All posts tagged Stress

Working Mom’s Devotional: Three Stress-Management Tips From Mary

Working Mom's Devotional

 As we wrap up National Stress Awareness Month, working moms can learn a few lessons from Mary the mother of Jesus.  Can you imagine the stress involved in raising the Son of God? Mary arguably has the hardest job of any mother, and she gives us an amazing blueprint for stress management.  Here are three key lessons from her journey.

Lesson No. 1:  God Chooses the Assignment

Mary doesn’t “sign up” to be the mother of Jesus.  She likely plans to lead a quiet, simple life.  A life without drama and turmoil, married to a carpenter in a small town.  Clearly, Mary is going about her own business – even trying to fly under the radar — when God interrupts her plans. 

God, I didn’t sign up for this assignment!  Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mother.  I’ve always wanted a son.  But I didn’t sign up for this! 

Yet this isn’t Mary’s response. She may not understand, but she is willing. She just says “yes.”

“I am the Lord’s servant.” (Luke 1:38)

It’s really that simple.  God knows how and when to interrupt.  It’s usually when we least expect it.  Not only does he have impeccable timing, he has a specific child that he wants us to raise.  His tells Mary that she will have a son – a son that he knows by name and loves deeply.  A son that will change the face of history forever.

Like Mary, we don’t have to worry about the assignment.  God has a plan.

Lesson No. 2:  Ponder, Don’t Nag

The wonder of motherhood blows us away.  Yet we soon move beyond wonder to stress.  We feel the need to “nag” – to control our children and constantly intervene.

Again, Mary has much to teach us. This is a woman who ponders—she doesn’t push or nag.

It’s after the annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the feast, Mary and Joseph start to make the journey back home, assuming Jesus is traveling behind with relatives. They travel for a whole day until they realize he isn’t with them!

No doubt it’s a traumatic experience for Mary. So what does she do? Did she lock Jesus up? Did she forbid him to ever leave home again?

To the extent Mary wants to be in control, she must let go. To the extent she wants to worry, she must relinquish. Luke chapter 2, tells us two things: (1) she “did not understand” Jesus’ actions (v. 50) and (2) she “treasured all these things in her heart” (v. 51).

In other words, she doesn’t freak out, even though she lacks understanding about her son. And while she ponders things deeply, she doesn’t overreact.

Lesson No. 3:  Learning to Let Go

Mary teaches us the hardest lesson of all – we must let go our children.  Again and again.

When Mary says yes to God, she is letting go of every plan she ever had about her future. She quickly learns that hanging on to Jesus—the very thing that Mary wants and needs to do—is the one thing she can’t do. Ever since Jesus was a boy, she has practiced letting go.

Mary shows us that letting go doesn’t mean giving up our influence. In fact, it frequently involves exerting our influence over our children. Notice how she quietly yet firmly nudges Jesus to perform his first miracle.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  (John 2: 3-5) 

Mary is so subtle that it’s easy to miss her action. She has known for years that Jesus is no ordinary son—for thirty years. She has held Jesus in her arms and watched him grow. She has watched him toil in a carpenter shop. She has seen God at work to mold him into a man. And she can now see that Jesus is ready.

Mary shows us that more often than not, parenting involves putting aside our own agenda.

Yet in letting go – and letting God have control – we take the burden off of our shoulders and place it where it belongs – on God’s shoulders. 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest….For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28,30)

God, thank you that we don’t have to be consumed by stress and worry.  Thank you that you choose the assignment and give us he privilege of raising our children.  Like Mary, we pray that we would learn how to let go.  Help us to stop stressing and start blessing.   

How does Mary teach you to manage stress and worry?

Overcoming Negative Thoughts And Worry: It’s Time To Take Control!

 What holds your happiness hostage?  For many of us, worry and negative thoughts are at the top of the list. 

Whether we’re worried about being a good parent, the family finances, or our performance at work, worry can downright consume us and rob our happiness.  And since this is National Stress Awareness Month, let’s not forget that worry and stress are completely connected.  Research shows that worry and stress are leading causes to both physical and psychological illness.

So what’s the solution? 

Powered By Happy provides some amazing wisdom.  Chapter Three, Avoid What Holds Your Happiness Hostage:  Minimizing Worry and Negative Thoughts, is my favorite chapter.  Importantly, Thomas doesn’t minimize stress and worry.  Instead, she challenges us to do something about it!  Here are some of my favorite tips.

Tip #1 – Identify What Worries You Most

Thomas challenges us to write it down – to answer the question what worries you most?  It’s a simple but necessary step to overcoming stress – defining the root of the problem. 

For example, Thomas suggests writing down everything that worries us for one week.  “Get some three-by-five-inch index cards, and every time a worry pops into your head, write it on a card.” (p. 51)

At the end of a week, you may discovery that your worries have been in vain – or even a waste of time.  Or you may discover a reoccurring theme – an area of your life that is causing you most stress, or a constant worry that you can’t seem to let go. 

In any event, you’ll be better informed to tackle negative thoughts and worry if you identify the source. 

Tip #2 – Confront Worry With Action

Once we identify what worries us most, we’re ready to take action. 

Take your top 5 worries.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Is the solution within your control?  Regardless of the outcome, what are some positive steps you can take to address the concern?

For example, if you’re financially strapped, you can take steps toward adjusting your budget, paying off debt, or increasing your earning potential.   While a solution may not be quick or easy, we can do our part to affect what we control and at the same time accept what we can’t control.  By writing down the “worst case scenario” plus our action steps, we confront worry with action.

I firmly believe that inaction breeds worry.  An idle mind breeds fret and discontent.  Have you ever noticed that the stress before starting a new project at work or the anticipation of a tough personal situation is often worse than the situation itself?

Tip #3 – Separate Fact From Fiction

The imagination is a powerful thing.  Most of us spend too much time worrying about things that never happen.  In fact, we invent stories in our minds based upon “what if’s” and work ourselves into a frenzy.

Thomas tells a powerful story about a situation at work where her imagination ran wild.  Basically, once she sent her boss a project, she felt insecure the next time she saw him.  She interpreted his actions as dismissive and thought to herself, he must hate the project!  It was terrible!  After spending months worrying about the project, she later learned that he hadn’t even reviewed the project  — he had forgotten all about it altogether.

In other words, we impute our negative thoughts and imagination onto the motives and words of others.  Most of the time, other people are not thinking about us in the first place!

I found this tip to be the most powerful in the entire chapter.  Don’t worry about what you don’t know.  Stop basing worry on imagination instead of the truth. 

Tip #4 – Take Control With A Baby Step

While these tips are all helpful, we’re not going to be able to stop worrying overnight.  What if we took the next 24 hours and committed to take every negative thought and worry captive?  To turn those worries over to God as we sort out the next step? 

Other baby steps include making your “worry” list or planning a favorite activity to de-stress this week. 

So, what worries you most?  What tip do you find most helpful as you tackle worry and stress? 

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Join us next week as we continue discussing Powered By Happy, Chapters 4 and 5.

Working Mom’s Devotional: How Does Stress Affect Your Family?

Pose in yoga

On a Friday night, I came home from work more stressed than usual.  And my 6th-grade son noticed.  Later that same evening, he came to me with some words of “wisdom”:

“Mom, I was looking on the internet.  You can sue your employer for giving you too much stress.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I went on to explain to him that internet solutions usually have their limitations. 

“I’m not an employee Nick.  I’m a partner in a law firm, so I would be suing myself!” 

He wasn’t convinced.  Not that I blame him. When you’re 12 years old and you see your mother struggling, you want to help.

Nick’s words caused me to think deeply about a bigger issue. 

Are my words stressing my family or blessing my family?  Last week we talked about blessing our children.  But we also need to consider whether we’re feeding stress.

April is National Stress Awareness Month.  I love this timely article in the Huntington Post – it cites a number of ways to reduce stress, such as yoga, eating chocolate, and taking your dog to work (not an option for most of us)!   Did you know that calling your mother is a proven way to reduce stress?  I’m not making this up.  Studies show that young girls who talked to their mothers on the phone after completing stressful tasks had decreased cortisol (the stress hormone) in their saliva, and increased oxytocin levels (the bonding hormone).  The brain actually de-stresses when “mom” is called.  This explains why grown women still want (and need) to call their mothers on a regular basis; it also explains why my 7-year-old screams “MOM” at the top of her lungs and constantly calls me at work when I’m not in earshot.

Simply put, moms are designed to have a calming force on our families.  Which brings me back to stress.   I don’t want my children to carry my stress.  Life becomes complicated soon enough.  My middle-schooler is already worried about taking the right “college prep” courses in 7th grade, and my fourth-grader is spending her spare time trying to understand decimals.  The last thing they need is more stress.

I want to be that mom that sets of a release of oxytocin in the brain every time my children call.   Don’t you?

So never worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:34)

God, please help us as we deal with our stress at home and at work.  There is too much to manage and too much to carry alone.  Forgive us for constantly worrying about tomorrow. Give us the strength to face today with confidence and the grace to put tomorrow in your hands. 

 

Powered By Happy: What’s Your Definition of Happiness?

Smiley-happy

Most of us are striving to be happy in our jobs.  Yet some 75% of Americans are not happy at work. 

Instead, we’re grumpy, overwhelmed, and altogether stressed out.  We don’t just live with a happiness void, we carry the disease of dissatisfaction.  A serious epidemic!

What’s the problem?

In Powered By Happy, a revolutionary yet simple book by executive Beth Thomas, Thomas challenges us to stop whining and start making our own happiness.

Where do we start?  Create your own definition of happiness. 

For example, Thomas encourages us to change our view of what it means to “have it all” and stop allowing other people to define our happiness.

Pretty simple, yet powerful stuff. 

What does your definition of happiness look like?

This answer can and should be different for each of us. As a business executive who reached the top with small children, Thomas actually changed her definition of happiness after she landed her “dream job.”   The result?  She quit a job that required her to constantly travel during a time when her young children needed her at home.  (And, yes, she kept working.)

Does this mean no working mother of small children should travel?  Of course not.  But it does mean that intelligent women can stop living by someone else’s definition of “success.”  Women are so busy trying to “have it all” that we forget to stop and define what it means.  Some of us are chasing a definition of happiness that we never signed up for.  It’s time to be intentional about happiness – both personally and professionally. 

I am not suggesting we pretend that everything is “fine” and put on a happy face.  If our definition of happiness is the absence of pain, we will be sorely disappointed.  As Thomas notes, it’s easy for a mother to say, “I just want my kids to be happy so I can be happy.” 

Been there.  Done that.  Not a bad motivation.  But it sets us up for disappointment when our definition of happiness is dependent on someone else’s response to our actions – or when we define happiness strictly through the happiness of others.

We’ll be talking more about the power to choose happiness next week.   To start, consider your own definition of happiness. 

Don’t overthink it.  Write down the first thing that comes to mind, and keep it simple.  As I read Powered By Happy, I jotted down the following happiness definition:

“Being fully engaged at home, work, and community to love people and love God and to eat dark chocolate and drink red wine in the process.”

What’s your happiness definition?  Have you ever written it down? 

Ready to get happy at work?  Grab a copy of Powered By Happy:  How To Get And Stay Happy At Work and join me next week for Chapter Two!

Working Mom’s Devotional: Slowing Down With Sick Kids

Working Mom's Devotional

Nothing disrupts work like a sick kid.   Of course, it always happens during the worst possible week.  When I am traveling.  When I am too busy to stay at home.  When I am maxed out.

Enter bronchitis. 

My first-grader, Abby, has been coughing for two weeks.  She’s been trying to tell me she’s sick, but I’ve insisted otherwise.

“Honey, it’s just a cold.  Just drink some water and go to bed early tonight.”

In other words, You can’t be sick right now!  We are all too busy.  Who is going to stay home from school with you?

So I try to convince her she’s not sick.  But she’s not buying it.

“No. Mom, I’m serious.  There’s this frog in my throat.  The nurse says I should get it checked out.”

Did she say “the nurse”? 

Yes, we got the call.  Or should I say my husband got the call.  I was away on business.  (My timing is always impeccable.)

So I rushed home as soon as I could.  I clawed my way onto a full flight by giving them the “working mom” sob story.  And now I’m rearranging my day so that I can take care of her, work from home, and alleviate my guilt.

(Have I mentioned that I’m really afraid of the school nurse?  Ever since she caught me sending Nick to school with a fever in second grade,  she’s got my number.)

Yet deep down, I know that taking care of my daughter is exactly what I want to be doing today.  What I need to be doing.  Because as much as I hate it when my kids are sick,  it forces me to slow down.  To be still.  To stop and to be. 

We sit on the couch and read her favorite book.  She begs me to read another.  I turn off my phone and feed her ice cream.  With one hand on my laptop, I stroke her hair with my other hand.

Part of me feels guilty for doing “nothing.”  I am so preoccupied with being productive that it’s hard – I mean really hard – to watch cartoons and re-read the same books over and over again.  So I  turn my phone back on.  I even take a few calls.  But I don’t mute her coughing or worry about the background noise.  Because today, my most important job is being with her.  Being a mom.  Even forgetting I am a busy, stressed-out lawyer with whacked-out priorities and too many deadlines.

I hear the words of a prophet from the 7th Century BC. 

Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? (Jeremiah 2:25) (The Message)

I need to take that deep breath.  To thank God for this day.

God, thank you for using a sick child to put my life in perspective.  Thank you for slowing me down.  For showing me that the temporary things that I am chasing do not compare to the gift of my daughter.  And please help Abby to get well soon. 

Has God ever used a sick kid to slow you down?