When we last ‘chatted’ on May 12th, I told you about the opportunity I was given to speak to a group of women in early April about experiencing joy in ‘crazy’ seasons. I almost refused the invitation because initially my mind traveled to all the times my performance during stressful seasons has been pretty poor!
But, then I was reminded that over the years, I’ve grown in this arena. My growth has occurred as a result of education and practice. I’ve learned more about and have incorporated stress management techniques during ‘crazy’ seasons. Also—and I believe more importantly—I’ve searched for what God has to say about ‘crazy’ seasons and have learned to grab hold of and cling to certain Scriptural truths during those times.
A few years ago a song played on the radio that said, “I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden.” The tune and lyrics were catchy, but people were also drawn to the truth in those words. Jesus spoke a similar message to his friends when he was preparing them for a future ‘crazy season.’
Jesus said, I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT– emphasis mine). As I read these words, it feels like Jesus is sandwiching the promise of future trials and sorrows between the promises of peace and overcoming.
We live in a ‘crazy,’ stress-filled world. We know it intellectually. We experience it daily. We watch it unfold in evening news reports. We manage and do what we can, but if we’re honest, we realize much of life occurs out of our control.
What I’ve learned I can control is how I respond to that over which I have no control. Here are the top five stress-management insights and behaviors I’ve learned in the past few years that help me navigate ‘crazy’ seasons:
Remind myself often that I cannot understand another person’s heart or motives and cannot change any person except me—not my husband, my daughters, my sons-in-law, my grandkids, my friends, my elderly mother nor any other person! I can share my experience or knowledge, make suggestions, help in ways I’m able and equipped, and care immensely, but nothing I do or say will change anyone’s perception.
I can seek to love without strings attached. I can pray God will bless even those who get on my last nerve. I can trust God knows what I cannot know. The Spirit of God can change another person’s heart. God cares more than I ever can.
Where confusion about politics or current happenings is concerned, my anger, worry and speculation are exercises in futility. If I allow, they can immobilize me and keep me from doing the good work God wants me to do. God knows what’s going on in the workplace, the church, community and world. My almost-daily prayer is that God will shine light on that which is truth and will send chaos and confusion into the ranks of those who are the enemies of truth. And, then, I let it go! I don’t speculate, diagnose motivation and rarely discuss anything of a political nature (Every ‘system’—family, workplace, organization, fellowship, municipality, and nation has its own set of politics.) with anyone other than my husband. I can show up, do the best job I can and at the right time, make a decision according to my conscience, understanding, ability and authority.
I examine my ‘implied’ understandings. For instance, I’m a first-born. As a child, I was given kudos for being responsible, and through the years I developed an ‘implied’ understanding that it was my responsibility to plan and organize family events. There were times when I felt other’s resentments toward me, and I found that confusing because I knew my motivation was good. Finally, I realized that while my motives may be good, my behavior is actually unhealthy and often unwanted. No one ever assigned me that responsibility. I never signed a contract. I’d only assumed over many years I was doing what I was ‘supposed’ to do. Retiring from that ‘implied’ position has been oh, so liberating, more enjoyable, less work and less expensive.
Finally, BREATH! Deep breathing exercises often save me from succumbing to stress, and there’s much scientific research to support its effectiveness. Recently, in a coaching course I took about learning and the brain, I discovered deep breathing actually intercepts the production of Cortisol, the stress-producing fight/flight/freeze chemical, which travels to our brains. If you Google “deep breathing,” you’ll find many techniques. The one I learned in my coaching class is now my favorite. To a slow count of six, inhale through the nose; hold to a mental count of six; exhale fully six staccato-type breaths through slightly pursed lips. Repeat 3-5 times. If I engage deep breathing immediately when I feel tension and stress begin to build, the results are amazing.
Next time, I’ll give some tools to help you discover more about your stress. Until then…
Blessings on your journey of intercepting the ‘craziness!’
I love the Ornamental Mountain Prairie Plum tree in our backyard. During summer, its branches provide shade from the hot sun. During autumn, we delight in its leaves that turn brilliant red. During winter, birds come and munch on the tiny plums. And, during springtime, the brilliant pink blossoms delight our senses. Focusing on the wonder of God’s magnificent creation is one way to intercept stress-filled ‘crazy’ seasons.