Stressed?

Another Saturday and another trip by me and my husband to the Lowe’s in Columbus, Ohio. These frequent trips were happening because we were the proud owners of a lot in South Carolina. A lot begs for a house to be built and we took the challenge. We weren’t novices at house building but this was different and it felt like an adventure. This house would require us to oversee every tiny detail from selecting the house plans to finding a builder to doing what we were doing that day. All of it from Ohio. On this Lowe’s trip, we were in the lighting isle, heads up, and staring at the brightness and dimensions. I was daunted as I considered every room, every crevice I might want to have lit. Looking down at my list in hand, I felt a heaviness in my chest. I rubbed it to make it go away. Not again, I thought, what’s wrong with me, now? I shifted by mind back to the lights just wanting to get it over with.

Stressed person

Have you ever found yourself experiencing internal turmoil because of the stress in your life?

I happen to be one of those people who haphazardly manages my stress. Sure, you can lecture me on all the significant health effects stress has on the body, but I already know all that as a nurse. And, I won’t bore you with the health statistics but trust me when I say that the terms significant health effects and stress will always be in the same sentence. It’s true that low level stress can have positive effects on our performance, but constant and sustained stress is bad for us at every level.

Every time I walked into Lowe’s to make house selections, I felt like a python was squeezing me to death. Of course, you saw the connection as you read the story, but I couldn’t put it together at the time. The stress kept me from doing so. Multiple stressors were tapping my resources and this one women show was starting to bomb. I was worrying about everyone and everything. When I was told the chest heaviness and stomach issues were causing panic anxiety, it didn’t sit well with me. My first thought labeled that as ridiculous and lame. Panic anxiety? I couldn’t believe I had that much stress to cause that kind of anxiety. The physician prompted me to share the matters and concerns in my life. As  I heard the list with my own ears, only then did I realized the burden I was carrying. One stressor heaped onto another had brought me to my knees.

Stress-2902537_640Stress steals

What has stress stolen from you? Sleep? Peace of mind? Health? Life hours? Self-control? Joy? Laughter? If you spend any time thinking about it, you’ll find that stress causes casualties. Excessive stress steals and it can draw you away from God. It’s really important to monitor the forms of stress and the amount of stress in your life. Believe me, I don’t want to get to the point where my body tells me I’m on overload especially when I can proactively monitor the stress in my life. I have to let go of what I can’t control and ask the Lord to lead me through what I can control. I deny myself peace when I fail to remember my lived experience of His provision over the course of my life.

Stress quotes-933816_640Jesus knows

If you consider everything Jesus went through during his time on earth, you’ll find he fully and completely understands the stressors in your life.

Jesus knows the stress associated with meeting demands. The people came to him day and night for healing, prayer, comfort, miracles, and teaching. He knows your weariness as you try to meet the needs of those in your circle.

Jesus understands your difficulty managing the conflict between God’s commands and daily influences. Jesus was sought by Satan, faced political powers, and others in authority who tempted and mocked him.

Jesus came face to face with betrayal and rejection as those in his intimate circle deserted him. He sees the toll it takes on your heart when you experience the same.

Jesus’ responded to the death of Lazarus and John the Baptist with great sadness. He deeply understands the stress you experience of losing those you love.

We were not meant to face high stress situations and traumatic events alone. Human to human, heart to heart is how we grow endurance, resilience, and hope. When we allow ourselves to be supported by God and His people, then we find a strength we can never create on our own. It is not a sign of weakness to reach out for help. I used to think needing help meant I was insufficient to handle it on my own and that was a bad thing. Now, I know better. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom and the way to live life well during stressful and overwhelming situations. There is a tendency for us to think we have to be strong and endure but if we do this out of our own strength we will eventually falter and crash. Don’t let your pride say, “No thanks” to God’s help or any other help as it comes to you.

God will meet you and lift you up  because of His great love for you

Intentionally choose to deeply trust God. There’s nothing in your life that’s too unimportant for God. He wants to get in it with you. Isaiah 40 from The Message Bible helps to explain God’s desire to meet you in your immediate need.

“Why would you ever complain…saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” (Isaiah 40:27-31)

Peace-3010107_640Your faith is power-packed to help you remain resilient

In the studies conducted on resilience, a key factor was identified and a question was posed: Why are some individuals able to “bounce back” better than others? This is how the term resiliency gained importance. The studies discovered that some of us have developed protective strategies as we are confronted with stress and one such strategy is spirituality. For believers in Christ, one of the key protective elements is faith, hope, and trust. We see God as a source of security, a sure thing, when all else seems to be crumbling. With our faith built on the foundation of God’s promises, we can exist within the circumstance, hold on to the good, and move through the stress or traumatic event one small step at a time. Truly, that’s all we are able to do--take one step at a time, believing God has hold of us, and He will stoop down to meet us in it.

Rely on God for…

Icon Hearts Encouraged (2)God provides relationships, particularly unlikely relationships or people who come into your life for just a season--for such a time as this.

Icon Hearts Encouraged (2)God provides inner direction through the Holy Spirit. You need only focus on quieting your mind and heart in order to hear.

Icon Hearts Encouraged (2)God provides the capacity for you to endure.

Icon Hearts Encouraged (2)God speaks tenderly to your heart to increase your confidence in your ability to stand strong. God provides wisdom.

Icon Hearts Encouraged (2)God can help you see how He is working and how He is using you as a source of strength to others as they view your example of strength and endurance. And, when you can’t be strong, He will provide those resources through people who will come along aside.

What worries will you let go of and place into the Lord’s care? Will you receive the peace of Christ letting it rule rather than stress? Is stress stealing something from you? Take it back! Are your thoughts taking you down the path of worry or anxiety? Put up a mental roadblock and capture those thoughts. You’ve got this!

Thank you for reading and I pray peace fills your heart and mind. Please share this post to encourage others.  Blessings to you, Terri

 

References

Mayo Clinic link for Healthy Lifestyle – Stress Management:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/HLV-20049495

Impact of Stress on the Body

Bartol, G. M. and Courts, N. F. (2005). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. The Psychophysiology of Bodymind Healing. B. Dossey, C. Guzetta, and L. Keegan (Eds). Sudbury MA: Jones & Bartlett; Graham, J. E., Robles, T. F., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Malarkey, W. B., Bissell, M. G., & Glaser, R. (2006). Hostility and pain are related to inflammation in older adults. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 20, 389-400; Tully, P. J., Cosh, S. M., & Baune, B. T. (2013). A review of the affects of worry and generalized anxiety disorder upon cardiovascular health and coronary heart disease. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 18 (6), 627-644. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2012.749355.

Jesus Knows

Luke 22:39-44 (stress of upcoming death); Matthew 14:13-16 (demands and needs of the people); Matthew 4:1-11 (tempted); Luke 22:1-6, 54-62 (betrayed and deserted); Matthew 27:27-31 (mocked); Luke 23 (crucifixion); John 11:35 (wept); Matthew 14:6-12 (John’s death); Matthew 27:11-26 (Pilate, religious leaders)

Resiliency

Resilience to loss and potential trauma. Bonanno, G. A., Westphal, M. & Mancici, A. D. (2011). Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 511-535. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104526

Resilience to loss and potential trauma. Bonanno, G. A., Westphal, M. & Mancici, A. D. (2011). Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 511-535. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104526;

Navigating hardships in old age: exploring the relationship between spirituality and resilience in later life. Manning, L. K. (2012). Qualitative Health Research, 23 (4) 568-575. doi: 10.1177/1049732312471730

Spirituality and resilience among post-graduate university students. Gnanaprakash, C. (2013). Journal of Health Management, 15 (3), 383-396. doi: 10.1177/0972063413492046

Resiliency in action: Practical ideas for overcoming risks and building strengths in youth, families, and communities. Henderson, N. (2014).  Retrieved from http://www.resiliency.com/free-articles-resources/hard-wired-to-bounce-back/


Brave Enough To Keep Going

If you’re like me during the month of December you gather with friends and family and, inevitably, get to reminiscing about holidays past or just about anything else. Sometimes, we end up laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. Those are good times! And, there are other memories that are more respectfully solemn and wistful. I wonder what holiday memory has quickly surfaced in your mind even as you read these words.

Christmas-bauble-3009430_640

As for me, the Christmas of 2003 is a memory I will never forget. No song or colorful light display could bring joy to my heart. I entered the season struggling with muscle weakness that affected my ability to walk and speak. The weakness caused me to fatigue so much so that even to bring food to my mouth and chew was an effort. It was a depressing time because I had no diagnosis and the neurologists were puzzled.

We were living in Cincinnati and planned to drive to Columbus on Christmas Eve to be with family for a couple days. We reserved a handicapped accessible room at a hotel so I could shower. I couldn’t step in and out of a tub without someone helping me to lift my legs. Both of our parents’ homes had very small bathrooms with tubs. My pride and shame of needing someone to help me shower and dress is what drove me away from staying with them.

Candles in darknessWhen we arrived at the hotel, you can imagine my dismay when I found out that the promised handicapped accessible room was not available. This devastating news meant our only alternative was to stay at my in-laws house. This was the very thing I wanted to avoid. I felt vulnerable and defeated. I wanted to go back home. I cried out to God, “Wasn’t it was enough to bear the look on their faces as well as the questions that I had no answers for. Why this, too?”

I needed to override those emotions and re-focus. But how? I knew in my heart my perspective was distorted. There were things that were right with my body. I knew the only way to keep going was to recognize that everything is a gift from God. I may not have been walking properly or very far but I was still able to walk. I could see, hear, and speak even if the words were sloppy. I could smile. I could laugh. I needed to be brave despite what I was experiencing.

Storm clouds

I wonder if you know someone who has faced an unexpected, unanticipated situation this year that has rocked their world. Through local and world news, we come face to face with women, men, and children whose lives have been irrevocably changed. Is it possible for them to be brave enough to keep going? Yes, because God is with us in it.

Brave enough to keep going is about maintaining a steady, fixed gaze on Jesus. It was his laser-focus on God that kept him walking the path all the way to the cross through to the resurrection. Jesus knows what you need to take the next step and the step after that. Whatever courage I can muster will always falter, but how much stronger I am when I lean on Jesus.

I made it through the Christmas of 2003 with the love of my husband, family, and friends. There would be many more days after that requiring courage, trust, and hope. In August 2005, I successfully completed six months of intensive therapy so I could walk and perform those essential activities like laundry and running the sweeper. You wouldn’t think that someone could look forward to that, but I sure did! Yet, the outcome is not the focus of this story. The important point is that in 2003 I couldn’t see what was in store for me in 2005. But, I intentionally chose to trust God one step at a time, one day at a time.

Winter pathEven today, I have to decide if I’m brave enough to follow God. If I want to experience everything He has planned for me, I need to commit. What about you? Are you in need of courage to follow? To take the next step? Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in the future you and I may need to be brave enough to keep going. When you ask for courage you can count on God answering that prayer!

The following verses* and encouragement statements sustained me during those difficult, dark days in December of 2003 and they sustain me today. I hope the Word of God fills you with courage, hope, and peace. Blessing and peace to you, Terri

Icon Hearts EncouragedBe fierce in trusting God.   Psalm 37:23, 27:14

Icon Hearts EncouragedBe thankful.   Colossians 3:15

Icon Hearts EncouragedStay present in this day.

Icon Hearts EncouragedDeliver me from all my fears.   Psalm 34:4

Icon Hearts EncouragedGod has given me a Spirit of power, love and

   self-control – USE IT.   2 Timothy 1:7

Icon Hearts EncouragedHave I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.

Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,

for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Icon Hearts EncouragedHelp me receive the Spirit’s wisdom and revelation.  Ephesians 1:17

Icon Hearts EncouragedQuietness and trust first, then I can hear His call.

Icon Hearts EncouragedEagerly expect and anticipate God’s presence,

   leading, counsel, and direction. 

Icon Hearts EncouragedKnow God delights in you and will open the way

   if He delights in your steps.   Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 18:19

Icon Hearts EncouragedRely on God -- be bold, fearless, courageous

   He has commanded you to do it.   Joshua 1:9

Icon Hearts EncouragedGod’s resources are unlimited!  Romans 8:32

Icon Hearts EncouragedGod reveals his plan in his perfect time.

Icon Hearts EncouragedGod will fulfill his purpose for me!  Psalm 57:2-3

*Many verses are paraphrased and come from the New International Version.