As I continue learning what it means and looks like to rest, I found myself asking the question what gets in the way of rest? One of the main factors for me is stress. When I’m stressed, I’m camped out far away from a place of rest.
Telling myself not to stress only makes me more stressed as I then try, by force of my own feeble willpower, to stop worrying and fearing the problems and circumstances of my life that loom before me. Instead of trying to push those feelings aside, I’ve discovered a few healthier ways to cope with my stress.
- Breathe. Simply taking a deep breath can help me calm down, especially if I focus on the act of filling and emptying my lungs. It may be that it distracts me momentarily from whatever stressful thing I had been focusing on, thereby freeing me to return with a more positive approach. Or it could simply be that it lowers my heartrate back down within the normal range.
- Accept help. I’m no good at this. I’ve been told that I’m no good at it. I stress out because I try to do everything on my own, keeping too many plates spinning all at once. I’m slowly coming to see the value in accepting help from others– whether it comes in the form of someone opening a door for me, carrying something for me, making food for me, taking on some of my workload, or any one of dozens of other things. I need to realize the people around me are far more willing and able to help than I usually think, and I have the opportunity to build a relationship with them and let them serve me by helping out when I’m struggling. Many hands make light work.
- Be flexible. My perfectionist personality rubs up against this one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or helpful. It just makes it particularly difficult. I’m starting to embrace the beauty found in imperfection. It’s okay if my apartment isn’t perfectly clean, I don’t have every hair pinned in place, every detail isn’t planned out ahead of time, every activity on my calendar isn’t done exactly when it’s scheduled, or every task on my to-do list isn’t checked off at the end of the day. Life goes on. Being flexible allows room for growth, change, and for God to rearrange the parts of my life I might otherwise hold too tightly. It leaves room for conversation with others. It means I have breaks to recover instead of flying from one thing to the next.
- Take a break. Plowing through days, weeks, and months of life without stopping to rest isn’t a sign of hard work and determination as much as it indicates self-sufficiency, fear of what will happen if things stop, and a lack of control. I’m beginning to cherish my moments of pause. When I begin to feel too weighed down by the task before me, I set it aside briefly, walk away to do something else, and come back with fresh perspective.
- Tackle one thing at a time. Too often I find myself freaking out because there are just too many things on my plate, and it seems like they’re about to wage war against me. Instead of staring in fear at my never-ending to-do list, I need to focus on completing one thing at a time. When I pour my attention into just one thing, I find that I can accomplish it more efficiently and make better use of my time than if I was simultaneously thinking about the next five things I have to do.
- Consider the worst case scenario. Stressing about things makes mountains out of molehills. If I were to consider the worst thing that might result from a failure, I might just see that I’m making too big of a deal out of things. If I’ve thought it through, then the idea of failing is less frightening because I know things will still be okay.
- Count my blessings. It sounds really cliche, but when I’m focusing on everything I am grateful for, there isn’t room for worry and stress. The positive thoughts and praises to God crowd out the negativity and frustration.
It’s going to take a lot more practice with these things, but as I daily pursue rest in 2016, I hope to become better and better at managing my stress. And I hope you, too, find ways to curb yours so you can fully enjoy your life and all the wonderful things it has to offer!