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Practical Steps to Finding Your Purpose

Trying to figure out who you are, what you’re meant to be, and do? I believe the below exercises from my personal experience can help you!

Take a moment at the end of each day to ask yourself what during the day made you feel most alive, closest to God.  This next bit is important: write it down

Then take a few moments at the end of the week – I usually do this on Saturday before my weekend sweeps me away – and see if you can remember what those moments were.

What moments during the week stand out to you the most as you consider what left you feeling energized and connected to God?  They probably spring to mind fairly easily. 

Now look at your notes from the end of each day.  Which ones did you remember before you looked? Those are important, so make a special note of those on a separate sheet, or highlight them. 

Which moments slipped your mind?  How energized do they make you feel now, looking back on them?  If they don’t really spark anything, maybe you can let them go a bit, or save them for future contemplation.  If they merely slipped your mind but now that you see them you can’t understand how they escaped your memory, highlight them. 

Over time, continue to check this list and see what types of activities and situations continually feel fulfilling, energizing and leave you feeling closer and more intimately connected with God.

These may give you important guidance toward your “calling”!

I’d love to hear/read about any insights you gain from this exercise (which will, of course, take a bit of time, so be patient)!

If you need further help with this, or other help navigating your spiritual development, I’d be honored to help.  Just contact me at AngelaGlickLifeCoach@gmail.com!

Photo credit: ID 74060492 © Marek Uliasz | Dreamstime.com

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Gauge Your Goals!

So.  How are those New Year’s resolutions going, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year?  Are you scoring 100% success on the goals you set?  If so, huge congrats to you!  Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a gold star (really – I do this sometimes)!  But this post may not interest you – yet, anyway.  Come back in a month or two if you need to.

For the rest of us – the ones who are coming close but not quite nailing it the way we want to, or those of us who are really struggling to meet our goals, or even those who don’t remember what their goals were – I have a couple of reassuring thoughts to share.  They’re ideas you are probably already aware of, but sometimes we need someone to remind us . . .

  • Reevaluate.  Consistently and frequently re-evaluate your goals.  I do this every couple of weeks anyway, and again at the end of the month, to keep myself from getting too far off track.  If you’re really frustrated and your goals are so overwhelming at this point that you don’t even want to review them, it’s likely that you have overestimated your time and capacity for meeting your goals.  Take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay!  This is totally fixable!  Tell your ego to hush and let you think . . .  
  • Reclaim.  Make sure the goals you set are your goals, not goals you think you should set because of outside influences.  Be careful that you set goals that you can take full ownership of, that you are motivated to work toward; and know your “why” behind each goal or set of goals. 
  • Resize.  Consider downscaling the goal.  Breathe.  It’s okay!  Downscaling takes courage for some of us!  It’s easy to be caught up in the “new year, new you” mindset and be overly ambitious right out of the gate, then look at our goals and think we must have been crazy for setting them or feel completely overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel.  Don’t give up!  It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. 
    For exampl
    e, if I set out to read one book per month but school is taking more time than I anticipated this semester, or work has gotten crazy busy and looks like it’ll stay that way for a while, I might need to set a goal of one book every two months.  Or maybe I simply need to let myself off the hook for that January book, read what I can, and try again next month.  This is not the same as quitting!
  • Reset.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, set your chin, square your shoulders, and start working toward your shiny new/newly revised and more achievable goals!  (Andpat yourself on the back for adulting like a boss!)
  • Reflect.  Set a reminder on your calendar or your to-do list (or both!) to come back and review your goals regularly, as it works best for you.  Maybe it’s monthly, maybe quarterly, or more often if you need to (and can do so without slipping into perfectionism).  It’s easier to make tiny adjustments than huge ones, so don’t go too long without checking in with your goals for making your hopes and dreams become reality!  And you may even want to bookmark this post or save it somewhere for future reference.
  • Reach out.  If you’re struggling with goal-setting and/or maintaining your goals and you want some help, contact me for a bit of coaching to set you on the right track for your unique needs!

Remember:  there is no shame, only wisdom, in recognizing you’ve overestimated your time and/or capacity for the goals you’ve set, or that life has changed and so must your goals.  By doing this, you can set yourself up for a happy year-end review that enables you to congratulate yourself for learning to set achievable goals, learning to be flexible without breaking (quitting), and making trackable progress toward your long-term goals, rather than having that twinge in your gut when you have to chalk up another year of not effectively moving in the direction in which you want to take your life.

Image Credit: ShortStatusQuotes

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You are not a wimp.

Have you ever found yourself in a season of life when it feels like the universe has just crapped in your Cheerios?  I sure have.  I have been known to rail at the powers that be – God, the universe, my cat – because life just wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to.

Then I grew up a bit.

I realized that wherever I find myself in life, I am the one who put me there. 

Okay, we can get into a lengthy and ultimately unresolved debate about predestination vs. foreknowledge of God and free will, but this isn’t that post.

Also, let’s go ahead and get past the obvious: life throws us curve balls.  Someone we love dies, we fall ill through no direct action of our own, the cat swipes the Lego off the table onto the floor right before we put our foot down . . . sometimes things do just happen without our consent.  Those are not the situations I’m talking about.

So what am I talking about?  I’m talking about when my pants don’t fit “like they used to.”  When I’m broke.  When I feel like someone is sucking the energy out of me every time I find myself within the sound of their voice.  Or when I hate my job – and have for the last six years.

Can we all just take a moment and stop blaming everyone and everything except ourselves and take ownership?  TRUST ME, THIS HAS A HUGE “UP” SIDE!

You may be thinking I’m just being mean, but I promise I’m not.  As always, I have your (and my) best interests at heart!  So, how does that look?

Once we reckon with the fact that we are where we are in life due to a series of our own choices, we recognize that we are empowered to make better choices.

Are you suffering at your job because you’re late to work every day?  Your co-workers are bitter, your boss is annoyed, AND you feel stress and shame every time you walk in late?  Sunshine, you need to suck it up and get out of bed earlier.  It’s a choice.

Are you annoyed with that one friend who always marginalizes her time with you and reschedules 5 out of every 6 times you try to meet up with her?  To borrow one of my favorite lines form Eat, Pray, Love, wish her love and light – and then let her go.  It’s a choice.  (And if you struggle with healthy boundaries, let’s talk!  Seriously.  Contact me.)

Are you so so so so tired of being 8 pounds overweight – and you don’t have a legitimate medical issue, but you just plowed through half a box of Krispy Kreme donut holes?  Sweetheart, math is math.  Stop taking in more calories than you burn – this one is NOT Krispy Kreme’s fault.  I know, the force is strong with Krispy Kreme, y’all, but y’all got this!  It’s a choice.

If you hate the work you do, and every time you bring it up your friends scatter like cockroaches when the lights come on because you’ve been griping about work for the last three years . . . or 6 . . . or 26, it may be time to dust off your resume and go find something else.  Or maybe it’s time to take a step in a new direction by taking a class or two.  Stop making excuses – if you watch more than 30 minutes of television a day you won’t have to give up much here.  (And if you need help managing your time, I’m here for you – contact me!).  Ask your friends what you’re good at besides griping about your job; trust me, they’ll be more than happy to help if it means they get to enjoy your sunny smile again!  It’s a choice.

One I hear often is that folks want to have a better spiritual life, but they’re just too busy.  Honey, you can’t build a meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone the Creator of the universe, if you only make time for drive-through relationships.  Come on in and sit a spell.  Be with Him and He will be with you.  There won’t be fireworks every time, but that’s true in any relationship.  If you spend less time on Facebook or watching television or playing games on your phone, you can probably squeeze out an extra half hour a day for your spiritual life.  At the risk of offending you, the fact is that we make time for what we truly care about.  Ouch!  But it’s true.  And, yes.  It’s a choice.

Detecting a pattern here?

Life isn’t happening to you without your consent.  You are not some wimp being beat up by everything and everyone in your life.  You are not a doormat (unless you choose to be).  You weren’t created that way!

Doesn’t it feel good, though, to know that you can make choices that change how you feel about your life?  Learn to say, “no” to the things that don’t move you in the direction of where you want to be in six months, a year, three years . . . and say “yes” to making time and space for the things that do!

Go ahead.  Start with one good choice today and then look back on it tomorrow and again in a week and see if you don’t feel better!  And feel free to share with me your victories, big and small, related to changing your life in healthy ways!

If you need help with time management, motivation or developing your spiritual life, please feel free to contact me!

Photo Credit: Graphics and More

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2019, Week 1: Nailed It!

As we begin this first full week of the new year, I’m happy to report that so far I’ve met my weekly goals!  Okay, so we’re only one week in, but I’m still calling it a win!  Let me explain why that matters . . .

We all know that many times people make resolutions that don’t stick, in part because they’re unrealistic to start with.  But what about those goals we make that really should be attainable, and we really want to meet them, but somehow we get a month or two into the year and find that we’ve lost motivation or we feel we’re too far off the mark already to be successful?

Here’s why I’m excited to have met my weekly goals; they are designed to move me toward successfully meeting my goals for the year!  If I break down my yearly goals into smaller parts, I can be consistently moving in the right direction, staying on target and seeing that target get closer and closer – which is inspiring and motivating!

Visualize your goal.  Really set it in your mind.  Then work backward.  In order to meet your goal, where will you need to be in September? June? March?  Then break those quarters down into months.  What action can you be taking by the end of each month to move you closer to your goal?  Then break the months into weekly, consistent habits that help you stay motivated.  These weekly goals should set me up for success, so that I feel motivated and excited, because I’m seeing progress.

An example: If I want to read 12 books by the end of the year, I will plan to read a book every month. Since I don’t want to get to the end of the month and be only 10 pages into my 200-page book, I’ll set a weekly goal of reading one fourth of the book, and then a daily goal of a certain number of pages. I may find it helpful to spend 30 minutes or less per day on social media (which happens to check off another goal on my list for 2019) so I have more time available for reading. Important note: I am actually doing this, and while it may sound rigid, it’s the only realistic way for me to meet this particular goal (especially as a grad student who already reads volumes!). That said, I give myself Saturdays as a “catch up day” because, you know, life sometimes gets in the way. Remember, the goal is to set ourselves up for success!

Evaluate the goal.  Check in at the end of each week to see how you did that week.  The same with each month, and then the quarters.  Pay attention to those weekly goals, though!  They set the direction and enable you to make minor tweaks before you’re too far off course.  What’s working? What isn’t? What do you need to do more of/less of to get those weekly goals back in focus?

Have some accountability.  This is a good idea, even if you don’t need prodding.  Accountability partners are those folks we have to confess to when we’re not doing what we want to be doing to reach our goals.  But guess what?  They’re also those people who we get to celebrate with when we do well!  Okay, we’re not supposed to be boastful, but hey – we all like to tell someone about our victories, and that’s the happier side of having an accountability partner!

Be kind to yourself. So, you slipped. It happens! Recognize it, then remind yourself why the goal was important enough to make in the first place. Refocus, dust yourself off, square your shoulders, and . . . begin again! Don’t waste precious time beating yourself up. It just gets you further behind, and puts you in a negative mindset to begin again or, worse, give up on something that matters to you. We all have days and weeks that are less than what we’d hoped they’d be. Accept it and move on! (As you’ll see below, I actually budget my time to allow for those “off” days.)

Reward yourself for meeting your goals.  Use a gold star, smiley face or checklist – something you can see, something you can look back at and note your success when things get a little tricky along the way.  This helps thwart discouragement before it really takes hold.

Your turn! Have you set a goal/goals for 2019? What are you planning to do through the year to move yourself toward the goal(s) you’ve set?  I’d love to hear about it!

Help is available. If you find goal-setting (or, more specifically, goal-achieving) to be daunting and want a little coaching to get you on the right track, contact me at AngelaGlickLifeCoach@gmail.com and let me help you set yourself up for success!

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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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Pamper Yourself!

Stress Management Tip #3 – Self-Care and Creativity

Self-care is a concept that is often dismissed by women, frequently because they feel guilty for devoting time to themselves instead of those around them.  Christian women in particular often consider self-care “wrong” or “bad.”  After all, the Bible makes a point of teaching that Christians are to be humble and put others first, right (e.g., Phil. 2:3)?  Well guess what . . . Scripture also teaches that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and that we are to take care of it (1 Cor. 3:17).  Proverbs 14:30 teaches that “a heart at peace gives life to the body,” and being so stressed out we can’t fit rest and self-care into our schedule is at odds with having a peaceful heart, wouldn’t you say?

If that’s not enough, the benefits of self-care are backed by science.  Research reveals that taking a “creative break” can be relaxing and rejuvenating.  A recent study demonstrated that participants of varying levels of experience, after engaging in artistic expression for only forty-five minutes, experienced a significant reduction in levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Kaimal, Ray & Muniz, 2016).  Another study found that artistic expression, including dance, writing, visual art (painting, crafting), and music, were beneficial to mental health.  The results of that study “indicated that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances” (emphasis mine) (Stuckey and Nobel, 2010, p. 261).  Thus, there is ample biblical and scientific support for embracing the discipline of self-care (yes, I called it a discipline!).

Dear one, if you’re earnestly trying to learn effective stress management techniques, you simply must get comfortable with the idea of taking care of YOU, and even – gasp! – pampering yourself!  Try making a list of the things you find relaxing and indulgent, but that don’t cause you to feel guilty afterward (i.e., eating a pint of full-fat ice cream in one sitting, after consuming half a pizza, is not recommended).  So what brave step will you take toward caring for yourself?  It can be simple, inexpensive, and doesn’t even have to take that much time.  Maybe give yourself a pedicure and paint your toes a wild color you love!  Or, or settle in with a favorite book for even half an hour.  Make a crafting date with yourself and get creative making something pretty!  You could sit quietly and listen to soothing music (or, provided you don’t have neighbors super close, turn up your favorite “happy song” and belt it out!), buy yourself some flowers, take a long walk in the woods, have a “home spa” night, take a hot soak . . . whatever it is, it will be unique to you and whatever you’re in the mood for.  Precious one, do this for yourself!

Need individual guidance on how to de-stress your life? Contact me for one-on-one stress management coaching in person, via phone, or on FaceTime!

References

Kaimal, G., Ray, K. & Muniz, J. (2016). Reduction of cortisol levels and participants’ responses following art making.  Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association33(2), 74-80. doi: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832

Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health100(2), 254–263. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

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Let’s Talk Herb(s)!

Stress Management: Tool #2 – Herbal Aids

Before delving into the discussion and research concerning herbal aids for stress management, it is necessary to issue a word of caution: It is very important for you to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to ensure there are no interactions between any herbs you are considering taking and any medical conditions you have and/or medications you take.  THIS BLOG POST IS INTENDED TO RELAY RESEARCH RESULTS AND IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.

Research has found that herbal aids, when used responsibly, often help people manage stress and the symptoms of stress.  Recently, a study conducted in Europe using self-reported ratings on the PSS-10 scale (Perceived Stress Scale-10) concluded that “the short-term use of herbal remedies seems … effective in reducing perceived stress” (Gasparini, et al., 2016, p. 465).  The study revealed approximately a 50% decrease in perceived stress after consuming certain herbal aids, including hops, valerian and melissa.

Depression.  Studies show a correlation between stress and depression (Clinton and Langberg 2011); therefore, considering herbal aids used to relieve depression may serve to aid in stress reduction.  Depression is often a response to, or effect of, both acute and prolonged stress.  A 2008 Harvard study reported that persons suffering with mild depression found the use of various herbal supplements to be beneficial in helping to relieve their depression (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  The findings of the study include benefit from folic acid, which helps the brain to produce serotonin, which can improve mood, and in many patients, stimulated their response to their prescribed antidepressant medication.  The study reported that similar benefits were produced through supplementation with SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). As with folic acid, SAMe is reported to help the brain produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and can bring the brain’s levels of these neurotransmitters to a normal level in patients with a deficiency thereof (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  This report stated that “eight studies compared SAMe to a tricyclic antidepressant; six concluded that SAMe was equivalent to the drug (p. 4).”  Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression (2008) reported that St. John’s Wort and Omega-3 fatty acids also have been found beneficial in helping to minimize depression in patients.

Anxiety.  Similarly, Lakhan and Vieria (2010) state that in other research passionflower, kava, St. John’s wort, lysine and magnesium have been effective in the treatment of anxiety.  Clinton, et al. (2005) add that melatonin may be useful in aiding sleep, which may help break the cycle of sleeplessness leading to stress, and stress leading to sleeplessness.

Clearly, many studies have shown that, when used responsibly, herbal aids can often help diminish and control the perception and effects of stress.

Need more information on managing stress?  Contact Angela at AngelaGlickLifeCoach.com for one-on-one and group coaching for stress management.

References

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.

Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Gasparini, M., Aurilia, C., Lubian, D., & Testa, M. (2016). Herbal remedies and the self-treatment of stress: An Italian survey. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 8(4), 465-470.

Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression. (2008). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 25(4), 4-5.

Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2010). Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 942-55. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42McNealus, K. (2018, February).  Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996

 

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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!

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Stress – Cause and Effect

So, this is a bit research-y, but bear with me, because that’s exactly what it is.  The result of some research I recently conducted to give me a feel for the real problem, so I could better guide my research for helping to cope with it.  I promise it’s the most research-y part of the series.  And trust me, it only scratches the surface!  It’s not long, and I do hope you learn something new…please post a comment to tell me if you do, and what it was!

The Problem: Stress

Stress is a pervasive disorder that discriminates against no one, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sex, or age.  What was originally designed for self-preservation and survival has, over time, become an illness of epidemic proportions.  In fact, McNealus (2018) reports that “Over 70% of American adults say that they experience stress or anxiety daily, and that it impacts their life” (p. 16).  Approximately twenty million Americans currently suffer from the physical, emotional and psychological effects of stress (Clinton, Hart and Ohlschlager, 2005).  However, that is not how God intended stress to function, or more specifically, to malfunction.

Stress Was Meant for Good

Stress for Spiritual Growth.  Although stress typically has a negative connotation due to its vast and varied adverse effects (see “EFFECT” below), it has benefits, as well.  Clinton and Langberg (2011) point out that God can use stress to reveal sin in a woman’s life.  Furthermore, Clinton, et al. (2005) teach that “God uses times of difficulty and adversity to stretch us and develop our character. This mechanism also keeps life exciting, enabling us to be creative and productive” (p. 163).  Additionally, Clinton and Hawkins (2009, “Stress”) point out that “stress is a normal part of life and can be positive, alerting us to a problem area needing attention and helping us respond to it” (n.p.).

Stress for Survival.  Clinton and Langberg (2011) write that “stress is the common term for general adaptation syndrome (GAS), or the fight or flight syndrome.  It is the body’s natural response to threatening situations…” (p. 300).[1]  When this fight or flight response is engaged, the body releases stress hormones, specifically adrenaline and cortisol.  According to the Mayo Clinic (2016), adrenaline serves to boost energy levels and cortisol serves to suppress those bodily functions that it deems non-essential to survival, such as digestion and functions of the reproductive system.  These responses are helpful if a person is in jeopardy, such as facing physical attack; after the threat has passed, these hormones return to normal levels and the body resumes normal functionality (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

When Stress Goes Bad

Unfortunately, when a person is under constant stress, the body begins to malfunction.  Chronic stress, or stress that is prolonged, turns into a disease known as “distress” (Clinton, et al., 2005, p. 163).  Some of the causes of distress include poor outlook, job stress, financial strain, juggling too many roles, and chronic illness.  For a more detailed list of causes of and contributors to stress (“stressors”), including those particular to women, see “CAUSE,” below.  Some of the adverse effects of long-term exposure to stress include headache, heart disease, substance abuse, and even diabetes.  For more on these adverse effects, see “EFFECT,” below.

CAUSE

Causes of and Contributors to Stress

A few factors unique to women that contribute to stress include trying to maintain multiple roles, such as managing a career while being a wife and mother (Clinton & Langberg, 2011).  However, some personalities lend themselves to stress more easily than others.  Blom, M., Georgiades, A., Janszky, I., Alinaghizadeh, H., Lindvall, B., & Ahnve, S. (2009) would add that “common stress behaviors include constant perceived time urgency, impatience, or easily aroused irritation, as well as hostility and competitiveness” (p. 227). Those who have extremely driven or perfectionistic personalities, or exhibit the aforementioned behaviors not only experience increased stress, but it is likely that these individuals contribute to increased levels of stress in those around them.

Clinton, et al. (2005) Give a partial summary of causes for stress: “External Stressors include adverse physical conditions such as pain, illness, extreme temperatures, noise, foul air, hurried schedule; or stressful psychological environments such as work demands, abusive or conflictual relationships, the environment and unpredictable events” (p. 163).  Clinton, et al. continue,

Internal stressors can also be physical such as infections, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, poor health habits; or psychological such as intense worry about finances, work, family and relationship problems, worrying about a harmful event that may or may not occur, an emptiness, negative attitude and feelings, personality traits such as perfectionism, trying to do too much, change and loss. (p. 163).

EFFECT

Adverse Effects and Symptoms of Stress

Stress frequently leads to physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual dysfunction and illness, ranging from seemingly minor effects, such as forgetfulness (Bosse-Smith, 2010) and weight gain (Mayo Clinic, 2016), to life-threatening results.  “Women are more likely to experience physical symptoms of stress [than men]” (Clinton & Langberg, 2011, p. 300).  Some of these physical symptoms include “headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and difficulty sleeping.  Stress can also affect a woman’s relationships adversely as well as her body, mind, and spirit” (Clinton & Langberg, 2011, p. 301).  Chronic stress, or distress, can also diminish the body’s natural ability to ward of disease (King, 2013).  King (2013) goes on to note that there is a correlation between chronic stress and diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  In people with pre-existing heart conditions, acute stress can lead to a heart attack or stroke (Aldwin, 2007).  Furthermore, McNealus (2018) cites stress as a possible cause of inflammation, which Aldwin (2007) reports, if left unchecked, can lead to autoimmune disease.

Adverse Effects and Symptoms of Stress During Childhood Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, conducted between 1995 and 1997, uncovered a correlation between toxic stress during childhood and future health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and substance abuse.  ACEs include divorce of parents, domestic violence and parental alcoholism (Gunnar, n.d.).  Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., and Marks, J. S., conclude their results of the ACE study thus: “We found a strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults” (p. 245). Further, in response to the ACE study, Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., and Anda, R. F. (2013) found that “The interaction of an emotionally abusive family environment with the various maltreatment types had a significant effect on mental health scores” (p. 1453).  In other words, childhood stress has lasting, harmful physical and emotional effects on a woman well into adulthood.

Stress, Childhood Development, and Future Outcomes

Gunnar (n.d.) reports that too much stress, for too long a period of time, can have “devastating consequences for developing brains.”  Gunnar refers to such conditions as “toxic stress,” and teaches that toxic stress is “a severe, prolonged release of stress chemicals . . . often caused when a child lacks supportive and nurturing adults.” This type of toxic stress is capable of causing brain damage, killing and/or prohibiting the development of brain cells.  Adults can often be the source of childhood stress (e.g., physical, emotional, verbal and/or sexual abuse inflicted by adults on children); this means the child actually must approach and even depend on the very person who is causing their severe stress.  Complicating matters is that children have no innate coping skills for handling stress.

Closing Thoughts

Stress can be good, if we listen to our body and spirit.  When we ignore them, we endanger ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.  But there is hope!  Stay tuned for some reasonable, realistic management techniques to keep your unhealthy stress levels down, and to cope with “negative stress” when it inevitably arrives on your doorstep.

Resources

Aldwin, C. M. (2007). Stress, coping, and development: An integrative perspective. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu

Blom, M., Georgiades, A., Janszky, I., Alinaghizadeh, H., Lindvall, B., & Ahnve, S. (2009). Daily stress and social support among women with CAD: Results from a 1-year randomized controlled stress management intervention study. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 16(3), 227-235. doi: 10.1007/s12529-009-9031-y

Bosse-Smith, L. (2010). I want my life back!: Life management for busy women. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016).  About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study. Violence Prevention.  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html

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.

Clinton, T. and Hawkins, R. (2009). The quick-reference guide to biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2003, August). Relationship between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and adult mental health in community respondents: results from the adverse childhood experiences study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(8), 1453-60. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.160.8.1453

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998).  Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245-258.

Gunnar, M. (n.d.).  Child development core story, part 3: Stress.  Project for Babies.  Retrieved from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/project-for-babies/

King, L.A. (2013). Experience psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

McNealus, K. (2018, February).  Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996

Mayo Clinic. (2016). Stress management. Healthy Lifestyle. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

[1] The concept of GAS was founded by Hans Selye in 1950.