Hey you. You lovely thing, you.
STOP. Things are about to get really good, and I don't want you to miss it.
Can I ask you to do something? Go grab yourself some paper, a pen, a great smelling candle, and a mug of tea or coffee...and go be by yourself.
Here's what I want you do to. I want you to breathe. Deep, stretch-them-lungs breaths. Inhale and exhale and feel the marvelous sensation known as living. Do that for a while, will you? Just breathe.
Light your candle. Take a sip of your tea.
Stress sucks the life out of us. Our frantic pace can feel like a race on the hamster wheel of life sometimes. We're running and running but it feels like we're never getting anywhere. We've overloaded ourselves for a multitude of reasons...people-pleasing, efforts to bolster our self-esteem (guilty), worry, the proverbial "keeping up with the Joneses" and having too many irons in the fire.
Stress is also ridiculously NOT healthy for you. Our bodies are designed to handle short periods of stress: for example, "Oh crap! There's a bear chasing me! I should probably run REALLY REALLY fast!", but not months and years of it.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you can handle something "right now" means that you will be able to handle it over a sustained period of time. Stress will wear you down mentally, emotionally, and physically unless you handle it properly.
God has some things to say about stress, because He knows that we have a lot of it.
"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." Proverbs 12:25
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27
"...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." 1 John 4:18
"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" Matthew 6:27
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
As I said in the post about Simplifying your Schedule, "Matthew 11:30 tells us that His burden is easy and His yoke is light. If you’re overcommitted, you might be taking on more than He intended." I believe that God calls us to specific things and that we should pursue His glory in those things with everything that we are. I think we should sweat it out, we should be broken, we should be "pressed but not crushed" and we should run our race with endurance.
I also think that most of our stress comes when we do more than God has asked of us.
So. Let's get down to business, shall we? This is going to be a bit more hands-on than other posts in The Simplified Series, because you're the only one who can simplify your own stress. My heart is to help you do it. So grab your pen and paper, and keep reading, sweet friend.
1. Write down your "irons in the fire".
What are the things you're committed to? The things you're involved in? The organizations that you're a member of and the meetings you attend? What relationships are you invested in? What are the things that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called you to? List them out.
2. What stresses you out?
There's probably going to be some overlap between this and #1. That's ok. This might include things like "Facebook", "My relationship with _________", "not getting enough sleep", "clutter", "thinking about ________".
3. Look at your lists. What things do you not have control over?
You might not have control over how that person at work treats you, the weather (currently, Kansas is stressing me out because it keeps teasing me with Spring and then being like "Haha! Just kidding, here's some snow, ya fool!"), or the fact that somebody keeps asking you to do things. But...
4. What can you choose to control?
You do have control over your attitude, for starters. I struggle with this, because my tendency is to react like a firecracker instead of having a good attitude. However...
- You can choose to be nice to the person at work...maybe even pray for them.
- You can choose to buy flowers even though it's snowing outside.
- You can choose to say no when people ask you to do things. (Really. I promise.)
- You can choose to log off of Facebook for the day, the week, or even quit entirely.
- You can choose to quit the nine zillion committees you're a part of. (It humbled me to realize that all those organizations will do just fine without me)
- You can choose to put some boundaries on unhealthy relationships.
- You can choose to eliminate the things that stress you out.
Maybe no one has ever told you this before, but it really is your choice. Write down what choices you want to make.
5. Manage the stress you can't cut out.
Being a college student stresses me out sometimes. I can't cut that out, though...but I can manage my time better and stay organized. My marriage stresses me out sometimes, but I will never cut it out of my life. Instead, I can choose to talk things out with my husband and serve him joyfully even when I don't feel like it. Even if something in your life is stressful, you do have control over that stress and how you choose to handle it. And finally...
6. Take care of yourself.
It's not selfish, it's smart. Check out my post on the Basics of Self Care and figure out what's good for your soul, and write out some ideas on how to take care of yourself this week.
Other posts in the Simplified Series...
Your Simplified Challenge: quit something that stresses you out.
What would YOUR life look like if you had absolutely no stress?