The clock shatters the peace of the quiet, early morning. It is 4:00 and dark. The wind is howling. You want to snuggle deeper under the blankets. But you dutifully crawl out of your warm, cozy bed onto the cold floor and quickly get dressed. Grabbing a bite, you are out the door.
No. You aren’t the milkman going to work in the wee hours of the morning. You are 8 or 9 years old. Some are as young as 4 or 5. You are newspaper boys, on your way to pick up the merchandise you will deliver. As you reach the drop off site of the bundled papers dropped off in the wee hours of the morning by delivery trucks, you don’t have time to think about how cold it is. It is your job to cut the wire or twine holding the bundles together, roll them into deliverable bundles, stuff them in your large bags, get on your bikes and start delivering. When snow and ice prohibit the use of bikes, you walk or use sleds. You are little merchants, as Sandra Walker calls them in her wonderful book, “Little Merchants, the Golden Era of Youth Delivering Newspapers”.
Everyone sees the world differently. What “stresses” one person out may be another person’s excitement and enthusiasm for life.
When we share family stories with our siblings, we are often surprised at how differently each person growing up in the same household interpreted family dynamics and what their goals and aspirations were.
We are shaped and molded by our life experiences. We develop core beliefs about what we can and cannot do and how we perceive the world.
But despite their influence, we have the ability to change negative and self-defeating perceptions and re-direct our lives.
Have you ever wondered whether people actually have experienced miracles and the protection of God in life and death situations? Have you ever wondered whether prayers are answered when the answers to those prayers could only have come from the intervention by a loving God? Have you ever wondered if God is real and cares about us very much?
“It’s A God Thing”, is a collection of stories by real people who have experienced God’s protection, comfort, healing, provision, and everyday miracles. It is a collection of 42 real life events in which people have experienced the love of God – those moments in time that have no explanation for what has happened except for some intervention by a caring God.
Real people. Real Life. Real Grace. A new start after a colossal failure. Reconciliation with a son that had stormed out of the house years ago. Complete recovery when the doctors said there was nothing else they could do. A broken marriage restored. A moment of absolute joy, even when storms were raging all around. Big moments. Small Moments.
Properly channeled, stress enables us to live happy, energetic, productive lives. It allows us to set goals, meet dangers and defend ourselves.
Life is not perfect.
Just as there will be times when we will experience incredible joy and happiness, there will be times when we will experience high, extreme levels of stress because of unexpected tragedies, adversities, and losses that severely impact every aspect of our lives.
At such times, we will feel anxiety, worry and fear. The more overwhelmed we are in such circumstances the more helpless, hopeless and depressed we can become.
Our bodies were made to deal with stress
So, if we were made to handle all kinds of stress, should be concerned?
You had been sound asleep, but now bolt upright, wide awake, heart pounding wildly in your chest. You strain to hear any further sounds beyond the thumping of your heart.
Just as you get ready to lie back down on your pillow after reassuring yourself that you must have been dreaming, you hear another sound that shouldn’t be happening in the house at this time of night.
Any intentions of going back to sleep are forgotten. You are fully awake; your body on high alert, in anticipation of whatever threat is there. Just as if you had opened your front door and came face to face with a snarling tiger, your brain has registered danger.
In the blink of an eye your heart, circulatory system, adrenal glands, stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, brain – in fact almost every organ in your body has been activated in some way with hormones and chemicals to meet this danger. Your hands feel clammy, your feet cold and fear has created a hard knot in the pit of your stomach.
“And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
So begins the book, “Clara’s War, One Girl’s Story of Survival”, a memoir of a 81 year old survivor of the Second World War during the invasion and occupation of Poland, first by the Russians and then by the Nazi’s.
It is a riveting true story of a teenage Polish Jewish girl who with her family and two other families was forced to live in an underground basement bunker in the home of the Beck family who hid them for 18 months. Clara (Schwarz) Kramer’s original diary of this time period is on display at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, written with the stub of a pencil on bits of paper.
We hear a lot about stress and how to avoid it.
But wait! What if we could eliminate it? Would that be a good thing?
NO! Because we can’t live without stress.
“Stress is the body’s nonspecific response to the demands placed upon it”, says Hans Selye, MD, professor, and research scientist who spent a lifetime researching and explaining the body’s physiological response to stress. (See his book, “Stress Without Distress”)
Our body is constantly adapting to changes. If we couldn’t adapt, we would be unable to go to work, make plans and keep ourselves safe. It is stress that allows us to respond to whatever is happening. It enables us to adapt to any new situation, whether it is cheering at a football game or responding to a threat. It is how we are able to respond to life: mentally, emotionally, socially and physically.
We can’t eliminate stress, nor do we want to. It is normal and natural.
Replacing old habits
Habits are resistant to change. Replacing them takes time, commitment and dedication.
A lifestyle becomes a habit. When we are no longer satisfied with how we live, it’s time to question what we are doing. We not only need to know what isn’t working, we need to know why and what new habits can replace them that will give us a greater reward.
We resist change because there is both a comfort level and a payoff to remain where we are. Putting a new habit in place takes hard work and courage and we’ll often rationalize why it is just too difficult to change.
Make that commitment
When you have identified the areas that require new habits pick one and put together a plan of action. A plan of action will address the following:
Forgive for Good, by Frederick Luskin, PhD
As a therapist, I have recommended many books for clients to read. One of those books has been “Forgive for Good”, by Frederick Luskin, PhD.
I have used the well-written and easy to follow guidelines in this book in many workshops and retreats that I have given. Whether you are dealing with grief and loss, adversity, or healing the wounded child within, it is a book that touches each of us.
As a licensed mental health counselor, I was privileged to attend a day-long professional training seminar facilitated by Dr. Luskin himself. The book was an outcome of his doctoral thesis and designed to help wounded, angry and blaming clients recognize the benefit of forgiveness. He also developed course material for classes to be used by churches.
We tend to think of forgiveness as a command made by Christ – forgiving not once, but seventy times seventy. It is not only a spiritual necessity but a clinical one as well.
Find that Balance
We organize, establish routines and schedules so that we can maximize our time and achieve our goals. You may think that routines are boring and stifling, but they actually give us the freedom to become decisive and productive. They also allow us freedom to be spontaneous when we want to.
Time is relative and schedules and routines are for our benefit. They are there to serve us – not dictate our life. If they are too rigid or unrealistic, we will become frustrated and tired.
Remember to schedule “down” times, when we turn off the hassles of the day and allow ourselves time to spend doing pleasant, relaxing and fun things.
Once in place productive routines become unconscious daily habits that streamline our days. Our routines and schedule do not rule us – they are tools that allow us to live life to the fullest.