our brains are amazing. Stress is caused by our having to do too much in uncharted brain pathways. Spend lots of time walking up and down the familiar hallways of well-charted brain pathways.
- Find daily routines and keep to them.
- Work from lists. This will help you not take up valuable brain space trying to figure out what is next.
- Memorize scripture. For a reason I don’t understand, memorizing scripture works really well during times like this. There are times when studying scripture works great, but stressful times and times where you need to just keep your brain ordered are the times to memorize scripture.
There is healing in life’s routines. Be patient with yourself if you are a bit forgetful. Forgetfulness is a by-product of stress. That’s why we work from lists.
Never Stop Praying. I think there are seasons in our life when we communicate with God differently. Sometimes I go through seasons where I journal. Othertimes where I can’t get enough of His Word. Then I’ll want to pray for other people a lot. During my current stressful season, I’ve found that God and I talk a lot, and if I forget, then I start taking on the stress myself instead of laying it at His feet where it belongs. So, I talk to Him on the bus in the morning. I spend time praying in the Spirit in the morning as well.
During the day, whenever I feel my muscles start to tense up, I am teaching myself to sit back and pray. Not the ‘get on your knees’ kind of praying, but just talking to Him like He is sitting in my cubicle with me. I tell Him what I’m thinking about and ask for His input or help.
When we are under stress, we tend to find that our relationships get a lot more stressful. I have found that it is VERY helpful to NOT talk through these troubles before I talk with God. A lot of times, God just fixes things and we can spend time enjoying one another instead of ‘working through’ things.
Whether I’m happy, sad, disjointed, feeling kinda good, putting together a to-do list, or getting ready to tackle the next thing on my agenda, talking to God makes life flow so much better. He is ever-present, and I have seen Him fix some things really miraculously.
So that’s it. We will all have days where are fruit looks a bit wrinkled, but when you are looking prunish, remember that a soaking in the Holy Spirit will really help.
- Acknowledge your Stress
- Consider a Vacation
- Talk up the Positive
- Include Others
- Optimize Routines
- Never Stop Praying
And when you take ACTION, you will find your day is sweeter, and so is your disposition.