We have just over 6 weeks until we move to Thailand, and so I thought I’d share a little bit about stress and how I deal with it.
If there’s anything I’m truly an expert in, it’s stressful situations. Where to start with my stress resume… I have four kids. The oldest are twins. They were colicky, premie twins. We’ve moved 24 times since the oldest have been born. That’s moving while pregnant, with a newborn, and almost every year at Christmas. I’ve lived for months at a time in a tiny long-term hotel room with those kids. We’ve moved to two countries that are not our native country. We’re moving to a third. These past two years I’ve been a “single” mom in Canada during the week while my husband works in the USA. Enough stress? I’ve also walked through physical illness (my own), mental illness (someone else’s), a high risk pregnancy, bed rest, and trying to watch NFL games in Canada. That’s right. I haven’t watched a Packers game at all this season. So I’m familiar with stress.
A disclaimer: Now this isn’t major stress. I’ve never been divorced. I’m not widowed. I don’t have a terminal illness. All of my children are well. But even if you are going through something major, you may be able to glean something here.
Now, despite the stressful situations I’ve gone through, I am a relatively stress free person. My personality is part of it, but I also put alot of effort into being low stress in a high stress life. I obviously can’t share everything, but here’s a short list of what I do. I’ve tried to make it more of a HOW list than a WHAT list so that you can use some of these ideas.
1. I Don’t eat that.
Once upon a time I had stress. Then I cut out gluten. If you are an unusually stressed-out person, you may want to check with your doctor about food problems. Gluten, dairy and red meat can all cause stressful feelings in some people. Cutting out junk foods, empty carbs and sugars will also help your stress level. You’ve done enough reading to know that they mess up your blood sugar levels and make you irritable and more easily stressed.
2. I Go back to sleep
Getting enough sleep when you’re stressed can be particularly difficult because your stress keeps you thinking all night. I’m not immune to this. During particularly stressful times I keep a piece of paper beside the bed so I can write down any ideas that happen to wake me up. Then I go back to sleep. Not because it’s easy, but because I’ve decided that it’s my strategy. I tell myself that the best thing I can do about such-and-such is get enough sleep and deal with it in the morning. It’s a conscious decision. When you go about sleep in this manner you can justify getting a good night’s sleep as part of your action plan.
Whatever you do… Don’t check Twitter. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Nobody is on Twitter at 3am anyway. You’re just going to wake your mind up for no reason.
3. I Remember “It’s not about me”.
I think the situations that are most likely to cause me stress are the times when demands on me are really high. Especially when I don’t get my “me time”. I’m a little bit selfish about my “me time”. But honestly, this situation, this life, isn’t about me. It’s about how well I reflect Jesus to the world. Jesus needed his me time. He got up early to be alone to pray. He even went to such lengths as walking (across a lake) when he could have hitched a ride (in a boat… he really like his alone time). But even when he really needed that alone time and people needed him, he didn’t get all snippy and complain that he was “just off today because I didn’t get my me time…” (Of course, I just made that up, I’d never say anything like that… maybe…) He remembered that he was an emissary of God. He was the face man. When he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to help us be the representatives of God. So, it’s not about me, even though when the boy interrupts my me time, or the baby interrupts my sleep, I’d really like it to be.
4. I Move.
I feel so much better if I exercise. Plus I look better. This makes me feel even better. I can get through the most stressful situations if I know that my body is doing good things. I wish I could go back in time to the new mom me. My advice would be, don’t bother even getting those babies dressed, just stuff them in the stroller and go outside. You need fresh air and exercise. Right now I’m doing the single mom thing, exercise is difficult. I bought a video and I do it when I put the littles to bed.
5. I do something fun/mindless.
I watch TV, or football, or I read or write. Anything that isn’t the thing that causes me stress. I may even fit in some apple picking.
6. I try to keep things as normal as possible for the kids.
Bedtimes, school schedules (even if it’s a reduced school schedule), meals. Kids who know what’s going to happen next are happy kids. And happy kids don’t add to the stress.
7. I let go and let God.
Sorry. I’ve heard this so many times. What does that even mean? One time I was at a seminar, and the speaker actually had us whisper what stressed us out into our hands and then hold up our hands and wiggle our fingers to release it to God. There, now we won’t worry about that any more. Seriously. God isn’t one of those Honduran Dream Dolls that you whisper your problems to and put under your pillow.
7. (revised) I understand that God has a plan.
I believe that God has a plan. He has a plan for humanity, and he has a specific plan for my life. Prayer helps me understand the plan for my life, Bible reading helps me understand the big picture. I believe that this stressful situation is part of God’s plan. This change, this challenge, is affecting my life and the lives of those I come in contact with. Sometimes I see the result. Sometimes I don’t. But I believe that it’s part of The Plan. That makes stressful situations so much easier to deal with.
So, we have six weeks until we move to Bangkok. Things are just a bit stressful at this point. They’re going to get even more as I try to fit a major move into real life. These are some of the things I do when things get stressful, but I’d really appreciate hearing how you deal with stress. Then I can print the whole thing out and put it on the fridge.