I’m coming off of a pretty challenging and frustrating week. I didn’t have any thing particularly bad happen, it was more a series of tiny events that just seemed to keep piling on top of me. I had a cold, my sciatica was acting up and from there it just seemed like everything was a stressor. However, I learned some key lessons for handling stress that seem worthy of reflecting on and sharing.
1) Resistance to stress or pain can sometimes weaken us.
With my sciatica being in such pain, I was really resisting with my back to try and protect it. Naturally, when we feel pain whether physical or emotionally, our defense mechanisms go up pretty quickly. What I realized is that after the pain in my sciatica settled down, my entire back was so sore from over compensating and resisting the pain that I further injured myself.
I think this proves true in life also. When we resist feeling certain things, we weaken or create areas of weakness in other parts of our life. When we make the shift from resisting pain and stress to managing it, that’s when real relief occurs.
2) Stress is usually an indicator that our spiritual practice is compromised.
I was traveling and fighting physical aliments so I was feeling pretty drained. I wasn’t going to yoga, working out or having my daily quiet time for reading the Bible and prayer. I thought I could get by without it.
It was such a great reminder to me that I “don’t got this.” I need those spiritual practices to be consistent in my life. I can always tell when I’ve let myself slip because havoc starts to control me.
When we have a solid spiritual practice in place, it helps the chaos that surrounds us to not be so loud. By praying, meditating, practicing yoga or any form of connection to spirit we offer our minds and bodies a chance to re-center each day. This helps us to maintain balance, which ultimately affects how we view our stressors.
3) When things are shifting around and causing stress, growth is happening.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little stuck in my frustration and stress recently. It is easy to allow things to spiral and to focus on how uncomfortable the stress is making us. I am definitely guilty of this.
But then I thought about it and decided that a little stress is a good thing. There is that saying that you can’t make a diamond with out applying some pressure. We can’t evolve into the people we are meant to be without experiencing a little difficulty from time to time. It is a natural part of life so rather than fighting against it, we can embrace it as an opportunity to grow and be stretched as a person.
4) A good majority of frustration is made in the mind.
I can’t believe this is happening.
I can’t take anything else right now.
The familiar sayings that play in our heads as we envision worst-case scenarios coupled with the tornado of thoughts that focus on the negatives instead of the positives.
I was allowing my mental state to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and be overly sensitive to other situations and people because I was experiencing stress physically. When I took a step back, I realized half of the reason I was feeling frustrated was because I was creating it in my head.
Sure, not all stress is “mind made,” but it’s important when we are in a heighted state of stress to not allow our mind to add to it. This is an excellent exercise in patience and having compassion for ourselves.
5) Stress cannot survive with an attitude of gratitude.
I was literally giving a client advice the other day about making a gratitude list to overcome their stress and anxiety. It dawned on me that I needed to follow that same suggestion. When I shifted my thoughts from things I didn’t have or that weren’t happening in my time to the things that are great in life, I realized I had so much more to be thankful for than to be stressed about.
When we acknowledge what we are thankful for with an attitude of gratitude, the things we feel stressed about begin to minimize and seem more workable than we first thought. The next time I catch myself feeling frustrated, a gratitude list will be the first thing I immediately turn to.
6) Chaos typically precedes significant breakthroughs.
I read a quote the other day that said:
“I would rather be completely exhausted from the hard times which breed success than well rested from achieving nothing.”
It helped me to remember that usually when we are on to something great, we are met with some chaos and stress to see if what we are working towards is really worth fighting for.