Dealing with our stress

Have you noticed that everyone has her/his own way to dealing with stress? Some get grumpy, some withdraw, some turn to an itch (addiction?), some get frantic, some get sad, and some get very angry. For me it is all about righting the ship, I get obsessed with trying to “fix” the thing that is at the heart of the stress I am experiencing. The upside of this approach is that it often works, I drill down until I have done everything possible to mitigate every possible way I could have helped turn this situation around. There is peace of mind, I have done all I can, let the chips fall where they may. The downside is that there is an obsessive quality to this effort and perspective can be lost, putting one’s head down and working to fix something prevents one from looking up and seeing the larger picture. Sometimes I have missed out on the bigger picture, missed other important things going on. My wife says this sometimes results in me only seeing the challenge and opportunity and missing out on seeing the joys of success. Guilty!

Jesus was more moody than me, Paul was more self-righteous, Moses had a temper, David was a narcissist, Naomi and Ruth were so pure and good I feel a wretch by comparison. You get the picture. The Bible is filled with characters dealing with stress in different ways. Yesterday I tried to deal with my stress by sitting on the deck and reading. It worked for an hour until my day off became a day on and it was back to franticly trying to “fix” it with speed, effort, personal contact and capturing every drip of water that was leaking through the fragile roof (metaphorically speaking of course!).

In a weird way the most reassuring and calming thing in these periods is doing other work. When I respond to needs that have nothing to do with the stress it is strangely stress reducing. Go figure! The hour in the sun reading was nice but aiding another on another issue was likely the only time I stopped worried about the stress. As a Christian I try hard to use Jesus as my model and I note in stressful times he would go to a quiet place for prayer or confront the issue at hand head on. I confess that has not been my strength, neither strategy. I have tried these with limited success. I do spend time in prayer, usually in long walks with my dog and I am much more apt in recent times to deal with the issue in a straightforward manner but neither approach rivals Jesus’ solitary contemplation or turning the tables in the temple.

I guess what I am saying is self-awareness is key, knowing what we are doing in our stressful moments, why we are doing it and the effect these strategies are having on others, on ourselves and on the cause of the stress in our midst.

People have rightly accused me of over thinking things. Again, I plead guilty. But I would respond that most popular ways of dealing with stress, which most often include escape, blaming others, getting angry at others, engaging in self-destructive habits (the itch) is not likely to help. Over thinking can be annoying but sometimes it does produce insight.

May the peace of the Spirit be with you all.