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How to Live Well in the Midst of Stress


All the cute Instagram pictures and Facebook posts are a lie.

Even for those of us who are homebodies, forced shelter in place for weeks on end is not a picnic in the park (Oh, the days when that was a possibility!).

It doesn’t matter how many closets you’ve cleaned, puzzles you’ve completed, family dinners you’ve enjoyed (and cooked!) or walks you’ve taken, you–like me–are probably ready to be done.

As my daughter said recently, “I’m SO over it!”.

And yet, we are not over it. We are still in it, and will be for a least a few more weeks.

Of course, some of us are crushing it (overachievers, you know who you are).

More of us though, must navigate new relational dynamics, plod on through repetitive household responsibilities and do our best to combat loneliness, boredom, worry and fear.

We’ve been forced to adapt to new ways of learning, working, and living. Some of us have sick ones we love. Some of us are sick ourselves.

What does this mean? One little bombshell word: STRESS.

Over long periods of stress our nerves fray, our capacity to flex diminishes, and our need for relief bubbles to overflow, like boiling water under intense heat.

Is there anything we can do to help ourselves, and those we live with, do well IN the stress, until we are over the stress?

Tips to Live Well in the Midst of Prolonged Stress

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations only serve to heighten stress. We cannot expect the same productivity (or the same anything, for that matter) we had when life was normal. Now, not even going to the grocery store is easy.

Because life isn’t normal.

Life is different and different means stressful.

If we don’t keep expectations realistic we’ll find ourselves battling disappointment…over, and over, and over.

But, when we readjust expectations we can celebrate little victories: dishes put away, a shower, a child who co-operates, stocked shelves at the market, one work project complete.

When we keep expectations realistic pressure is released and peace can prevail.


When we keep expectations realistic pressure is released and peace can prevail.
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Question to Ask: What is One Expectation I Need to Readjust During this Season?

2.  Practice Grace

This one dovetails on tip #1. Christians talk a lot about grace. Now is the time to practice it.

We can’t expect our people (or ourselves, for that matter!) to maintain perfect attitudes, perfect behavior, perfect rhythms, or perfect _______(you fill in the blank). Of course, this doesn’t mean we let chaos reign. It just means when people make mistakes, or struggle with crummy attitudes, or get angry for seemingly no reason, we see it for what it is: stress getting the best of a real-life human being.

Just yesterday JP and I got into the dumbest argument over–are you ready?–the devotion I was supposed to film for our church social media platforms. He didn’t give me advanced notice and I hadn’t showered (If you are female you totally get why this was problematic).

Words were exchanged–words we apologized for–but the argument could have been avoided, or at least handled better, if we’d been more aware of the stress that drove the disagreement.

Once we recognized how and why stress impacted us, we were able to give each other grace.

So, what do we do when stress makes us, and those we live with, crazy? Have a little empathy; we’re all a little crazy sometimes!

Then practice grace.

And for the record, give yourself grace, too.

Question to Ask: Is Someone’s Behavior a Result of Stress? If So, How Can I Extend Grace?


Christians talk a lot about grace. Now is the time to practice it.
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3.  Do Something Good for Your Soul. Everyday.

Stress can only be bottled up so long. Eventually, stress must be released. If stress isn’t released in a positive, healthy way, it will come out in a negative one. Anger. Ulcers. Despair. These are manifestations of mismanaged stress.

So, each day, do something good for your soul: Laugh. Dance. Call a friend. Watch something light and up-lifting. Take 10 minutes to start the project you’ve avoided. Crank up the tunes and belt out a song. Pray. Give thanks. Make a funny video. Go for a run.

Escape the drama for a bit.

If you’re married, let your spouse escape, too. Don’t begrudge this, champion it. Talk about expectations; what do you need? What does he need? Allow those you live with to let off steam in a positive way, otherwise, steam will get released in a negative one.

Jesus model this habit in very practical ways. He got up early to be alone. He took naps. He sent the disciples ahead and planned to meet up later. He prayed. If God incarnate lived this way, we should, too!

Replenish and recharge so you can re-engage.

Question to Ask: What Makes Me Feel Happy? What Recharges my Batteries?

4.  Bless One Person a Day

Part of what makes us stir-crazy is our inability to connect with others in a meaningful way. Not only does isolation make us feel lonely, it also makes us feel aimless. To combat these very real feelings, actively look for someone to bless.

When we take time to make another person’s day better, our day gets better, too!

Question to Ask: Who Can I Bless Today?

5.  Separate What you Can Control from What You Can’t Control

In times of prolonged stress, the natural inclination to an out-of-control circumstance is to try to control the outcome. However, when we try to control people or problems we have no control over, our stress goes up, not down.

You’ve probably heard the serenity prayer, the one AA recites at each meeting:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.[1]

Stress dissipates when we release what we don’t control and change what we do control (including ourselves).

Question to Ask: What do I Need to Stop Trying to Control? What Can I Change?

The stress you feel right now–the stress we all feel? We can manage it. With God’s help, we’ve got this!

You are loved,

Donna

PS. For more wisdom and encouragement, follow Donna on Instagram: @donnaajones.

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