Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dwelling on Stress? Find the Good.

“What are you all stressed out about?” she asked with an oblivious air.
And then I punched her in the face.

Just kidding.  But I wanted to.  It’s been a while, but there have been times when I’ve been questioned about my frazzled presence and I've had to desperately appeal to every remaining ounce of self-control.

We’ve all been there.  Some days are worse than others, and if you want to list them out, there are plenty of reasons for all us to feel like a ticking time-bomb. 

Lucy Kellaway is a witty author who writes for the Financial Times and does a bit on BBCBusiness Daily.  Her commentary has a knack for wading thru the muck and getting to the simple truth of things.  The other day she was talking about stress.  She poked some fun at the ‘stress busters’ that grab headlines and claim to solve problems in people’s lives.  Arianna Huffington did a piece in December about a ‘Big Idea’ that she has for addressing stress.  Recognizing the stress is her first suggestion; and then we have to take “steps to course-correct."  She cited examples of how people turn to Yoga and massages to find some escape. 

But Kellaway points out that Downward Facing Dog is not going to solve her problems.  
In order for me to ‘course-correct’, I can think of [some] things that might be of some help, and yoga isn’t one of them. Instead they are: a) for my children to be 10 years older; b) for my dad to be 10 years younger; c) for my brain to work faster…”  
I always find Kellaway’s perspective to be refreshing.  Even though she writes for a business audience, I can relate!  I’m a part-time stay-at-home-mom, part-time farm-hand.  I live in rural America with my 3 kids under 10 and my builder husband.  Yet Kellaway’s statement reflects the fact that most of us struggle with the same kinds of challenges and frustrations.

Her suggestion for dealing with stress is excellent as well.  She points out that it would help if we would identify the actual issue, and not just use this blanket term of “stress.”  Instead, figure it out.  Are you hungry?  Tired?  Bored?  Disorganized?  Don’t have enough time?  These are specific issues that usually have specific solutions.  
[By the way, they apply to children too.  Why is this child acting this way?  Is he hungry?  Bored?  Tired?  Dirty?  Has he had enough of my time lately?  Sometimes it takes creative thinking, but labeling a child as “naughty” or “terrible” is frequently inaccurate and useless to boot.]

Obviously solutions are easier talked about than found.  Some of us just have too much on our plates, due to too many people depending on us, or not enough money to help bear the burdens.  Sleep, free time, and food are good ideas, but our culture is not known for the healthy choices we make.  We should all aim to do a better job feeding our families real food, getting enough sleep, and spending some quality time together. 
On the other hand, maybe we just like to complain.  Let’s face it: In this culture, it’s easier to list out all the things that are wrong today, than it is to celebrate the positives. 

But Kellaway says that, for her
“the very worst thing I can do is dwell on [stress].  Even saying the word is bad. Indeed, the only reliable cure I’ve ever found is to spend 30 seconds with my husband. This always goes the same way: I moan about how stressed I’m feeling and he invariably replies, without looking up from his laptop: “What rubbish. You lead an interesting, busy life and you like it that way.”

I love this.  Her husband is right!  I do love my life!  I love my jobs, my kids, and my messy house.  I love my goals, my disastrous office, and my cluttered van.  Of course I have problems.  And my life isn’t perfect.  I work really hard to identify those things that I can’t stand, and CHANGE them.  The point is, dwelling on how ‘stressed out’ we are doesn’t do much good.  Recognizing  the GOOD – that is useful.  Once again, I land right back here at some really good advice from Paul -

Do not be anxious about anything,
But in everything , by PRAYER and petition,
present your requests to God. 
And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6,7

When we recognize and “hold on to the good” (Thessalonians 5:21), we can better see the truth of our circumstances.  In the midst of the busyness of life and the to-do lists, PRAYER can part the overwhelming waters of stress and clear a path for what is most important and what has to be done.  It can make it easier to see - “I lead an interesting, busy life, and I like it that way.”

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