Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

How to Thrive in Stress

November 30, 2010

I talked to a friend today – she described her life to me.  She has pressure from every side – work and home, yet she still manages to give extravagantly to others.

She leans heavily on Jesus, but also knows how to let others inside her space enough to hold up her arms.

Once, the nation of Israel was at battle.  Joshua and his troops were down on the field engaged in hand-to-hand warfare.  Moses and the seniors, were up on the hilltop where they could watch the proceedings.  Moses discovered that if he held up his arms (signifying that he was giving glory to God, and that God was in charge), then the battle went in Israel’s favor.  When he rested his arms, then Israel started losing.   This seems minor, but when his arms went down, Israelites started dying.  Thus,  Moses found that exhaustion caused the battle to go backwards.  To fix this problem, Hur and Aaron came alongside Moses to lift up his arms.

When you are going through a rough time, you need someone to help you stay focused on the big picture – not just the pain you are in, but on the fact that God IS.

During all the stress that my family has gone through lately (a death in the family, moving, transitioning parents into skilled care – all in the same month), I have found a few arm lifters:

  1. My daughter Caitlyn, home from bible college and full of God’s zeal.
  2. Friends who came alongside us and told us that we are doing a good job.
  3. Friends who pointed out specifics when engaging in #2.
  4. Those who told us ‘I wouldn’t be anywhere else’ when we thanked them for coming to Jean’s memorial.
  5. A friend who brought a care package to the hospital one night. (The same friend who is having so much pressure herself.)
  6. Many who provided meals, etc.

We also found that we stayed focused on the big picture better when we:

  1. dealt with the details instead of hoping they would go away
  2. took time to enjoy each other – even making sure we had a family game night
  3. laughing.  I didn’t realize before these last two weeks that laughter is a choice.
  4. looked for opportunities to be an encouragement/arm lifter for others.

God is mighty to save – and life can sometimes be a tumultuous.  In the midst of the waves of opposition, the only way to win is to keep your focus on the One who delivers.  God carries the result, and will show you every step of the process.

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What is sin?

August 8, 2010

Sin is living without letting God into the equation.

Ever since the Fall, (Genesis 3, not the season with colored leaves and Indian summers), humans live without the concept of God.  We consider ourselves to be the beginning and the end – we live by what we feel and see instead of a deeper reality based on the Spirit.

To err truly is human – but the definition of “err” isn’t really ‘to make a mistake’.  It is to try to do things without God.

Paul wrote, in Ephesians 2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”  We are designed to live in communion with God.  When we don’t live as we were designed, we live like dead people – living like there is nothing more to life than what we see and feel.

However, God made us to live in communion with Him.  When the original design was messed up by sin, God sent Jesus to pay the price and open the doorway so that He could walk with us again.  Just like God raised Jesus from the dead, He makes us alive in Him.  This means that we don’t have to live by what we see and feel.  We can live with God in our equation.

What are addictions?  What are jealousy and anger?  They are us, responding to fill a need.  When we sin, we are trying to fix the world as we see and feel it.  If we are to overcome sin, we must live as Paul describes – we must know that we are seated in the heavenly realms with God.

Whatever you need, as you are being and doing what God has called you to, is yours.  (John 14:12-14)

You were created for great things.  If you are living without adversity, you aren’t being strengthened.  You aren’t growing.  When people are cranky to us, we have a choice – let God into the equation, or try to do it on our own.  These new brain pathways are developed by repeating the same adversity over and over until we learn to let God be in the equation.  When we learn to let God into the equation, then we have overcome the adversity.

The temptation to rely on our own understanding will be there as long as we are in our bodies as they now are.  The ability to trust God comes through training ourselves to rely on Him instead of us.  Thankfully, Jesus made another promise.  We don’t have to train ourselves alone.  He sends us the Holy Spirit to walk with us – to teach, guide and comfort us.  To turn our focus on God’s perspective.

How are you doing in this process?  Some days, I think I’m doing great – and then a bad attitude creeps in…

Trained for what?

August 3, 2010

A quick look through the bible finds that the word “train” is used most often in the context of training for war.

Trained soldiers, trained men, “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”

Wow!  In my little world, this seems pretty harsh.  However, here are some things that come to mind:

  • Without training, the uninitiated lose in battle.
  • We can choose to not engage in the battle – we live life being ineffective.  Kind of like a people under domination.
  • God wants us to free.  Jesus came so that we might have life, and life to the full.

Freedom means that we don’t live under domination.  What is dominating you?  Do you need God to train your hands for war and your fingers for battle?

How to Confront in Love

October 30, 2009

That knot builds in the pit of your stomach.

You avoid thinking about the problem for days.  Finally, you avoid the person all together.

God has made it obvious to you that there is a problem and you are the person He want to confront your friend/loved one about it.

How can you confront someone in love?  Personally, I think there are several good models.  I happen to be reading Galatians this morning, and found a model I thought I’d share:

  1. Set a background – Paul spends the first 2 of six chapters setting up his confrontation.  A full third of the book.  He reminds them of his personal story.
  2. Confront succinctly – Very briefly, Paul states his frustration.
    1. Lead with a question – the majority of Paul’s confrontation is in the form of a question – “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”
    2. Address the root – Paul spent the next chapter and a half assuring the Galatians that they were Children of Promise, and didn’t need to ‘earn their stripes.”  Interestingly, he doesn’t identify their feelings for them, he just addresses the root.
  3. Show them your personal concern – Although Paul comes on strong in the beginning, he now lets them know he cares for them, is concerned for their well-being, that he loves them.
  4. Remind them of your history – Paul reminds them of their shared history, of their personal relationship.
  5. Provide a healed vision for the future – Paul then paints a vision for the future in chapters 5 & 6.  These chapters might say “this is what victorious living looks like.”

In short:

  • Set the stage
  • Confront
  • Confirm  Relationship
  • Show Vision for a Positive Future

Telling someone things they don’t want to hear is never easy.

How do you know when you have to confront someone in love?  When it is the most loving thing to do.

Need P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E.?

August 12, 2009

It was one of those days when things go wrong.

I scheduled my chiropractor appointment as late as possible – but my chiropractor has moved to Tin-buk-tu, and it takes a looong time to get there, even without traffic.

On this day, my bus was 20 minutes late getting me home, then my gas gauge read empty.  Next, the road to my chiropractor was a complete parking lot.

Finally I called him in defeat.  “I’m on my way…I have no idea how long it will take, but I’m on my way.”

I felt so frustrated. Friday night, the beginning of my chiropractor’s vacation, and he’s waiting on me.

Then my 9 year old pipes up.  “Mom, you need to be patient.”

HUH?”  On what planet did this child originate?  Where did this person come from?  And WHY is she talking to me?”  Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

“Apparently you learned something at camp this week?”

“Yes, and you are NOT being patient.”

Well, that about summed it up.  She was right.  My fuming wasn’t helping anyone.  It wasn’t going to change my situation.  It wasn’t going to help anyone.  It was only going to make a difficult situation worse.

We have all been in these frustrating situations.  Sometimes they aren’t so easy as a late appointment.  Sometimes they seem a lot more dire.  But whatever the situation, here is something that can help us when we need patience:

Perspective – change your perspective.  Just like I wasn’t going to help myself or anyone else by wishing I wasn’t in this situation, most of the situations that send our blood pressure through the roof just aren’t worth the stress.  I’m not God and neither are you, and most of these situations won’t change the course of the universe.  So, gaining perspective can help us reduce our stress and get a grasp on that elusive calm that we need.

Acknowledge your fears – Let’s just get it out there.  Most of the time, we stress out because of elusive fears.  What are you really afraid is going to happen?  When I was an apartment manager, I discovered that most people hate to talk to people they owe money to.  I had one woman who either had her purse stolen or her apartment ‘robbed’ every single month.  She was really stressing herself out because she didn’t want to face me with the truth – she didn’t have the money by the 5th.  Every month, she got a pay-up or die notice from me, and every month she paid her rent, but every month, we had to have the extra drama because she didn’t face her fears.

On my little jaunt to the chiropractor, I was afraid that I was making the trip for naught, and that he would give up on me – or that I was putting a breach in our friendship.  Once I admitted that this was the source of my stress, I was able to realize that this was unrealistic – my chiropractor knows that I’ve only been on time about 12 times in 13 years, so I am sure he has already planned two clients in the middle.  Once I faced my fears, I was able to self-talk and realize that I was adding stress to the situation that was unnecessary.

Thankfulness – Practice thankfulness.  Really, this helps with a lot of things, but when you need to be patient, whether you are waiting on someone else or on yourself, practicing thankfulness is one of the most helpful tools.

  • Thankfulness helps you remember all the times things have turned out well.
  • Thankfulness helps you find the positive in your current situation.
  • Thankfulness gives you something to look at besides yourself and your own wants and desires.

Initiate Project Redirection – admittedly, there are definite benefits to being attention challenged.  One of these is a firm understanding that obsession is in the eye of the beholder.

Try this one on for size:

Think about your biggest stress.  Something that really makes you lose your cool.

Now, in your mind, watch a paraglider float down out of the sky.  The parachute is soft and fluffy against the blue sky.  The glider is so in control and light as they steer the chute toward an open field.  They look so free.   Wow!  Isn’t that cool?

Streeeesssss.

LOOK! There’s a paraglider!

Okay – those of you who are also attention challenged really got that, and are probably giggling, because “Look! There’s a shiny object!” has distracted you from many of life’s stresses.  The rest of you? It’s a learned thing, but it helps.

Patience can sometimes be as easy as redirecting your activity into something that you CAN work on.

The Serenity Prayer says “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Project Redirection is about putting your energy into what you can change instead of worrying about what you can’t change.

Encourage Yourself – David was very good at this.  Read Psalms 4 for an example.  David is talking about his frustrations, and there, right in the middle he says:

Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Selah

Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.

Talk to yourself – tell yourself how you should be thinking and acting. Your mind is part of your fallen nature – the flesh.  It needs to come under the direction of your spirit, which needs to be under the direction of God’s Spirit.  The way you do this is by being in tune with God’s Spirit, and then, giving direction to yourself.  Your emotions and bad thinking should not direct your life, God’s truth will reign when you let it.

“Self, this is what we are going to think,

and this is how we are going to act.”

Needs – Look to fill the needs of others.  Everyone who has ever been on the bottom knows that the way to real blessing is to find someone else to bless.

This is also the key to finding patience in your situation.

Confess God’s Activity – God is at work in every situation. When we are biting our nails and fussing from dawn until dusk, it means that we have somehow forgotten that the One who made the universe is also in charge of our lives and can manage to get us from A to B without a catastrophic disaster.

There was a time in our lives where we were living less than month-to-month.  Worse than that, we had purchased a van just one week before my husband had endured yet another lay off.  I continually fussed and fumed over our bills.

How will we meet this week’s bills?  Where will we get the money for school supplies?  What about….  You know the litany.

This went on for about two years (yes, I said years, not weeks or months).

Suddenly, one day I had an epiphany.

“This has been going on for two years!  We still have a car in our driveway, a roof over our head.  Every month, we’ve had food to eat, and we’ve never had our utilities turned off.”

That day I determined to stop worrying and to practice patience with our finances.  I started confessing God’s activity.  God was providing for us.  He had been for a long time!  Within weeks of my epiphany, my husband had a full time job, and we were again in the black.

Expect God to Answer – I think this is really the crux of it.  We don’t have patience because we think that somehow we can make things go faster.  If we add our adrenaline to the mix, then we can cause other people to do what we want, cause life to move faster, change things to be different… we forget that God is REAL and rewards those who EARNESTLY seek Him.  So, expect Him to answer.

I know, this is easier said than done.  That’s why I sometimes call this “jumping up and down on God’s lap with high heels on”.

No matter what, you will face something that will require patience – if not today, then tomorrow.  You might not have a nine year old sitting next to you reminding you to relax, so I hope these points will help do the trick.

  • Perspective – change your perspective
  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Thankfulness
  • Initiate Project Redirection
  • Encourage yourself
  • Needs – fill other’s needs
  • Confess God’s activity
  • Expect God’s Answer

Stressed? Need Grace? Take A.C.T.I.O.N.

August 10, 2009

kim in mirror3I 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. DSC_0268 (3)

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.

Balance

July 23, 2009

There are a lot of ways to live your life.  I submit that there is a permeating need to live it all in an attitude of balance.

Some would use balance as a shield to keep them from risk or doing great things.  After all, if you are to do great things, then you have to go all out at some point.

Failing to do great things to maintain balance is an excuse.

Failing to maintain balance while doing great things is failure.

What to do When You Hit Your Limit

June 22, 2009

There are days, weeks, when you are under stress beyond the norm.

Today was one of those days.  I could feel the emotional exhaustion in the back of my head.  I knew I needed to talk.

I have a friend who has for years taken me out to coffee from time to time.  Today I called and asked for her time.  Then, the cognitive function deficiency caused by stress took over, and I forgot I’d called her.  About 45 minutes later, I was standing in my room, thinking “I really need to talk to someone” when I remembered that my friend was waiting for me just up the street.

When I got home, a prayer warrior called me, then a counselor.  By the end of the evening, my cup was full and I have something to offer again.

You see, I read the Bible every morning.  God and I have time together, and we have great conversations.  Today I needed something more.  He had people lined up to lift up my arms, to fill me up with His love, so that I can again walk with something to give.

Some days you discover stress at levels higher than you thought possible.  Here is the recipe for success:

  • A previous relationship with God
  • Intra Intelligence – the ability to assess yourself.  Know yourself so you can know when you need time away.
  • Friends – you need people to check up on you, and you need trusted people you can talk to.
  • A plan – you need a plan to decompress.  For me it is a book.  I bought a fiction book a week ago and have been working my way through it.
  • The basics: healthy food, sleep, vitamins, water.
  • Time – time to process and time to pray.

There are seasons in life that are difficult, but they are just seasons.  We grow, we learn, and with time, we heal.  Thankfully, the world keeps turning, God keeps loving us, and tomorrow is a new day.

HALT

February 17, 2009

Just a reminder that’s been rolling around my head since I started to work with 2 year olds:

Stupid things will come out of your actions or mouth if you are too:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely or
  • Tired

This is so evident, even with the littlest of children.  They can be so easy to get along with until they are suddenly off schedule – naptime or lunchtime approaches, and their little worlds just fall apart.

How do you avoid hitting the edge, so to speak?  What do you do when you find yourself in that place of too something, where everything seems bad?

What I Learned From 2 Year Olds

February 12, 2009

I spent time with two-year-olds yesterday – about 10 of them.  Here are some things I learned:

  • Cute babies get attention easy
  • So do older kids who are helpers
  • When you scream, you get attention, but nobody likes you.
  • Throwing toys doesn’t work either.
  • When people try to take your toy, it doesn’t work to hit them.
  • Kids who have more words get more attention.
  • Making a stinky will get you attention, but only your bottom gets the attention – so that doesn’t work well either.
  • Making a mess at snack time will get you put in the high chair, or get your snack stolen by someone who is quick.
  • “More” is a good word to learn.
  • Making eye contact is a good way to get attention, especially if you hold a toy or book towards the person you are looking at.

From the day we start to interact with others, we begin to learn how important it is to control ourselves in order to get what we need.  We also learn how to contol other’s action through use of our own actions.  If we came out with all our capacities, we would miss some of those lessons.

What lessons are you learning today?