When Stress Happens....

This week I was reminded of the two types of stress- dis-stress and eu-stress. (A new friend (Rebecca Faye, Smith Galli) is a wonderful writer. Check out her webpage and newsletters )  Back in the day of my designing wellness programs, I scheduled and attended talks about stress and even would give my own lectures on stress.  Stress itself is not a bad thing.  There are good stressors in life- birth of a baby, moving to a new home, getting a new job.  The problem becomes when we cannot handle the stress or when we perceive it as difficult. 

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Most of us are in the dis-stress mode. And most, I would surmise are stressed from perceived stressors, or even self-created stressors which doesn't make it any less of an issue.  But if we acknowledge how and why we are stressed, we can figure out how to some coping mechanisms. 

Here are some suggestions for dealing with (dis) stress and anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.adaa.org) : 

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What about you?  Are you in a season of dis-stress or eu-stress? How do you handle it?  What are your coping mechanisms? 

Time Perspective

We are heading out for vacation soon. In preparing for our trip, I have been thinking about what I need to do before hand and what I will do when I get back.  It occurred to me that all, about which I have been thinking and have been worrying is so short sighted.  Probably when we return things will naturally resolve and  I will not be so intense about my situation and my current concerns. 

I met with some friends the other week.  They have younger children than we do.  Hearing their concerns about schools, sports clubs and eventually college brought me back to the time when I worried about those same things.  I wonder, at the time, how much time and energy did I devote to thinking about those things when in reality, most of my mental gymnastics did nothing to change the outcomes.  I just  aggravated my family as well as myself.   You would think given all the attention and time to those worries that I would carry those memories in my heart. The thing is, I completely forgot about those feelings of anxiety and overwhelming consternation until I spoke with our friends.  Obviously it wasn't too great a concern if I cannot remember much about it.  

In cleaning out my father's house I came across pictures and memorabilia that returned me to the time when those depicted scenarios took place.  I can almost hear the conversations around the kitchen table or on the beach blanket.   Again, I think of the mental gymnastics we performed as a family as we discussed (ad nauseam), decided, revisited, discussed some more a problem or situation one of the family members was having.  I am sure that if we currently asked the highlighted family member about that situation they would say, "What?  Oh yeah.  I remember that now.  Funny how I had forgotten.  I don't know what was such a big deal." 

I do think that time does provide great perspective. Unfortunately I wish that I would remember that when I am in the middle of a situation or problem.  I wonder how many cycles of worry, problem, worry, intense worry, thinking of problem all the time, problem resolved, problem forgotten that I need to experience before I cut out the worry stages.  I guess all I can do is try to remember that things do have a way of working out regardless (and most probably in spite of) of our fretting and fussing.  Sure it is good to plan and be proactive in situations but the ruminating of past events and worrying over hypothetical scenarios does nothing. 

What about you?  Are you in the middle of a worry, problem or concern?  What do you do to help resolve the issue?  Talk to others about it? Revisit and replay the scene, dialogue or situation over and over again? How can you gain some perspective?  Can you "go on vacation"  from the problem?  

It may take some time but my concerns today are not at all my concerns from yesterday. So too, I know that my concerns for tomorrow will not be what they are today.  

And that is a good thing. 

Maybe if I remember that concerns come and go I won't be too anxious while they are here. 

 

It is I

Do you ever feel afraid?  Not just butterflies in the stomach or things going bump in the night afraid, but afraid of the future or of things that might happen?  How will bills get paid?  What if my beloved dies?  What if I have to spend more time and money than I have on parents, children, or family?  Will my children grow up safe?  Will I get sick or disabled?  What if I lose my job? How will I manage all the stress on my time?

Some days the worries and concerns keep piling up. It seems as if life's demands are like an never ending leaky faucet:  Drip.  Drip. Drip.  And there appears to be no way to turn off  the demands.

The other week I was feeling that drippiness of life.  It just seemed like a never ending stream of:  "Can you do this...?  Can you pick up...? I need such and such... Would you mind doing... Would you be available?  

As it happens so many times in the past, as I read my daily Bible reading, the verses for that specific day spoke to those issues on my heart.  I was reading the story of Jesus walking on water (John 6: 16-20). As the story goes the disciples were out on a boat, traveling across the sea to get to the other side.  They had just come from participating and witnessing the feeding of the five thousand.  They must've been exhausted.  Can you imagine anything worse than thousands of hungry people and not any quantity of food around?  Sure, they witnessed and were part of a multiplication miracle but prior to that occurring, the atmosphere must have been incredibly stressful.

So, off they go on a boat and Jesus is no where to be seen.  Were they worried that something had happened to him?  Were they worried that something would happen to them?   As they were rowing the seas got rough and the wind started blowing.  It is interesting that these seasoned fishermen would be scared and worried about a familiar situation.   But how many times have I, under unfavorable conditions been worried and anxious for no apparent reason.  Things that normally wouldn't affect me at all, can become major issues when I am tired, hungry, angry or stressed.

It is in that stressful and worrisome time that the disciples spy someone, an apparition coming towards them across the water.   Jesus speaks to them first, "It is I.  Do not be afraid."  In my Bible translation it suggests that the phrase, "It is I" is deliberately chosen.  "It is I" harkens back to when Moses encounters God at the burning bush.  "I am who I am".   That phrase should remind them that God is the one who was, who is and who will always be.  He has provided and protected them in the past and will do so in their future. They need not have any worries or anxieties.  He is with them and will safely take them ashore.

I need that reminder today.  Jesus tells you and tells me, "It is I. Do not be afraid" every time we feel that life's stressors are getting the best of us.  He tells us that when we are worried about our future and its seemingly non-ending drippiness of stress.  And he tells us that when we need to get to where we are going.

Jesus' walking on water was miraculous and memorable.  The action of His walking and defying natural law showed Him to be divine. He doesn't need special transport to go across the water. He can just move as He wills.  And yet, even in His splendor of His divinity He was interested in calming the fears of His subjects.  Once Jesus enters the boat, the seas calm and all is restored. The disciples didn't need to be afraid because He is who He is and He cares for each one of them.

You and I do not have to be afraid, worried or anxious.  We have access to the Divine who will get into our boats, love us where we are, eliminate all our fears and take us safely to shore. 

What about you?  Are you worried and anxious about much?  Do you need to witness a walking on water miracle before you can trust the One who calms the seas? When things are tough, remember "It is I". Remember the One who walks on water yet also gets into the boat with us so that we are no longer afraid. 

Wired

One of my favorite actors is Ewan McGregor.  I enjoy some of his body of work but I really enjoy his interviews on various talk shows.  He just seems to have a joie de vive and a generous spirit. He embodies the adage, "do what you love and love what you do". He takes such delight in his environment, what he is doing, and the people whom he meets. 

I heard him once discuss his experience on giving up smoking.  He was a heavy smoker and finally had enough.  He said that he spent so much time looking for his smoking accoutrements-lighter, cigarettes, ashtray-every time he sat down that he just  couldn't  sit down. He had to make sure that he had all his "stuff" and he would fiddle with all those things.  He couldn't leave the house without checking and rechecking that he had all his smoking paraphernalia. There was so much activity just to keep the habit going.  Now that he is not smoking he says that he is at peace. He has a sense of tranquility.  When he sits down now, he can just sit and enjoy the experience. 

Collection of known usable wires that keep us "connected".  In addition, there is a box somewhere that contains cords and wires to those electronic devices which have gone to the great beyond. 

Collection of known usable wires that keep us "connected".  In addition, there is a box somewhere that contains cords and wires to those electronic devices which have gone to the great beyond. 

I feel that way with all the cords and wires to keep us electronically connected. Every time we go on a trip we have added to our checklist litany, 'Do you have your chargers- for the phone, the laptop, all your devices?"   

One summer we were packing up from our stay at our rented vacation cottage.  For reasons that take too long to explain, my one son had put all his electronic cords, mouth retainer and other (expensive)  sundries into a plastic grocery bag.  The four of us in the family were doing our respective "getting ready to leave" jobs: final vacuum through, packing the back of the car, loading the bikes onto the roof rack and collecting the trash which was in a plastic grocery bag like the one my son used as his "luggage". You can only guess what happened.  We did not discover the switch until we were ten hours away, dropping off this son at his college apartment. The restful and peaceful feeling of our two week vacation was immediately shattered with the seemingly innocent inquiry, "Mom, where did you put the white plastic grocery bag?"

Somedays I wish I could quit the habit of the electronic devices and the need (seemingly)  to be connected all the time.   Somedays it seems as if the cost of the devices- keeping track of their whereabouts, keeping them charged, updating the information, figuring out how to use them properly- far outweighs any benefit.  Somedays the red circle or ding of a reminder that I have a text message, a notification or an email is anxiety producing.  I can feel my heart rate increase. The red is too reminiscent of the red marker from school. "What did I miss?,  Did I do something wrong? Have I broken something?"

When I get anxious I know that I need to take an electronic fast.  I need to take a deep breath and realize that I am not going to get an "F" for failing to respond to a message or alert immediately.  I need to set the electronics aside so that peace and tranquility can reign in my heart. 

I have an acquaintance who makes a point of taking an electronic sabbath one day a week or at least a good part of one day. She and her husband have agreed not to look at emails, turn on the computer or respond to text messages.  Admirable.  To be honest, I think I might have a tough time not being electronically connected for a whole day.  Although the times when I couldn't be connected to an electronic device for whatever reason (current location has no service, attending a workshop or meetings, on a trip), I have felt such lightness of being, kind of like a snow day.  I always feel rejuvenated and ready to come back to the "electronic age".  

What about you?  Are you too wired?  Do you get frustrated with all the cords, wires and connections of which you need to keep track? How do you handle it?  Physically and emotionally? Have you ever not been connected?  What was the reason?  How did you feel when you finally "reconnected"?   Have you ever taken an electronics fast?

Aren't we fortunate to be living in an age where we can choose how we use the tools that improve our lives?  I just need to remember that the electronic devices are to be used and not to let them use me.  I need  to choose peace and tranquility.   I need to choose not to be "wired".