I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
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In conjunction with this week’s SS lesson on Stress, here is my top ten list of
The Top Ten Ways I Avoid Stress and Live a Productive Life
10. Make Life as simple as you can. Avoid clutter. Every few months I go through my apartment just looking for things to throw away or give away. I do the same with my life. My life is simple. I am not embarrassed by being a simple person living a simple life. Life was never meant to be complicated. It is complicated because of sin, not by God’s design. The closer we get to God’s design the more simple and happy life becomes. When I was a kid I walked into Taco Bell and there were 9 items on the menu. That was great! I bought the bean burrito. Now I walk into Taco Bell and there are over 50 menu items and I buy the bean burrito. Today Their menu board looks cluttered and confusing. Why does Taco Bell make life complicated for no reason? Why do people make their lives complicated for no reason? I have seen so many people stress themselves out doing needles projects, and then look at me like I am lazy for not helping them out. I am not lazy, I just don’t think your daughter really needs a $7,000 sweet sixteen birthday party, so forgive me for not helping you put it together. Take her to Taco Bell and buy her a bean burrito, and say, “Happy Birthday!”
9. Have a planned daily routine. I cannot tell you how important this is. When I first started working at UPS I had to get up at 2am to get to work by 3am. It changed my whole life. In orientation class at UPS they told us, in order to cope with these strange work hours we had to have a planned daily routine, not just at work but all day long. Once I got into a planned daily routine, life got so much easier and working at one of the most stressful jobs during the most stressful hours became fun and enjoyable. I actually miss it!
8. Exercise! If you have a desk job, you will think so much more clearly if you exercise your whole body. Exercise clears the brain so you can think and study better. It makes life more balanced and healthy. I used to obsess about things a lot. Now that I have taken up golf in the last few years, instead of stressing and obsessing, I go play a round of golf and come back to work with a clear mind, and emotionally balanced attitude.
7. Music. I am not a musician. I do love to listen to music though. In the car I have to have more lively music, but while working on my computer I have to have classical music. I was never into classical music until about 11 years ago when I got a computer. The music with lyrics distracted me from what I was reading or writing, but classical music, for the most part, does not have lyrics so it worked out great. Now I have several classical CDs and attend symphony and orchestra concerts. Music keeps me from being stressed. I remember years ago, while working as a Bible Worker in the Weatherford Seventh-day Adventist church, I would be having a stressful day. I would stop by the church office for something, and if nobody was around, I would go into the sanctuary, go to hymn number 86, “How Great Thou Art,” and sing my heart out so loud it raised the roof. Then I felt much better and went about the rest of my day with a renewed attitude.
6. Write. Keep a journal to record your thoughts. Start a blog. There is therapy in writing. I have no way to prove this, but I also believe there is emotional therapy in writing your feelings out by hand instead of typing. The important thing is to write. I kept a journal in my teens. I look back and read it now and discover things about myself that I did not see at the time. I even look back and see clues as to why I annoyed certain people even though I could not figure it out at the time. When I first moved to Texas, before laptops and cell phone texting, I would go into restaurants with pad and paper and write letters back home while I ate. Then I made friends where I was at, and went to eat with them, and stopped writing letters back home. I miss that. Even today I will occasionally leave my laptop at home and go to a nice restaurant and write a hand written letter back home.
5. Don’t take yourself seriously. Laugh at yourself. A while back someone insulted me in public and I was very offended the person insulting me said what they did in front of everybody. Later, while talking to some of the people within earshot of the insult, I realized they did not even hear what the person said. They were not paying attention, and had other things on their mind. The only person who remembered it was me. I wonder how many times I have been stressed out from embarrassing situations that are recorded in my brain and nowhere else. I have learned not to be so intense. Some insults that I have taken to heart in the past, I found out later where not given as intensely as I took them. Being melancholy, I think everything has to be perfect. I have realized, that being a perfectionist is a flaw. I don’t need to stress because of the small dent on my new car. I don’t need to stress because of a little dust on my bookshelf. I don’t need to stress because a friend is a little upset with me. Relationships, like everything else, don’t have to be perfect in order to be absolutely wonderful.
4. Set goals, but don’t cut your wrists if your goals are not met. Have a minimum and maximum goal within reason. For example, as a Bible Worker, I have a goal of how many people I want to contact every day. Some days I can contact 40 or more people. Some days I can only find 10. So 10 is my minimum goal which I can live with while I try for 40 or more. Some days, I get a phone call from a Bible student who is struggling with something, and I take the day and just hang out with them, encouraging them. That is okay too. My goal was not met, but I am not cutting my wrists over it. That would freak my Bible student out!
3. Pace yourself. Take time to relax. Sometimes I will be working on a Seminar presentation or sermon and I get a mental block. I put down my laptop and take a walk. I relax my brain, and then the ideas for my presentation or sermon just start popping into my head. Sometimes my best ideas come on my day off while I am relaxing and reading or praying.
2. Remember all stress is relative. During the 1998 home run record chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark Mcgwire, I believe it was Sammy Sosa who was asked how he was handling the stress of chasing the home run record. He responded, “This is not stress. Having no food on the table is stress.” Last year, after the Tampa Bay Rays lost a close game, radio announcer Andy Freed refused to call the game a “heartbreaking loss.” He said “having a child in ICU at All Children’s Hospital is heartbreaking! This is just a game.” While a little stress is good as it keeps us shooting for our goals, remember it’s all relative. Some things need to stress us out but not everything. What will it matter ten years from now or even next week? Several years ago I was working in the church office as an office administrator as well as Bible Worker. There was an older man who could come into my office and talk my ear off while I was thinking about all the things I needed be getting done. He was a dear man, very close to Christ. He would tell me stories, while I would fret about getting all of my work done. A few years later, while sitting at his funeral, I asked myself, Was I really all that busy?
1. Prayer and Bible study. Jesus accomplished so much that John says the world could not hold the books that would be written if everything He had done was written down. Still, He spent long hours in communion with His heavenly Father. Before we can live like Jesus, we must pray like Jesus. His life was spent between the mountain and the multitude. We can’t expect to accomplish all He accomplished without praying like He prayed. I talk with people who tell me they are too busy to study and pray. Life is just too busy, they say. I say, if life gets too stressful and busy for prayer and Bible study then forget life! I won’t live without my time with Jesus! If life gets so hectic that I don’t have time to spend with Jesus, then life has just defeated its own purpose! My life has no purpose without God, so why would I let life make me so busy I have no time for Him? You can accomplish so much more in life, after you spend time with God and leave your stress with Him, than you can by ignoring Him and carrying all that stress yourself.