Saturday, January 3, 2015

Stress






Stress is a big deal. It happens A LOT to most people I know. Not only do we live in a go-go-go society, but dealing with small screaming children is stressful, and things not going according to plan is also stressful (among other things).

I've spent a lot of my life with stress being disconnected from what I know to be true about my identity as a child of God. Instead, I've seen stress as a product of what's happening around me, a function of events in my life or unfortunate events happening to me. I've avoided things because I think it will be too stressful. I plan my life according to how much I think I can handle.

But, there's big news. Stress is not going away. Life is not going to get any easier. It's not going to slow down, there's not going to be a lull where you can focus on the most important things and prioritize before you jump into another stress-filled cycle.

So if it's never going to go away, I need to learn how to deal with it appropriately. Not because, gee, it would be nice not to be stressed, but because it's an essential trait to your happiness and success in this life. But God does not leave us alone. Stress and anxiety tools are not reserved for therapy sessions or psychoanalysts. Some of these tools discovered are merely the tools of God.

Stress is about control. You feel stressed when you are out of control. As I have studied and learned more about stress, I have found three things that have been really helpful to me regaining control (we actually talked about it in one of my classes and this section (starting on p.113) of one of my textbooks might be helpful for you to discover your own tools).

1. Celebrate small successes. This means, for me, showing gratitude for what you already have, and recognizing who you really are. Learning about this impacted me so much I've already written a whole blog post about it.

2. Take time for meditation and deep relaxation. In my life, this means weekly temple attendance. This is where I recharge and focus on the bigger picture. It is noticeable to me how much more stressed I am when I don't have this eternal perspective at the forefront of my mind. Not everyone will have the luxury of weekly temple attendance, however. I have also found that consistent morning and nightly prayer, where you spend some time going over what you have done or what you have to do and how it relates to the bigger picture can also be an important source of strength.

3. Having a supportive friend, a listening ear. For me, this is important that this person is not my spouse, someone I am so intimately intertwined with. In my life I have several people who play this role in various capacities. Sometimes I need a peer to commiserate with, to feel validated in my weaknesses or rehash my worst moments. Other times I need a mentor, someone who's been there and can say "it won't be like this forever." Sometimes I need someone to give me advice, sometimes I need another person to be a springboard for my own ideas, or sometimes I need someone to simply listen. Lastly, it's important for me to play this role for other people. It really gives me a chance to see my problems in a new light, and give back when I have been so richly given to. Often they don't realize how much they've helped me, answered a silent prayer of loneliness or picked a time where I couldn't see outside of my own struggles.

Now I know that I can be in control. I can come face-to-face with something hard and know that I can do it. Not because using these tools will "make" me not stressed out, but because I know I have the power to choose. I can choose control. And maybe I'm not so good at it yet. But I know that Jesus Christ can change me. I am a child of God, I'm His child. Just as (I imagine!) God has controlled his stress, I can do so too.

Let's decide to make 2015 a less-stressful year, shall we? Then we can have a good time no matter what happens. That's what I want to do. It's a better place to be.



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