Thursday, April 21, 2005

Reducing Stress

A certain amount of stress is normal and necessary in order to function at top level. Some stress is good for us, in that it makes us alert and helps us develop right responses to various situations. However, in these times, most people have more stress than they can handle. We cannot always control the demands or stress put upon us by others, but there are ways to reduce the stress we put on ourselves. Here are a few things that might help:

Develop Orderliness: Stress is produced eventually when the work piles up. The solution is not to allow it to pile up. Instead, live in the present, and clean as you go. Pick up after yourself in the kitchen or bathroom and don't leave a trail of evidence in every place you've been. Leave rooms clean and pleasant for the next person who will use it. Pick up packaging and wrappers immediately and toss them out or put them where you store such things, as soon as you unwrap the package. When the mail comes, put it all where it will end up, rather than stack papers and magazines here and there all over the house. At the end of the day, put things away, and the next day will not begin with stress.

Reduce Personal Confrontations: They only lead to arguments and more stress on you. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Learn to overlook a fault. Give people a chance to grow. If there is not a cliff-hanging life or death situation, ignore most of the bad information that enters your mind. Let it pass. There is a generation that lives and breathes confrontations and argumentations. To ask them to stop it is like asking a smoker not to smoke, or a drug addict not to take drugs. Faultfinding and criticism is part of their makeup, and once it becomes a habit, it is so deeply ingrained, that it will take major spiritual-heart surgery to correct it. It will take a long time to learn to avoid confrontations, but it can be done. Confrontations make others uncomfortable. I've never known anyone who developed a good relationship with others in this manner. In fact, such a technique makes others very uncomfortable. Most things can be overlooked. One day I observed a young man who confronted his own brother because someone else told him he said something. The brother had not said it, and was forced to defend himself, and felt very offended. For many years after that, the relationship was strained. Such confrontations force others to go to the exhaustive trouble to defend themselves and prove themselves, as though they were in a court before a judge. While we are all sensitive to stress in our own lives, we must also be aware that some of the things we say to others cause stress to them, as well. In short, do nothing that would start an argument. Think things through, and create an imaginary conversation with someone you are tempted to confront, and if in any way you see it will bring defense and arguing, don't attempt it. If you want to build strong and good relationships with people, such as adult family and church members, and avoid stress in your life, reduce personal confrontations. The Bible teaches that peacemakers are blessed, and that we are to live peaceful lives. This can help us avoid unnecessary stress.

Put beauty in life every single day: Every day that we are alive is cause to celebrate. Celebrate by dressing well and having good grooming. Add a smile. Drink out of a beautiful glass or cup. Say lovely things. Remember that what goes into the mind is what will end up on the face and come out of the mouth. Ugly thoughts can ruin your day. Practice good mental health by thinking good, positive thoughts of praise. Beauty can be found in many things, from the way you decorate and arrange your home, to the way you dress.

Honor Parents: Be sensitive to the emotional needs of your parents. Don't be in a hurry to run away from them. Parents put up resisitance when their grown children live lives too independenly of them. God created the generations to be interdependent. Live close to your parents and be there for them. They were there for you when you needed them. You won't regret it, and in doing so, you'll be blessed by God. Leaving your parents out of your lives can result in undo stress, as then you will have to deal with their protests or their anquish over you. Reduce the stress in your life by honoring parents. Some people who cannot live near their parents, honor them by sending cards and letters daily. It is somewhat fake just to show up on your parents doorstep when they are going to fix dinner for you, or for the obligatory Thanksgiving and Mothers Day. This can hardly be called honoring. Parents have sacrificed and invested a lot in their children, and need to be involved in their decision making even when they are grown. Things like buying houses, choosing careers and mates, are too important for young people to make all by themselves. Choose to allow God to work in the lives of your parents to help you make wise decisions. If for some reason you are not in good standing with your parents, honor them on their special days, such as birthdays and anniversaries or other times that are important to them, by giving greeting cards or a gift. This consistency will one day be noticed by them, and cause them to find less fault with you. An honoring spirit can go a long ways to reducing stress. If you had parents that you consider inadequate, or if you are in some way estranged from them, at least do not say anything bad about them. Word always travels back, and if you practice only saying good things, it will bring great rewards, and your stress will be reduced considerably. As they see your attitude change into a soft hearted, sweet and loving person, they will reduce the tension they direct towards you.

Eat Natural Foods: Eat foods as close to their natural form and source as you can. A sliced apple is better for you than apple cake, and a salad is better than a donut. Some vegetables are better in cooked form, as certain nutrients are released during cooking. Include green vegetables in your diet. Our cars have to have certain types of oil in them. We cannot just put any cheap thing into them and expect them to run smoothly, and our bodies are the same. Green vegetables are like the oil for the car; they will keep your body running smoothly. Food with additives contribute to the stress in our lives.

Be Creative Every Day: If at the end of the day you feel frustrated, think if you have been creative. Arts and crafts are wonderful. There are also ways to be creative in something as simple as clearing off a table. Change the color of the table cloth and add a bright centerpiece for the season. To be creative is to immitate our Creator. Creativity can go a long way in reducing stress.

Correct Yourself: Many times the very things that irritate us in others, are faults that we tolerate in ourselves. Parents often become stressed over the things children leave lying about, or over their messy rooms, but are their habits similar? Children and others will whine and complain, but do we do the same? The story is told of a father who took his son for a ride in his new car. When they returned the mother ask them what they saw on the ride. The child replied, "We saw two idiots, one crazy person, and stupid moron." This child was only repeating what he heard his fathers say. Sometimes we complain about things and say that this is ridiculous or that is repulsive, and then we become irritated when our own children say the same things to us. We may think children are rude to demand to know this or that, but are we doing the same thing to others? When we correct our own bad habits, we can remove a lot of unnecessary stress.

Accept the necessary stress: There will be stress in our lives. Look at it as being sent by God, and use it to learn the lessons needed to live properly. If we suffer for doing wrong, we must accept it and not complain. Our houses get messy and our relatives may be out of sorts with us, but if any of it is our fault, we must admit it and change our ways, in order to keep this kind of stress from coming upon us. As one fault is corrected, do not slide back, or the stress will return. Some stress is necessary in order to refine us. We have all been told that stress is bad, but people before us dealt with it, and we can too, and it can make better people of us. Welcome the stress that is necessary to make us stronger.

Get rid of personal bitterness: Sometimes we create stress for ourselves because we've had difficulties in our lives, and we feel bitter and unforgiving about it. Forgiveness does not mean the other person is right. It just means that we are free. Free yourself of bitterness and the stress will be reduced considerably. If someone cheated you or ridiculed you in child hood, don't attempt to pay back the rest of society by expecting and suspecting the same thing. No one is attracted to a suspicious person, and one of our goals in life is to draw others to our life message. Once bitterness is gone from your life, you'll feel the removal of a heavy burden and there will be less stress.

Avoid comparison: Comparisons are deadly. They can put more unnecessary stress on your life, as you try to keep up with others. Someone is always going to get something more than you or do better than you. There is no such thing as equality. Everyone is blessed by God in a different way. Some people have more property, but they have more responsibilities and less leisure time. Others have less but maybe have closer families and less stress. Learn not to compare circumstances. Instead, learn to discern strong spiritual values.


Hausfrau Cheri said...

God designed me to be a peace loving person. When things get 'stressful' for ANY reason I quickly get uncomfortable enough to follow the basic suggestions you just mentioned. Of course, my life still wouldn't be nearly as peaceful as it has become if God hadn't also given me a Christ honoring family who taught me principles of living that allow God the best opportunity to give us peace in the first place.

Right now being about ready to pop with another baby I have had to be especially careful to arrange my life around my natural limitations. The book on Gracia Durham a friend loaned me has been sitting on the shelf for the past months because my hormonal state right now gets wiped out very easily. After the baby comes and things have calmed down (maybe in 4-5 months?) I know I will enjoy and grow from reading such an account of God being there through anything, but right now I can't handle it.

Your suggestion to be creative is something I find to be a real blessing to me, Lady Lydia. When I have no energy, but don't want to get 'bored' or feel like a lump taking up space, I do some handiwork. I am so grateful to my mother who helped me learn cross-stich and especially knitting. I can make inexpensive, beautiful and useful gifts for others even when all I can do is sit in an easy chair with my feet up!!

Even writting for this blog has had to wait awhile... I know, I will have less time when the baby comes, but at least I will have my brain cells and thinking capacity back! My priorities must lie with serving my family and continuing to learn to minister to the people around me, and right now that means any spare mental energy goes toward learning German and praying for those around me and my family's future.

Oh, yes, not all 'confrontation' is to be avoided. Lev 19:17 states that if we are to prevent/get rid of hate for our brother we are to rebuke him. This is a kind of confrontation- although not at all (with the Holy Spirit's help) resembing the confrontations you discribed. If it were not for loving, well-timed rebuke my dh's and my relationship would be quite stressful! I cannot see many things that bother my husband and that would be damaging to my Christian life, and the same is true for my husband. We have a close and trusting (low-stress) relationship partly because we know the other listens to us and is willing to change.

Anyway, your article covers things to watch for in our lives quite well. Thank you again for such practical help to living out a life of holiness and joy!

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Perhaps I should rephrase that: avoid unnecessary confrontation. Think ahead to how much time and stress the confrontation will entail, and what its toll on you will be. Choose your battles. Ignore some things and save energy for the important ones. I do believe that our leaders need to be confronted, just as Nathan confronted David, but blunt confrontations often do a great deal of harm. Speak in such a way as to leave the door open for future dialog and future friendship.


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