“Choose a time to worry. Stop the chatter.”
That was the advice three months ago from my Christian counselor. I was expressing to her all of the things I’m stressed about, and while we were talking she drew the above diagram showing all the things I’m juggling right now. There are plenty of physical stresses. A typical afternoon for example — the big one has to be picked up by 5:30 which means I have to get the little one by 5 in time to fight the traffic over the mountain, so I need to leave work at 4:30 but I need to build in time to get supper on the way to ball practice and school snacks for tomorrow … you get the idea. Being the only parent and a working parent to two kids at two different schools is physically demanding.
But a good bit of my juggling is mentally — in my mind, in my thought-life. I’m constantly thinking, wondering, mulling, etc. about something, or multiple somethings. The result of the physical demands and the mental noise is — I’m stressed!
David and I recently took a couples assessment, and my stress level was 80 percent. 80 percent!! My stress level probably went up a few points after that because now I’m stressed about my high stress level. (I’m mostly joking there, but not completely.)
David was a reading a book the counselor had loaned him a while back and the book quantified life events and their corresponding stress levels. If you had experienced certain stressors in life you were assigned points, and if your points were less than a certain number you had low stress, if they were between a certain range you had moderate stress, and if they were over a certain tally then you had high stress. If you were in the high stress range you were 90 percent more likely to have a significant injury or illness in the next year or so. It only took two or three of my current situations to put me in the high stress category. David joked — “according to this you should be dead.”
Probably so. I experience a lot of stress, and I know that a good bit of it I bring on myself. I’m not a wringing-my-hands kinda worrier. You wouldn’t know I was stressed to look at me, most of the time. That’s because my stress is all in my head. Not like I make it up, but mental stress. Mental stress brought on by physical stress of a busy life + thinking too much.
Which is why my counselor said “stop the chatter.” It requires conscientious effort, but I do try. I’m sometimes successful. I often fail. Apparently chatting in my head is a Heather-thing that I’ve been doing
for a long time forever. Old habits are hard to break.
Scripture (and The Byrds in “Turn, Turn Turn”) says there is a time for everything (Ecc. 3) — to be born, to die, to heal, to weep, to laugh, to mourn, to dance … but no time to stress. Also, Jesus says “don’t stress.”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26)
So, fine, don’t stress. It doesn’t change any of the situations. All the little things in the circle are still there and are still overwhelming. The situations don’t change. It’s my attitude and my thought-life that has to change.
Ugh. That takes work and effort and energy, and I’m often zapped of those things (probably due to all the physical and mental stress of all the bubbles in the circle).
Gotta do it anyway, though … right?
Like I said — ugh.