This post was originally published on FaithGateway here on January 6, 2014.
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Hola! This week two darling girlfriends whisked me away to beautiful Mexico along the Sea of Cortez! A lovely surprise!
A second surprise came once we got here to this gorgeous resort out in the boondocks of Baja and the internet went completely down — no phone, no email, no texting — because someone in the tiny town 30 minutes away crashed into the one pole that knocked out service for everyone for 75 miles. No biggie, except that it never came back up completely.
All of which left me wondering, “How am I going to get the Daniel Plan update done?” I’d assumed my girlfriends and I would sit poolside or on the beach for three days straight and I’d have lots of time to think, pray, research, and write in front of a gorgeous view of palm trees and blue ocean. I thought, “OK, I’m not the first human to be out in the middle of magnificently gorgeous nowheresville without internet but needing to get work done online” but no solution presented itself. It turns out there was plenty of time for thinking and praying, but, I was left with a pen and notepad for heaven’s sake preparing to fax this in to Jaime, my editor! Talk about hilarious yet stressful!
I’ve had to repeatedly remind myself not to overreact (panic) and not to stress about something I have no control over. Then, after two days of not being able to get online, the power went out, too... Yes, it really did. Baja without limited electricity (only emergency lights from the generator), with a deadline, and non-functioning internet es no bueno. I could feel myself wanting to traipse into familiar old territory, a mode I call “FREAKING OUT”.
After a while it occurred to me what I’ve been writing about… Stress! Oh, the irony!
My delightful notes said cheery things like:
- Don’t worry about it — Pray about it!
- “The first step in change is usually discomfort.” — Rick Warren
- Ephesians 3:20 says God can do absolutely anything, way more than anything I can ask or even imagine — so why stress?
- I only have control over what I choose to do. Nothing else. — God is in control of my circumstances.
- God is always, always good — Fling yourself into prayer and trust in Him.
- God uses circumstances to change me. He will use it ALL for good if I cooperate! (p57)
- What you think determines the way you feel. What you feel determines the way you act.
- Psalm 1:1-3 Meditate on the Word. Instead of chewing on troubles, chew on the Word!
- Biblical meditation is truth digestion!
- You know your wheelhouse is Control Freak — Expect troubles and say, “With God’s help, I am unflappable. I hardly ever get upset about anything.”
I know. That last one made me snort-laugh today.
Look to the world and you will be distressed, look within and you will be depressed, but look to Christ and you will be at rest. — Corrie Ten Boom
Stress! In The Daniel Plan, one of the examples that really stuck with me was the a million dollar racehorse analogy. You’d never make an investment like that and then just feed it junk and stick it in a stall never training it. You’d never over-stress it damaging it that way either. You’d keep this beautiful animal in tip-top condition, hire the best trainers, and offer the best food. You’d take excellent care of it, right? Our bodies are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) and it’s practically a crime to damage it with garbage food, sedentary living, too little sleep, too much stress, and general failure to take care of it. WOW, that hits home for me! I never realized how much I must have offended the Lord by taking such poor care of my body and living under chronic (sometimes self-imposed) stress!
I remember seeing a stress test in Reader’s Digest several years ago (similar to the short list on page 186) and realizing as I read it that I was mentally checking “yes, yes, yes, yes” to nearly every one of the top stressors you might experience in a five year span, both the bad stressors and the good stressors. Supposedly, if you had more than five you were at risk for a heart attack or death! Not good news for me...
- Financial strain — yes
- Family struggles — yes
- Change in friendships — yes
- Marital separation — yes
- Problems with children — yes
- Church issues — yes
- Having a child leave the home — yes, times 2
- Business failure — yes
- Birth of a child — yes
- Adoption of a child — yes
- International travel — yes
- Moving — yes, times 2
- Change in school — yes, times 3
- Legal issues — yes
Sound familiar to you? I used to feel like my life was a runaway train. That’s not good stress, my friends! Here’s the thing: bad stress or good stress — It’s still stress! A certain amount of stress is necessary and healthy (p187), but after a point, it leads to serious health issues, namely BRAIN issues!
You can have solid faith, healthy food choices, and plenty of exercise and still sabotage your health. The potential saboteur? Your brain. Your mental health is vital for your overall health. Negative thoughts, positive thoughts, or lack of thought can consume you. Depending on which one consumes the most of your mind, you could make or break your health before you even get started. Whatever gets the most of your mind’s attention will direct many other areas of your life. When your brain works right, you work right. When your brain is healthy, your ability to focus increases and you make better decisions. (The Daniel Plan, p39)
After at least a decade of over-the-top chronic stress, which led to depression, and 4-5 years of daily really, really bad stress, I can tell you my brain was toast. I remember after separating from my husband getting into the car to go to the grocery store and I honest-to-goodness couldn’t decide: 1) which store to go to, or 2) which way to drive there. You’ve heard people joke that when the kids are with a babysitter they don’t know what to do with themselves, right? When I got a break from my kids, I literally didn’t now what to do with myself. I’ve sat in a parking lot for an hour trying to decide what I needed or wanted to do. Remember when you were a kid and you’d eat your ice cream too fast and you’d get a brain freeze? Yeeeowch! This was total brain freeze.
I called it walking into walls. My brain just didn’t work the way it was supposed to. I wrote a note and stuck it on my bedside table that said:
- Get out of bed
- Get in the Word
- Take a shower
- Eat real food
- Do something for someone else
- Go to bed at a decent hour
I needed this note because otherwise I’d just walk into walls.
I remember saying, “I can’t brain anymore. I have no braining left.”
It's important to remember: My thoughts are mine! They’re not the boss of me! I can mull on something scary or negative like a champ, but doing so hurts me and those around me. If something negative is going on, instead of chewing on it for days, weeks, and months (or years!), pray about it and then choose to replace that thought with others. Seriously, think about something else.
Don’t worry more than you pray.
Page 190 of The Daniel Plan lists some common signs and symptoms of stress. I checked off almost all of them as symptoms I’ve either struggled with in the past or still do. I didn’t see whining, or needing excessive amounts of Perrier, or obsessing over Downton Abbey on the list, but otherwise I was totally tracking. Understanding those will help you understand why you need to get healthy.
When I was younger, I definitely wanted to be healthy to feel better and look prettier/sexier for my husband (The Daniel Plan p187), but my motivation now is much more about a longer, more productive life, and to be able to do everything God has for me to do. Looking great is hopefully a happy bonus byproduct! Reducing stress isn't just the byproduct of health, it's part of the process of getting there!
What are some of the ways you reduce your stress-level?
Read the rest of this article here!
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Dear Lord, I love You. Thank You, Jesus, for the wonderful grace you show for me when I don’t take care of myself the way I should, since my body is Your temple. Thank You for having mercy on me when I “flipando” and worry instead of trusting You fully. Help me to fully rely on You, God, and to encourage those around me to let go of stress and let You be God. I can’t do anything in my own strength. I’ll fail. But, with Your help, I can be transformed from the inside out and learn to live differently, cooperating with You no matter what my circumstances. I’m Yours, God. Thanks for never letting me remain as I am, but continuing to work on me. Help me to be flexible to Your ways of changing me. I love You. Amen.
Join the Conversation
Are you stressing out? Do you relate with freaking out instead of trusting God for the solution? Please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you! My Daniel Plan buddies, how are you doing? If you haven’t already, join me! Be sure to let me know you’re getting Daniel Strong! I’ll be a cheerleader!
Also, don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I’m posting updates on food, exercise, and progress! Your encouragement helps and I’d love to be an encouragement to you as well!