Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to De-stress from a Stressed Woman.

From one of my recent posts, you may have gathered that it's been a bit of a rough patch for me this past month. It seems as though all that could be going wrong, is going wrong. And as I discussed in that post, it's God's way of bringing me back to Himself and helping me to refocus on the things that truly matter. If you want to read more about that, click here.

But this post isn't about reiterating that, instead I want to bounce off of that into ways that we can de-stress in the midst of hard things. I may not be an expert, but I am an independent, go-getter (AKA control freak) that goes and gets herself in over her head at times. I may be able to do five things at once, but I can't control my life. When I try, or things fall apart at the seams, I get stressed.

I've come up with some theories, not facts or steps that you must take--I'm no counselor. But I do know what things help me when I'm at my worst. I think I'm not the only one, so maybe these ideas will be to help you.

1) Get in the Word. You can do just about every trick in the book, but nothing will quite work in the way that God can in your life. My natural, human instinct is to turn to other outlets--I crave and am drawn to that. While those may be good things, reading the Bible should be a foundational priority. In truly reading God's words, allowing them to convict and change my life, I begin to be more like Christ--in action and perspective. If I know God more through his word, then I can better understand why things happen the way they do or be able to cope with them better. There is a noticeable difference in the days that I do start off with devotions vs. the days that I skip.  

2) Pray. More.This is something that I need to work on and grow in my life. Praying reflects humility. Humility reflects need, submission, and recognition of who I am in light of who God is. It's one thing to do devotions and it's another to spend time in prayer. When I am the most stressed, the most "down and out," I struggle to pray. I can read the Bible just fine--looking for encouragement and even rebuke. But to pray, to bear my soul to the all-knowing Creator--it can intimidate me when I know I am in the wrong. This is of course a false view, God is not waiting to reprimand me--He is always quick to forgive, He already has. But at that time, when my mind is a mess, that is truly how I feel. But at that time, that is when I need to pray the most. Not just for forgiveness, but for help, for growth, for guidance. And God will be faithful to respond with the things that you need to glorify Him. 

3) Take a step back and look at the BIG picture. When I am in God's word, praying faithfully, I begin to see the bigger picture. When I am not, I tend to focus on only the things that are surrounding me. It's hard to imagine with that perspective, that there could be any other life than what I see--and so I succumb to it. Looking beyond my little box of the world helps me to see the ways that God works, the bigger task at hand, the reason to live at all. Did you know that God uses those hard times to grow you into a closer resemblance of Him, drawing you nearer to Him? The fact is, life isn't as bad as I can make it out to be with a narrow view. Don't lock yourself into your closet, go out and become involved in what God is actively doing. It's tempting to stay in and throw that pity-party--it feels good! But after a time, it only leads to greater stress and depression. We were not created for that.

4) Realize your real purpose in life--the higher calling. The fact is, life is not all about me. It may seem harsh, but it's true. God, the Creator of the Universe, did not create me to go about doing the mundane things that I set my mind to. Yes, the dishes and laundry are important--and in doing them, I reflect faithfulness. But, my point is that with that bigger picture, there is a motive, a heart attitude about the things that you do and how you do them. As believers, we are called to glorify God in ALL that we say and do. Whether the little things or the bigger things. Why do you do what you do? If I am faithful, pursuing a greater walk with God--he will give me a love for the things he loves, instill accurate priorities, and help me to focus on things that this world cannot offer. We have to lose the weight, the desire for this world that is naturally within us. That is something that only God can work within you.

5) Forgive and forget. In the midst of a stressful situation, it's so easy to become bitter and angry at the way that things are or how people act. I should know--this is a particular struggle for me. I found that I tend to cling to the bitterness because it makes me feel justified in my reactions, but over time, it roots itself in my heart making me judgmental, unkind, unloving, frustrated, and depressed. It's a rut. I soon realized that the only way out, was to truly forgive and forget. Even if those people aren't sorry or forgiving--or they may not even know you feel this way--it's important for you to do your part and relieve the weight of that situation from your heart. It helps me to remember that I am in no place to hold judgment or withhold forgiveness--Christ died for my sins and forgave me in a way that no one else could, giving me eternal life that I didn't deserve! How could I not forgive others in light of that? Remember that God created them, too! They are "image-bearers" of Christ--regardless of their actions, they were made in His image and are sinners just like you. Seek the good in people rather than the bad. Free yourself from your bitterness and forgive--let that unnecessary burden go, it's only baggage that will weigh you down as you press on towards Christ.

6) Focus on others. One of the best ways to forget about your problems and relieve your stress is to focus on other people, then you can't even look at yourself. Find ways to help a friend, listen to their problems instead of vent your own, take your spouse on a date, treat them to something special, surprise them by doing the dishes for them, spend time in prayer for them rather than yourself. Giving of yourself to others helps to hone in on the bigger picture, glorifying God in serving others. It instills a perspective that is others-focused rather than self-focused. And if you're like me, there isn't much to look at when you're looking down.

7) Be thankful. Cultivating a thankful heart and mindset helps us to remember the good things, the things that God has blessed us with and how He has always provided before. It's easy to compare and think of what we want and don't have. I make life a lot more complicated than it needs to be--instead of being thankful for shelter, it has to be a beautifully decorated mansion. Instead of being thankful for clothing, it has to be designer. Instead of being thankful for the 15yr old Buick, it has to be a new truck. You catch my drift. The point is, we don't need all of that to successfully glorify God. I stress myself out when I demand and push myself to gain those things. It's good to be actively thankful in keeping a "Works of God" journal, or writing it on a board where you and your family will regularly see it, or even the "thankful tree" that people whip out around Thanksgiving. Come up with a creative way to remind yourself of what you've been given. It will inspire you to use those things. It helps us to know that not all is bad, and that even the bad is for a purpose. Below is one of my favorite short films for reminding me of what I can be thankful for.

8) Stop cleaning and take a bath! One of the things that I as a woman am driven to do--is clean. I'll admit, I'm a bit OCD about it. I love to know that my house is clean, and then when all of the crumbs are swept and the counters wiped, then I can rest. I love for things to be clean so that my house looks more appealing to me--that's when I can see all of my decorations and know that things are where they are meant to be. But if I let this to go to an extreme, ya know those days when things have been slipping and haven't been cleaned in a while and you go on a rampage to resurrect your clean home, that's when my stress seeps into other people's lives and makes everything miserable. If it's not bad enough that I'm stressed, try everyone being stressed at the same time. It's good for me to remember that the house doesn't have to be spotless all the time--I would drive myself insane trying to keep it that way. Instead, I need to do what I can to keep it hygiene friendly and pretty, and then let it go. I shouldn't lose sleep over it, and certainly not a hot bath.

9) Go for a walk. Sometimes I just need time to myself. Time to think things through in one breather. When the weather's nice, it's good to take a quiet walk alone--enjoy the scenery and absorb some Vitamin D--it's scientifically proven to help! When the weather isn't nice, there is always a good corner table in a coffee shop.

10) Set apart times that don't include work or other stress factors. I have found that if I don't schedule time to do fun things with my husband or to just relax, I'll keep going full-speed until I'm burned out--because of the list. I'm a list maker and daily planner type of person, so it helps me to write down everything I want to do each day including the fun things. In my mind it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something in doing that thing. And I am--I'm giving myself freedom to enjoy life and make memories, avoiding burn out in the process.

11) Implement purposeful things. Much like the Works of God journal, I strive to implement things into my decor that helps me to refocus and even smile. Flowers, even fake, make an windowless office seem less depressing and the chalkboard in my living room showcases scripture whenever I look at it. Those small things all help, even subconsciously.

12) Workout or even better, Yoga! I always feel so much better after a workout. Prior to a workout, I can justify mostly every reason to not workout based on what I need to get done that day. Consider a healthy benefit to schedule an hour for working out or stretching out with some Yoga. It's get the endorphins flowing, making you naturally feel better and more energetic. I always feel accomplished that I got to the gym and did something to stay fit.

13) Plan a small get-away. I say small because vacations in themselves can almost be more stressful than relaxing. A small get-away shouldn't involve a lot of planning, just jumping in the car for a day with a destination and some cash. Be spontaneous--it doesn't allow time for stress.

14) Treat yourself. I know that I've been pushing the "it's not about you" thing. And while that's true, it doesn't run yourself into the ground because you never take time to care for yourself. You're actually helping yourself by doing so. When I'm rejuvenated, I'm a lot friendlier, more optimistic, I care more, and I do better work--because I have more of myself to give. So go out and treat yourself to something special--not all the time, but once in a while when you need it, eat the triple-stacked ice cream cone, buy the pretty shoes, or see that movie you've been dying to see.

15) Find a friend who will listen. It's good to learn to be a listener, if you're not already. I'm a talker, and I strive to be more of a listener. In my opinion, I am typically more blessed by a listener rather than a talker. So be that person. But every now and again, it's good to have someone that you can trust that is willing to listen. Whenever I'm really stressed and caught up in my mind, I know the answers, but I need to talk it all out to someone (without interruption to correct me) to relieve my brain from harboring it all. Then that person can help me sort out what matters and what doesn't. Things go back into the brain organized and easier to process.

16) Stop thinking. My mind, maybe it's the spaghetti brain of a woman, can get overworked fast when I'm trying to multi-task and I begin to forget things or get overwhelmed by the amount of things in my brain. I'm afraid to stop thinking about them because I'm afraid I'll forget it all until I get the pen or to the next morning. However, I torment myself by constantly mulling over every thought. Have you ever looked at something so long that you can't even figure it out anymore? That's what I'm talking about. For me, I have to write it down or type it out, so that I can know it's jotted down for later and I can let my mind rest for the time being.

17) Drink more tea. In doing some research, I discovered that green tea--through it's Amino Acids, promotes relaxation. In fact there are several foods and drinks that do the same thing. Put some good food into your body to relieve the cravings and naturally relax yourself.

18) Stop holding yourself to your own standards. We should all have standards, don't get me wrong. But I have a tendency to be a perfectionist which kills me because I'm NOT PERFECT. I am continually learning that it's OK to not have a perfect everything and be a perfect someone. In fact, being imperfect is inspiring to me--because that's relatable, it's where we all are.

19) Be more like your man. Guys have a wonderful ability to think on one thing at a time. Most times I like that I can think through a million things in 5 seconds and put related concepts together--but guys don't get as stressed as woman for that reason. It can be overwhelming, in the mind of a woman. I'm learning to set my mind to one task at a time, not thinking of the 5 other things I should be doing while half-hardheartedly doing what's in front of me. Andrew is great at helping me to prioritize and focus.

20) Take Melatonin. My greatest battle is at night, when I begin to realize that everything that I did that day did not even put a dent in my to-do list--it can be depressing and overwhelming, right when I really need to sleep. Like I said before, it helps me to write everything down before I sleep. I get frequent migraines (from stress and physical problems), so I often sleep on a timed heating pad within my pillow--which helps the muscles in my head to relax. When I remember, I use my B&BW  pillow spray to make things smell good and relaxing. And sometimes, my husband is merciful in giving my a back rub with essential oils to work out the stress kinks. But my favorite, is Melatonin. One hour before bed, I pop the pill, and an hour later, my brain is shutting down so that I can go to sleep in a restful way.

21) Lighten the load. One thing that I have been learning the hard way is to SAY NO. I've always worked well with a full plate--but I'm learning that I don't have to be stressed and pulled in every direction to fulfill my lifetime "quota." I've always instinctively felt that if I say no to something, I'm failing because I can't juggle it all or I'll miss out on an opportunity. That's where the priorities come in--I have to learn what's truly important and what isn't. For instance, if a side-job comes up but threatens limited time with my husband or late nights to accomplish all of my other necessary tasks--then it's probably a no-go.

22) Stop comparing. I didn't initially add this, but my Mom left a comment on here that was spot on and it's important to note. A lot of to-do's and stress comes from comparison, the pressure to live up to everyone else's & society's standards. But the thing is, God made you who you are. Be proud of that, and live to the fullest of YOUR potential.

23) Throw away the list. The fact is, sometimes the list just isn't as important as other things. Sometimes the house is a wreck, sometimes we have to eat cereal for dinner, and sometimes we just have to stop and spend time with the people we love instead of accomplishing everything else. The point is, the dishes and laundry--they need to be done, but they have low priority in comparison to people and memories. My husband could care less if the laundry is folded or if the dishes are put away--but he definitely cares about whether or not I have time to snuggle on the couch or just listen to him talk about his day. The house and every material thing in it will not matter in eternity--it will be the farthest thing from our minds. But people--they matter. It would be unfortunate if I were to turn down an opportunity to encourage or spend time with a friend because of a dish.

Hope that helps! Leave some comments to share your ideas for de-stressing! 


  1. This was such a blessing, Cheryl! Felt like these are lessons God is continually teaching me but it was so good to read them and know that I'm not the only one! Thanks for your words!

  2. You are learning so much faster than I did! But I would like to add comparison. It added the most stress in my life, and my children's, through most of our homeschooling years. (I'm a slow learner.) Visiting someone else and seeing what all they have accomplished, how they decorated their home, what activities they were involved with, family relationships, etc. It took me a long, long time to accept that I am, and am becoming, who God wants me to be. He's molding me to be like Him. He doesn't want me to get my sights on friends and acquaintances who I think have it better. I am uniquely me, our family is wonderfully "us", our house is home and all are welcome. And might I add that my children are super spectacular, wonderful, and amazing!? (throw in some dogs and it's home, sweet, home)
    Cheryl, you are loved because you are you. You're creative, funny, sensitive, beautiful, and more. We love you beyond words. We're proud of who you are and who you are becoming. Throw the to-do list away and enjoy time with Andrew, relax and have fun (your allowed), spend time with friends at school and church. Yes, you need to have clean clothes and meals cooked. But in the end it won't matter if you served the meal on a perfectly set table or on paper plates. What matters is who you are with and that it is served with love. ...good grief that sounds sappy, but it's true. Wishing you were both here now. We could have a meal on our old, mismatched, chipped and discolored plates. And hug and laugh until our sides are hurting. <3

    1. Aw, Mom! You're making me tear up. You said it way better than I could in two paragraphs. :) I love you!