Thursday, August 10, 2017

Coping with Stress

This last week I've had a chance to practice some of the things we've been talking about this last month here in the blog.  

First, I spent some time with one of my highest priorities as my husband and I took a couple of days to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary early.  

Second, because of those days off I got some peace, rest and margins in my life!  It was good to take time to "be still".

  I hope you'll pardon the lack of posts and now enjoy this new one as we continue to dwell on 1 Peter 5:7. Casting all your anxiety on Him; because he cares for you. (KJ2000)

One of the places I mentioned in my Top 10 ways to Cast your Cares on Him VLOG was to use nature as a reminder.  In talking to a friend the other night she labeled it as my "coping" mechanism.  Hmm...
my coping mechanism

Interesting word choice!  So, of course I had to look up what people think a "coping mechanism" means.  According to the medical free dictionary it's, "...the factors that enable an individual to regain emotional equilibrium after a stressful experience." And "...any conscious or unconscious mechanism of adjusting to environmental stress without altering personal goals or purposes."

Two things stood out to me, "enable to regain emotional equilibrium after a stressful experience." and "unconscious" adjustment to stress "without altering goals or purpose."   

Let's deal first with the gaining control after a stressful experience.  We pretty much all know what stress does to you.  It may be a bit different for each of us.  We could be short with people, agitated, unable to sleep or rest, lack focus, anxious, and even exhibit physical symptoms like headaches or depression.  Regaining control involves getting back to a stable (or lack of excess of all those things) position.  But how....

Take a look at your "symptom" and analyze what makes you feel the opposite.  For me the beach is a calming, relaxing, carefree experience (the opposite of the stressful situation.)  It reminds me of God's control, power and peace.  The huge sand dune (I live by Lake Michigan people!), the never ceasing sound of the waves rolling in and the quiet.  

Just today I heard on the radio that the beach can actually be healing, so I looked it up.  Turns out there is a book titled, Blue Mind, which explores just that.  The author claims, "We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,"  Please understand, I haven't read the book, so I'm not necessarily recommending it, just pointing out that "science" is recognizing the "coping" power of God's creation.

I think actually God already told us this.  In Psalms19:1 it says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." ESV and in Romans 1:20 "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." ESV

Did you catch that, "his eternal power".  That's what we want and need when we are trying to make sense of our "little" world.  We need the Big picture and the Big power.  Namely, God's power.  In our own power, we are stressed and rendered ineffective.  But, in God's power, we can be powerful conquerors!  

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Be sure to check out the next study guide, as we'll explore this concept further. 

The second thing that stood out to me in the definition of "coping mechanism" was the "unconscious part."  How do we make something unconscious?  I'm going to suggest the word "habit".  

How do we unconsciously drive home?  Habit, routine and familiarity.  We've all done it.  It's almost like the car knows where to turn without us "thinking" about it.  Why?  We've done it 1,000 times.  We show up in our own driveway, and we don't even remembering all the little details of driving home, but we did it.

 We should find and practice our mechanisms BEFORE we need them so they do become unconscious.  My friend pointed out to me what was my "coping mechanism", as I was relaying to her a story from my past about a time when "my world" was crumbling before me and my eyes were quite literally growing dim.  My life looked dim, with no answers to pressing problems.  I "choose" to go to the beach!  For a week, I went to the beach everyday.  

How did I know to do this?  Well, I didn't specifically KNOW I needed to do this to cope, but I knew it was a place I could find peace.  It was a place went to with my kids at least once a week.  Every time we got there in the early morning to a deserted, or almost deserted parking lot and beach my soul breathed.  It refreshed me on a weekly basis without a pressing "need", it just did. God's creation can do that.  I had practiced so this became "unconscious" without my knowing it.  

Do you have a place?  Where is it?  Where does God's creation speak to you, calm you, remind you of your place in HIS world?  Maybe we should make time to cultivate those places, and practice our "coping" so that when the stresses of this world hit they do become "unconscious" responses?

Stay tuned, and be sure to sign up for the study guide as we'll be exploring more one "casting your cares"....

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