We are told that it is not stress that kills us. It is our reaction to it. If our blood begins to race, our stomach starts to grumble and ache, our nerves seem stretched to the absolute limit and our chest joins in the excitement with sudden sharp pains, then “Hello” to stress!
Other common symptoms are frequent headaches, insomnia, general uneasiness, constipation or diarrhea, blood pressure fluctuations, and lightheadedness.
Many times we take these as part of living in the world today. We are daily bombarded with glaring headlines, angry faces on the TV news, air pollution, car crashes and plane disasters, ships being hijacked, urgent deadlines at the office, reports that should have been done yesterday, etc., etc., etc. Our cell phones are ever disturbing us with their incessant ringtones, emails shout “reply now or else”. Noise is all around us, too, adding its chaotic voice to the mix.
And then there are the family concerns: teeners rebel at a 1am curfew, the baby has colic and screams all night, daughter refuses to go to school because she doesn’t like her classmates, son insists that fighting in school proves he is ‘macho’, relatives are overstaying their welcome, teacher sends home a note for an urgent parent-teacher conference, the neighborhood grocery has just closed shop. And the list goes on and on with things we can allow ourselves to get upset about.
One Christian author believes that we need to “listen to life”. Not to the obvious noises. Not to the circus of events swirling around us. Not to the TV and radio soaps. Listening to life is the art of hearing the whisper of God instructing us in His ways, to listen between the noises to that still, small silence that speaks in peace to our heart. Listening to life is being able to see the everyday miracles, the everyday epiphanies that God puts in our lives to make us more aware of His presence.
How do we do this? We can choose to remain calm even in the middle of the marketplace. From the onset of every stressful situation there is always a brief second or two to allow us to choose either to react or to respond. To react is to take action instinctively, usually without thinking about it, usually resulting in escalation of the stressful situation. However, we can choose to pause just a moment, take a deep breath, listen to life, have a quick think, and then act calmly in such a way to defuse the stressful situation. Never let your work or the problems at hand manage you, you should be in control of your work and your problems.
Other ways to deal with stress include making a conscious choice to be happy each day, to choose to look at things positively instead of negatively. A laugh a day keeps stress away. We can learn to say “no” to adding yet another appointment or meeting in our already busy schedules. We can take instant meditation breaks, instead of coffee breaks, by visualizing a peaceful scene in nature (like a lazy river flowing by, or the hush as the dawning sun sends you its first morning rays) for a few moments.
Nourish upbuilding friendships with caring persons who will encourage and support you when you are down. Exercise, take a walk in early evening with your loved ones, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Put a flowering plant in your window to remind you that God cares for the flowers even though they do nothing but add a bit of beauty to the room. How much more does He care for you and want you to be happy!
Listen to life. Listen to the pauses between the incessant noises. Listen when God whispers He loves you in the sweet songs of the birds, in the laughter of children, in the warm hug of a loved one, even in the angry criticism of your boss. God is always with us, we just need to take time to listen to Him, to listen to life. Then, with a smile in our heart, we can say “good-bye” to stress.