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say no


Stress is like Golf

You don't want the Highest Score

Yesterday I took a life change index.  Basically I measured my stress level by looking at major events that have happened in my life over the last 12 to 18 months.  Stress is a feeling we experience when we perceive that the demands on us exceed our personal resources. On this particular index, numerical values are given to each life event.  Check off the events and add up the values.  If you score under 125 you have low stress, if between 125 and 250 you’re in the middle range, when above 250 stress is high and you should immediately and regularly reduce your stress.  If your score is over 300, your chance of illness increases 80%.  

My score — 546.  F i v e    h u n d r e d,   f o r t y - s i x. Twenty other people were in the room taking this same index.  The ones among them that were truly stressed-out were at 248 to 253.  I should be dead!  When I was in the center of all those life changing events, I found myself in emergency surgery -- an emergency appendectomy.  Stress makes us sick.  Think back on a stressful time in your life.  When it was over, did you get sick? Let’s reduce the demands on us and increase our ability to cope, our health depends on it.  

One of our best stress reducers comes in a two letter word — No.  As we learn to say no, even to good things, we can decrease the demands on us.  It becomes easier to say no when we understand what we are designed for — everything else is someone else’s yes.  Another thing that reduces the demand on us is asking for help.  It sounds so simple but seems like such a difficult step.  When we’re overwhelmed by demands, it’s a perfect time to ask for help — from family, neighbors, professionals, friends, co-workers, anyone in a position to help.  As we reduce the stress in our lives, it’s important to keep our focus on the main thing.  Many times we end up consumed in low priority activities, having forgotten the most important thing.  Whatever your number one thing is, go back to it and don’t sweat the small stuff.

No matter how good we are at reducing the demands on us, we’ll never be without stress.  Improving our ability to cope with the demands or the emotional effects is a necessity.  One of the best ways to cope with the demands of life is to schedule into our day a 30 minute recharge time.  Give our bodies and minds a moment to relax and get away from it all — take a walk, soak in the tub, sit in the park, eat lunch with a friend, go for a drive, do yoga, meditate, use deep breathing exercises.  In an attempt to manage our stress, it’s imperative that we add physical exercise to our routine.  It moves our mental focus off of our stressors and provides us with additional energy.  I know what you’re thinking,  “I don’t have extra time to recharge and exercise. Remember, I’m already overwhelmed.”  Recharge time and physical exercise will reduce our mental and emotional anxiety-stress-demands and free up some space resulting in a good return on our time-investment.  In other words, we can’t afford not to.  

What’s one thing you are willing to do this week to reduce your stress or increase your coping skills?



Stillness in the Commotion

We live in an on-demand culture.  It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t carry a computer in their pocket that can access the world.  In that kind of society, we expect more from how fast our food is prepared to how quickly we can find the definition of a word we’ve never heard to a car that will drive for us.  At the same time we are making these demands, we are faced with unlimited opportunities.   It is a privilege to live in this age where so much is at our finger tips.  Unfortunately, we’ve allowed it to create, not just commotion, but c h a o s.  

Learn to say no.  Think through a criteria for what is best, not just good.  When you go to your favorite Italian restaurant and look at the menu, there isn’t a bad choice on there.  You want to say yes to the lasagna but then you see the Alfredo and the marsala and the shrimp scampi.  What will you do?   You will find so many good opportunities — dance for your preschool daughter, football for your teenage son, serving on a board, connecting with a local organization, social events, business engagements, a place to share your expertise, a way to volunteer in the neighborhood — that you need to practice saying no. Because the truth is when you say yes to something you are unknowingly saying no to something else.  Once you know what is best for you and your family in this season of your life, it will empower you to say no.  Everyone will be better off because this will begin to reduce the chaos.   

Unplug from your electronic devises for 24 to 36 hours every week. I just heard the collective gasp!  When was the last time you or your family spent a full day uninterrupted by email, texts, phone calls, tweets, posts, gaming, blogs, even breaking news?  What would you do with that time?  Would it bring some stillness into the commotion?  

Take 5 minutes to be still 3 times a day.  Uh, Oh!  You just thought the unplugging was going to be hard!! Going no where in your mind, aka stillness, is extremely difficult in our always-in-motion world.  Let’s compare this to my note taking.  When I take notes I start out with a piece of paper with wide margins.  In the beginning I keep all of my notes within the margins.  Then as more information comes at me, I begin to write in the margins.  Not much at first, just a few crucial points.  Eventually, I have scribbled all over the margins and drawn arrows from one point to another.  At the end of my note taking, I have a chaotic mess that cannot be deciphered.  This leaves my notes of little value.  Our lives are the same way.   Make quiet moments (arrive 5 minutes early to a meeting and sit in the car, use the time in the kid’s school pick up line, before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after they slip between the covers at night) to clear your mind of problem-solving, bargaining with God, and planning for what is coming next.  This stillness gives you more room to notice what the main points are and remember them regularly.  

There’s no better time than now!  We are entering the busiest season of the year.  If you start being intentional about introducing stillness into your world now, you’ll be even better at it when we turn the calendar over into the new year.  I’d love to hear from you. Which one of these are you willing to start practicing today — saying no, unplugging devises, stillness?