Dealing With Stress

2014-08-02 08-58-22Stress is an issue for me – probably for you too.  Recently my life seems filled with upsetting events and challenges of all sorts.

Family issues have weighed heavily. About 18 months ago my father died after a short illness, and since then my wife and I have been helping my mother. In addition to the grieving process, we’ve assisted her in managing the sale of the house, relocation to Orlando and many small and large tasks of life in general. Now mom has just been diagnosed with her own terminal illness and we are all trying to adjust to that.  Over this same time period it has been a pleasure for us to help our young adult children achieve economic stability and independence, but it’s also been pretty stressful.

Then there’s work, a major source of stress for many people. My work has been particularly challenging lately.  The entire healthcare industry faces wrenching changes and a big part of my job is helping my employer adjust to “healthcare reform” and a changing market.  Naturally there is a fair amount of confusion and disagreement about just what to do and how to do it. And the stakes are high for all involved.

On top of all of that come the minor day to day challenges that we all experience; having my credit card compromised (three times in six months) maintaining the cars, weeding the yard, paying the bills, and the like.  It’s funny, but it’s these little things that seem to push me over the edge.  Cancer we will deal with, but I’m going to lose it if the hard drive crashes again!

It all came to a boiling point for me in the spring. I’ve been under stress before, but (maybe because I’m more perceptive now) this was the first time I’ve ever felt that stress was seriously threatening my health.  Something has to give.

How can I find relief?  I’m looking carefully at my choices and commitments. Many stressors are not under my control, but a good bit of my stress results from my choices. Like a lot of us I feel overcommitted. I agreed to teach a university class this fall.  Now I wish I hadn’t, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. How many other commitments have I made to people, places and things that add stress? Now I’m working to scale back my elective activities and to think carefully about that next purchase.  Everything I buy comes with an additional price in time and stress.  Is it worth it?

But stress reduction isn’t all about doing less and having less.  Some things should be added. I’m thinking of it as similar to healthy eating; most people need to eat less junk food, but they should also eat a greater amount of nutritious foods. Perhaps I could use some more “nutritious” activities.

One new, and healthy, commitment is writing this blog, which was suggested to me by a friend when I was at that “boiling point.”  I’m aiming to post twice a week, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, and so far so good.  Writing is good for me.  I enjoy the process, and the effort to communicate clearly forces me to have clarity myself about issues of importance to me. I feel recharged every time I sit down to compose my thoughts.

Reading the Bible, praying, and “just sitting” (even for a few minutes) also nourish my spirit and reduce my stress.  Being together with friends and family is time well spent, and talking things over with my wife works wonders. How can I fit in more of these activities?

The other piece of the puzzle is, just how much of my perceived stress is really due to my own reactions to events?  Sure my job is challenging, but how is my need to feel secure in this time of instability in healthcare causing my individual stress level to rise? I know that I am “too needy” in a lot of areas (need to be secure, need to be right, need to be important, etc.) but is my thinking the whole problem?

I’ve been trying to discern this issue, praying that God would show me where to change my life versus where to change my reactions.  Although I don’t feel that God has given me any exact answers, I sense that he is changing me from the inside.  I seem better in the last month, and my external situation really hasn’t changed very much. (which experience reminded me of Romans 8:26 see below)

So this is my stress reduction plan:  Avoid over-committing to people, activities and stuff. Surrender to events I can’t control.  Spend time with my family. Write the blog.  Sit. Pray. Trust God.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.        Romans 8:26-7 NLT

Comments

  1. Lynne Herrick says:

    Thank you for sharing. I think this is a subject which so many can relate. Thank you for reminding us that God hears our groans. I have walked through what you are going through and I know how you feel. I pray God gives you comfort, peace and solutions for your family during this time. Elder Care is a great resource.

    • Peter Weiss says:

      You’re welcome and thank you Lynne. I am convinced that the foundation of my emotional well being can only be trusting God. My recent experience has caused me rely on him more, which is a good thing. Truly, I am blessed and “living the dream” despite any stress I am under right now. Pete