Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop. She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.
Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.
We are living in extreme days. Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.
Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.
Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond. Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:
- money to pay for it
- time to absorb it
- energy/resources to fix it
Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves. Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.
Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.
We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..
The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.
Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?
I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……
it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.
My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.
So, how to deal?
Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:
You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.
The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.
Will you waste your suffering?
Or will it be redemptive?
I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:
- I get negative ( I whine to others.)
- I forget to pray. I forget to be still. (I’m SO busy!)
- I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
- I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right. )
And then: I remember another profound truth:
IT IS WHAT IT IS
Seriously, reality always wins.
I get to choose my suffering. I. Me. No one else. Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.
There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives? What changes can you make? More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?
We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE
Stress can BE our friend. We can “reframe” our situation.
These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:
We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay. People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.
If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us? Sure. But our health, our life comes first.
“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.
Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes. Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.
Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.
Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation. Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.
Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.
Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.
For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.
You WILL suffer.
You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).
Be brave. And may you choose well.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33