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Feeling the Frenzy?

I’m talking about all that “stuff” we fill our days with that keeps us on our toes, on edge, and on a path leading to regret and often to some dangerous habits. Sadly, it is often the same “stuff” we get kudos for from family, bosses and everyone who benefits from our “tireless” efforts (reality check: THEY are not tired; we ARE). And let’s face it; too often it’s the stuff we put on ourselves. Frequently we are our own biggest critic and our own biggest cheerleader, encouraging ourselves to fit more in, to feed that frenzy!

Sure, it’s good to be efficient. But I find myself making a game of seeing how much I can squeeze into five minutes, or thirty minutes, all through the day. You’d be surprised; it’s pretty impressive! However, I also find myself getting to the end of far too many days and realizing that I have not experienced the day that has just finished. I mean, I survived it, but that doesn’t mean I experienced it. It’s more like I attacked it with so much focus that I was blinded to the small moments, or even to the potential for those moments. You know, the moments that matter.

While I know we’re all busy during this most unique holiday season, I encourage you, along with me, to carefully weed out the things that don’t matter so much and replace them with only the things that do.

  • Toss your unrealistic intentions. The good intentions that are bound to lead to disappointment should get ruthlessly eliminated right now, before the disappointment and guilt settle in.  That includes things like the hand-made gifts for every teacher in the school district that you want to make, but that you haven’t even purchased the supplies for yet. Or the two-dozen cookie trays consisting of 35 unique cookies per tray that you have been wanting to make (besides the would-be recipients may appreciate that you didn’t add to their guilt come January’s weigh-in!). Even those all-day, back-to-back appointments for work can’t become a habit. Stop it now before you burn out!
  • Prioritize people. Instead of spending hours (or days) making sure the house is immaculate for the holidays, make time for a Zoom party with the friends you can’t meet with face-to-face right now, and with your family from out of state who can’t travel to see you this year. All you have to do is wear relatively clean clothes (or at least a clean shirt, am I right?) and point the camera toward a clean-ish space! Then sit back, relax and enjoy the time you have with them.
  • Make the best of less. Don’t waste tons of time (and money that so many of us are extra short on this year) preparing food for the masses.  Instead, take advantage of smaller gatherings and spend more time playing games with those closest to you. In fact, let everyone choose a dish and cook it; preparation of a smaller-scale meal will be easier to supervise!

I’m sure you have other helpful ideas, and I’d love to read them in the comments!

We’re all a bit off-kilter this year, so give yourself some grace. Give yourself room to breathe and make some time to just do that, to just breathe. The important things will fall into place more easily when you’re rested, calm and feeling fresh instead of frenzied.

Remember: every minute does not have to be jam-packed, no matter what you may be telling yourself. It is better to be available than filled with regret. Most of us have been reminded more this year than ever that life is short. Step away from the laptop. Look up from your to-do list. Notice the people in your life and enjoy them, as you forget about the frenzy.

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Give Yourself a Break!

After just finishing up a challenging semester in grad school (and aren’t they all challenging, really?), I’m giving myself this week off!  I worked really hard to make time for some much-needed rest and relaxation, and this time I’m really, really going to do it.  Stop laughing, I’m serious!

See, usually, I *say* I’m going to take the week off and then I book every single day with as much as I can fit in.  I call it the “funnel effect,” and I’m betting you’re familiar with it.  It happens when I have so many things on my “to do” list that I can’t possibly get them done in a day, so they accumulate until I can’t get them done in a week, and on it goes (until I “declutter” my “to do” list, but I’ve already blogged about that).

So when I stop to take a break from school, all the miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t gotten done over the semester funnels right into the space I’ve created in my schedule, until I’m completely overwhelmed again!  So, maybe it’s household stuff, and sure, that needs to get done.  Maybe it’s time with friends, and absolutely, I love spending time with my friends!  Maybe it’s working on my blog, which I enjoy, or tending to some marketing matters for my small business(es) I’d like to grow, and that’s legitimate and helpful to our household.  I’m betting you can relate to the funnel effect, am I right?

But wait . . .

If all that stuff has waited for the last sixteen or seventeen weeks, I’m left wondering . . . why do I try to squeeze it all into the time off that I’ve worked so hard to carve out?!  Maybe it’s important, but it’s obviously not urgent or it would probably not still be on my “to do” list, right?  Some things have been put off during the school term BECAUSE THEY CAN BE PUT OFF.  So that means they don’t all have to get done on my break, either.

I’ve capped off the funnel this time!  I set a small amount of time aside to visit with a couple of friends, I have a work-related project I really do want to accomplish this week, and I’m going to dust our apartment and clean one particular window that’s driving me nuts.  Otherwise, I have a novel I’ve been trying to read for over a year (did I mention that I’m in grad school?) and I *will* finish it on my break, on our balcony, with a cup of tea, possibly in my bathrobe.

I will spend precious time in my studio making beautiful things – some for sale, but much will be for our home and for gifting – because that makes my heart happy, and because engaging the creative part of my brain is an excellent way to de-stress (studies prove it!).  I’ll practice yoga, spend some extra time in prayer and meditation, and do whatever else rejuvenates me, but I’m *not* adding anything new to my calendar or my “to do” list.  In fact, I intentionally scheduled one day with absolutely NOTHING on the calendar or the to-do list, and I may turn it into a prayer and meditation day (super rejuvenating!)

I’m determined to feel like I took a break.  I can do it.  But since I already know this, the reason I’m posting it publicly is to remind you that you can, too!  Someone recently mentioned that every weekend leaves her feeling like she needs another weekend to recover from it.  We’ve all said that, probably.

Busyness is largely a choice, and often is a symptom of weak boundaries.  I know, I know, that sounds harsh.  And it hurts when I have to say it to myself, too.  But it’s the raw truth.  So, go ahead and give yourself a break – all the cool kids are doing it!

So to that end, my faithful followers, I am wrapping up this post and I’m going to head to the studio!  Shalom!

If you need help with life strategies such as stress management, spiritual development, and women’s concerns including painting a victorious new future after overcoming emotional, sexual and physical abuse, please contact me!  We can set something up for next week.  😉

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Stress Management Tool #3 – Meditation

Stop rolling your eyes!  Any healthy conversation about holistic stress management has to turn to meditation sooner or later – and you can do it!  Come on, then, and let’s talk a little about meditation, and hopefully demystify it and make it more accessible…

What Exactly is Meditation?  Chrisman and Blackwell (2018) define meditation as “a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth” (p. 2256).  The recommended focus varies among cultures and religions; however, Clinton, et al. (2005) teach that Christian meditation includes meditating on God’s Word and on Christ.

Benefits of Meditation.  The National Institutes of Health (2016) reports a finding that scientific evidence supports that meditation reduces the symptoms of stress, to include depression and anxiety.  In fact, one study found that meditation is among the top-recommended methods of coping with a wide range of stress-related maladies, both physical and emotional (Chrisman & Blackwell, 2018).  Bergland (2013) writes that “any type of meditation will reduce anxiety” and lower the levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone; Bergland goes on to recommend taking several deep, slow breaths at the first signs of stress.

Methods of Meditation.  Meditation can seem a bit “mystical” and “mysterious” to those who have not practiced it, but it is a valid stress intervention that is readily available to everyone, and it’s more down-to-earth than you may think (i.e., it doesn’t have to be all “woo-woo” – a technical term).  In fact, Christians may be surprised to learn that meditation is a practice supported by Scripture (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 104:34).

Bergland (2013) offers this encouragement:

“You can meditate anytime and any place. There don’t have to be strict boundaries to when and how you do it. Mindfulness and meditation is a powerful de-stressor and cortisol reducer that is always in your toolbox and at your fingertips. You can squeeze in a few minutes of meditation on the subway, in a waiting room, on a coffee break . . .”

Bergland goes on to write that setting aside as little as ten minutes for meditation can calm the mind and body.

So now that you know what meditation is and how beneficial it can be, you may be wondering how to do it yourself.  Need specific tips to start your own meditation practice to help relieve stress in your life?  Contact me and I’ll be delighted to help you develop your own meditation practice!

 References

Bergland, C. (2013). Cortisol: Why the “stress hormone” is public enemy no. 1: 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels without drugs. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Chrisman, L., & Blackwell, A. H. (2018). Meditation. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health (4th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2256-2260). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link-galegroup-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/apps/doc/CX3662600722/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=23ec990f

Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

National Institutes of Health. (2016, January). Mind and body approaches for stress: What the science says. NCCIH Clinical Digest for health professionals. Retrieved June 23, 2018, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/mind-body-stress-science

 

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It’s About Time!

Stress Management: Tool #1 – Time Management

It’s probably no surprise that one of the greatest sources of stress in a person’s life is his or her schedule.  What may surprise you, though, is that God has much to say about how we spend our time.  “For everything there is a season,’ says Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘and a time for every matter under heaven.”  Luke 12:25 admonishes, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (NIV).  Worry is a product of stress (Hanna, 2017), and it is not only not productive, but often slows us down and makes us less effective.  Mark 4:19 admonishes that “the worries of this life . . . come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (emphasis added).  I don’t know about you, but I want to be fruitful, and be a good steward of the time I’ve been given: Whitney (2014) points out that if a person is, as Scripture teaches, accountable for how she uses her talents (Matthew 14:25-30), and her words (Matthew 12:36), it is reasonable to expect that she will also be held accountable for time unwisely spent!

Before we can implement other stress management techniques available to us, we need to make room in our schedule.  Yes, yes, I can hear you now, my friend: ‘WHAT?!  Angela!  That’s the problem!! I don’t have any TIME!’  I know, I know.  And this is where many folks quickly get stuck and give up hope of being able to effectively manage their stress.  (Which, of course, often leads to a sense of failure, self-deprecation, and . . . more stress!)

Clinton and Hawkins (2009) advise that people must “Stop majoring in minor things,” and that we should “decide what is important and live for that.”  I say amen to that!  This means prioritizing the things that are commanding our time, and learning to say “no.”  Yes, I know . . . it can be really hard.  Even those of us who practice it often occasionally come up against a necessary “no” that gives us heartburn; but trust me – it’s better to say “no” than to add more stress!  We simply must confront and overcome our guilt feelings about saying “no” to good things that take away from the best things.

Many of us have difficulty accepting our limitations, but we do, in fact, have them and we are wise to recognize and accept them.  This means we have to develop and maintain healthy boundaries.  Even the National Institutes of Mental Health stress the importance of setting priorities and boundaries, in part by learning to say no to things that overwhelm our schedules!  For help with this (in addition to contacting your friendly, helpful stress and time management coach) I highly recommend the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (1992, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

It is imperative for us to master our calendars in order to be able to intentionally create space for implementing any or all of the other stress management techniques available to us, several of which will be addressed here in upcoming posts.

Need permission to say, “no” and to start eliminating life-draining activities so you can put more life-giving experiences on your schedule?  Here it is:  I’m giving you permission to reclaim the time that God has given you, so you can become healthier and less stressed out!

Need more detailed, one-on-one help managing your schedule, determining what should stay and what should be weeded out?  Contact me at angelaglicklifecoach@gmail.com – it can be done!