Monday, August 15, 2016

Just...Breathe


Busyness, schedules, obligations, responsibilities. Family life, job life, everyday life. Do more, give more, be more. These are just some of the characteristics of a stressful and, sometimes, chaotic life. For me, my stress and chaos came from living in a city 7.5 years longer than I wanted to. Of course I thought it was the greatest idea to move to a big city in the beginning. The pulse, excitement, money, and opportunities were at the forefront of my mind and, honestly, my heart. I thought I had it made but then things started to change. I started to change and the fast paced craziness I once enjoyed was no longer appealing. The excitement soon changed to dread. It seemed like I was always in a hurry to get somewhere that took me, what felt like forever, to get to. As each year passed, I felt more drained, hurried, and stressed.

It was only after I moved from the city into the country, two years ago, that I gained a perspective of just how stressed I was. For 11 years, living in the city, stress had taken a hold of me. At first it was subtle, benign, almost undetectable. Only a few years after being in the city, the stress was no longer undetectable. It was obvious, painfully obvious. It was affecting every part of me. My mood, behavior, and body. I was easily irritated, frustrated, and I had a lot of body pain and muscle tension. There were even times I remember driving in the city that I would become so infuriated with other drivers that I was contemplating doing things I wouldn't normally.

I read an online article posted by the Mayo Clinic that addressed the issue of stress and how destructive it can be to our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If stress isn't properly managed, it can lead to major health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The article went on to list several other effects of stress. They included: headache, chest pain, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability or anger, feeling overwhelmed, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, and the list goes on and on! I was taken back by how many of the effects I recall having in the years of city living.

The Mayo Clinic article also offered stress management strategies to help offset the negative impact of stress. They are: regular physical activity, deep breathing, getting a massage, keeping a sense of humor, socializing, and having hobbies. They also suggest getting plenty of rest and eating a healthy diet along with seeking medical help if you experience symptoms that may be associated with stress or if your efforts to manage your stress have become unsuccessful. Seeking help can equip you with coping skills to better tackle and manage the stress you are facing.

While it was a long time before I was able to properly manage my stress, the greater relief was when I came into a personal relationship with God and Jesus. The peace and contentment I have come to know in them, even in the midst of chaos, equipped me to live in a crazy city and a crazy world without completely losing my cheese! Hahahaha It also helped me to stay sane until my desire to be in the country, happened. I can honestly say that now I'm in the peace and quiet I longed for, I wouldn't trade it for anything!!

There is a story in the Bible, in the book of Luke, that talks of stress in everyday life and how we can lose sight of the things that are truly important when we allow stress to take over. That story is about two sisters, Mary and Martha, who lived together and received an unexpected visitor one day...Jesus. They were both excited and Martha started busying herself with preparing a feast. She soon became stressed and annoyed that her sister wasn't helping. Meanwhile, Mary was so overtaken by Jesus' presence that she immediately dropped everything and sat at His feet. Resting. Breathing. Taking in the moment.

The video I included as part of my blog speaks to this breathing. That being and choosing to turn from the chaos brings peace, quiet, and a time of refreshing. As one line of the song says, "Chaos calls but all you really need is to just breathe."

How true this has become in my own life. Sure I could allow the pressures of the world around me to dictate my reactions and increase my stress levels but I choose not to and opt for peace and deep breathing. To be in the moment, to be present, and to just breathe.

What stresses and chaos exist in your life? What are the things taking precedence over your own well being and stress management? Do you take time to just be? I want to hear from you! Let's talk!

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