Two Things I’ve Learned about Stress

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Stress kills. I assume you know that. If you don’t, well…it does. You need to know that. That’s a freebie. I’m not counting it as one of the two.

I’m fairly easygoing. I know, some of you just laughed, because I’m intense and competitive and have a quick temper. Plus there’s the whole thing about driving myself crazy with my own thoughts. Okay, so not entirely easygoing.

But in some ways, I just don’t get worked up about things that I know other people do. I hear a lot of what others stress about and I’m surprised, even however many years into pastoring. My brain isn’t wired that way. However, I still get stressed.

Here’s the first thing (of the two I’m keeping score on): Stress sneaks up on me. I don’t realize I’m feeling stress. Because I’m not a big stresser, I don’t always notice when stressors are stressing me. That can be very unfortunate because I’ll get irritable and flash to anger without even noticing it coming. If I don’t stop and take a serious breath, I’ll let myself believe that whatever ostensibly triggered my anger is to blame. Anger tends to overwhelm reason, but we still imagine we’re being reasonable.

My twelve-year-old son specializes in getting to people–I’m not being mean here, he revels in it, with gleeful reveling–but it’s how he communicates with me right now. We hassle each other. Yes, I’m teaching him better ways to communicate, but I’m not asking him to stop being twelve. When I was twelve…oh, I don’t even want to tell you. But I remember.

Therefore, I have to watch myself all the more carefully, because Corin thinks we’re having fun and playfully teasing each other, when suddenly I’ll whip around on him and snap. It doesn’t matter if I can frame it for myself that he “deserves” it. He’s twelve. He can’t yet step back and help me identify that my problem isn’t with him. So I have to do that.

We’re in a stressful time. If you’re like me, stress accumulates unnoticed. So notice. Stop and take deep breaths and if your chest is like, “No, Dude, I’m not doing that,” pay attention. You may not know if you’re stressed, but your chest and diaphragm and lungs all do. They’ll tell you. I carry stress in my shoulders and high in my jaws. They’ll share that information if I ask.

Second, taking time to deal with stress is more important than whatever you think is more important than taking time to do that. Put more simply: dealing with stress is now a highest priority. If you’re an ER nurse or doctor, I’m sorry, this probably can’t apply to you for like 14-18 hours a day. Thank you, OH MY GOSH THANK YOU for what you’re doing for us! Everyone else, we’ve got to pray for them. And we’ve got to deal with our stress. I’ve got fewer ways to deal with my stress and more stress coming in. Uncertainty causes stress for all of us. It’s time to deal.

I love yoga and I’ve been a bit of a yoga proselytizer. You can do yoga in any three foot space with enough vertical clearance to stretch your hands above your head. Yoga mats are nice but not absolutely necessary. Yoga is like a stress magic eraser. I know, “Voices and Crystals and Eastern Mysticism, oh my!”–then don’t. Just do the stretches and breathe. I promise, breathing is not going to screw up your Christianity. But the wonders the breathing and stretching can do are very much according to our Creator’s design. Find a good intro video. Try it.

But yoga may not be your thing and that’s fine. The trick is, you have to find your thing that helps. Exercise is golden, but so are hot baths for some. Or hot tea and relaxing music. You know yourself, you probably know what works best. If you don’t, it’s time to learn.

This is a stressful time getting stress-ier. I’m urging you right now to deal with this aspect of what’s going on for all of us. If we’re gonna hang in tight quarters with folks we love but may not always enjoy, 24/7–and I’m including ourselves on that list–then we’d best find where the stress valves are before the pressure builds up. I promise, this is the priority and you’ll be glad you did.

Last thought: a number of things might feel like they’re the best ways to deal with stress, like starting a new Netflix series and watching all six seasons without a restroom break, or eating every morsel of chocolate left in your home. How do I break this to you…?

Try yoga.

2 thoughts on “Two Things I’ve Learned about Stress

  1. Sherry Dearborn

    Your comments on your son reminded me of when my daughter about the same age. ( She is now 50. Yes. I am old.) She could purposely wind her voice up, and, ….well, whine at me. She could push my buttons! And laugh when I would snap at her. She can STILL do that and laugh. It is something special we share.
    Thanks for sharing. Gave me a laugh!

  2. Loren Meloy

    But… they haven’t made a sixth season yet. LOL

    I reluctantly accept my introversion. Solitude recharges me. Looking around at people who seem truly stressed about the social distancing and wondering what the big deal is. Time to flex some empathy muscles.

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