Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The More Things Change...The More Stressed Out We Are!

Continuing with my study of "The Overload Syndrome," by Dr. Richard Swenson, today I'd like to look at the effect that change can have on our stress levels and what we can do about it. We'll also look at ways we can reduce the effects stress has on us.

The world has changed dramatically in the last 150 years. More so than at any time in history. Think about it - for thousands of years, people travelled in much the same way - by foot or by horse. We communicated by hand-writing (and having hand-delivered) with pen and paper. People tended to stay within their community for their entire lives, meaning that they had extended family nearby.

Change that did occur happened gradually, slow and controlled. Now change happens before our eyes. We can be on the other side of the world in a day. We can speak to people anywhere in the world, or send them an instant message and get a reply instantly.

In a 5 year period, 40-50 percent of Americans will move. A typical American will live in 12-13 homes over their life, twice as many as the average European. America has the highest divorce rate in the world. All of this leads to instability - in our homes and in our churches. In fact, the average American will change churches every four years.

Besides all this, there have been profound moral and social changes in the last 50 years, devastating traditions, rewriting the rules, upsetting moral structures. Just a few of the affected areas include: poverty, parenting styles, day care usage, birth control and sexuality mores, medical ethics, music, movies, and television.

So how do we combat all of this? After all, everything I've just mentioned is systemic - we can't change it by ourselves. We don't have the ability to turn the clock back to a simpler time, a time when life revolved around family and church. However, there are some steps we can take to protect our families from the tidal waves of change.
  1. Slow the rate of change - If you have been thinking about moving, put it on hold for 6 months. Stay at your church - if there are problems, be part of the solution. Don't give up on it so easily. Just the very state of continuity (having the same home, friends, school, church, etc.) can help to prevent stress.
  2. Don't overvalue newness - Just because the companies come out with something Improved! or Better! doesn't mean it is. Don't feel compelled to throw out something you have that works perfectly well, just to spend money on the newest gadget that comes on the market. Often new products only offer novelty, nothing else. Seriously consider if what you are buying will improve your life.
  3. Find a safe haven - This could be a place, a belief, a person or group - anything that is constant over time, regardless of other changes. Maybe it's a routine of having devotions. Or a favorite spot you go to where you can think and connect with God. A small group where you feel safe sharing your life. The safe havens provide safe harbors in a storm.
  4. Realize you have more control than you think - Can you control everything that happens to you? No. But you can control your response to it. You decide if you will react by "freaking out" or by trusting God. I once read that Amy Carmichael said this, "A cup of sweet nectar will never spill a bitter drop, no matter how hard it is knocked." The idea is that no matter what comes along, what's inside of you (be that sweetness or bitterness) is what will spill out.
  5. Spread goodwill - By helping others, you deflect the attention you pay to yourself. Focusing on others allows us to forget our own problems. Plus, you are building a network that will be there to help you when you need it.
  6. Don't worry - Corrie ten Boon said, "I had to learn that worry is sin before I could get rid of the worry." Christ told us not to worry. We cannot accomplish anything by worrying and it has detrimental physical effects to our body. Turn your troubles over to God.
  7. Learn to laugh.
  8. Play music that relaxes your spirit.
  9. Rest.
  10. Breathe deeply.
  11. Exercise.
  12. Limit your time with negative people.
  13. Remember that the biggest problem of all was solved at the cross. "In this world you will have tribulation," said Jesus. "But be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."

Sometimes it seems as though the world is moving at light speed. I know in my home, I'd like to just shut the world out. I can't do it 100%, but I can try to limit the impact on my family.


ValleyGirl said...

Great suggestions! I'm really enjoying this book you're reading!! Thanks so much for sharing it. In some ways technology is such a good thing, but it certaily has cram-packed our lives and contributed to our increased overall stress levels and other negative changes in society.

Tracy said...

I agree with so much you've posted so far thank you for sharing it. We all need to take time and slow down. Sometimes I think it'd be great to go back to old fashion times before all this technology. Then I realize I'd have to give up certain things..like a shower, indoor toilet etc...nope couldn't do that. Although I can do without a lot of other "convenience" items.

LisaWA said...

I have not read or herd of this before. Interetsing thoughts!

I like the reminder that we are to overcome! It all sounds very encouraging!

Lisawa~ WTM K-8 board


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