The Super Surprising Source of Your Stress
Stress isn’t a bad thing. A certain amount of pressure is actually beneficial. Too much stress for too long – that’s costly. That’s when stress is no longer your friend.
The question is, do you know what that beneficial amount of stress is?
Contributing to a steady state of too much stress is the notion that being busy and doing, doing, doing translates into a successful life or that it increases your value.
You may also believe that the converse is true – if you aren’t busy, you are a failure, unimportant, even pathetic. That’s just not true.
As a son or daughter of the King, you are incredibly valuable because of whose you are. He is tickled to see the ways you reflect Him and delighted when you depend on Him. There isn’t anything you can do to entice Him to love you more, because He already loves and adores you to the full! And when you know you are truly loved, oh how it changes everything!
Yet you are not only loved by the King, He is your provider – the source of everything. When you fully believe that, you are free to rest. And the Father’s desire for you is that you would practice a regular rhythm of work and rest because He knows that’s when you will truly flourish in your life.
When you ask the obligatory question, “How are you?” it’s typical to get “busy” or “stressed.”
Imagine if the response was “relaxed”, “content” or even “blessed.”
I know firsthand that relaxing often feels uncomfortable, maybe even a little anxiety producing, if you’ve been running yourself ragged. The idea of doing nothing may evoke guilt – imagine what you could be getting done instead!
Yet Jesus invites us to rest, to stop doing, doing, doing, and rest.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-33 (NLT)
In spite of God’s strong urging to work AND rest, you keep yourself in perpetual motion, taking on too much and keeping your schedule packed. The result: stress! Maybe even a stress addiction.
Addiction is a method of coping, and being addicted to stress is no different. While it lulls a you into thinking that it’s making you feel better, it always makes you feel worse.
The role of an addiction is to numb pain, loneliness, insecurity, fear, and other feelings you would rather not feel. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to you that you keep yourself in a perpetual state of motion and stress for that reason. Unfortunately, like most addictions, prolonged periods of stress take a toll on your health and quality of life!
A life in perpetual motion is more than you were intended to bear. Learning to rest and relax is like exercising a whole new muscle! It’s a process that requires discipline and consistency like developing any new muscles does.
And it requires you to trust God to multiply your small efforts into something much bigger!
Dealing with your stress problem starts with addressing the muscle in your head – you know, the thinking and beliefs that are at the source of your stress. Consider how you might be contributing to your stress by…
1. Believing Your Fear Monster
Your worst nightmare is that the lie your Fear Monster is whispering to you is true. As a result, you go to great lengths to prove that your Fear Monster wrong.
My Fear Monster: “I don’t matter.” In the past, I’ve attempted to matter more by taking on too much and focusing on being ultra-productive.
That strategy actually prevented me from “being” and enjoying life, and I didn’t even realize it. I was l frazzled and stressed – addicted to stress. And it eventually wore me out, weakened my immune system, and made me vulnerable. Then I contracted Lyme disease and was forced to slow down in a dramatic way!
While it might not seem like it, Lyme disease was a huge blessing! A big turning point for me. When you don’t have much energy, there’s plenty of time to think and to step back and consider your life. That season taught me the value of rest, of being, and that there were all sorts of joy-filled activities that I’d been missing out on.
And Guess What?
No amount of endless doing will actually make me matter more, so my ruthless efforts were a waste of time! The truth is that I’m already incredibly valuable to the One who matters most, and those in my life appreciate me more when I’m relaxed and present with them.
I don’t know what your Fear Monster is, but perhaps you recognize the efforts you are making to prove your Fear Monster wrong:
- I don’t matter – If I do more and more, I will matter more.
- I am not enough – If I do more, and try harder, I will be enough.
- I am selfish – If I overlook myself and do more and more to help others, then I will be selfless.
- I am stupid – If I do more and more it will prove how smart I am.
- I am invisible – If I work hard and do more than people will notice me.
- I am lazy – If I perpetually work it will prove how hard-working I am.
- I am rejected – If I work harder and do more, then I’ll be accepted.
- I am a fake – If I do more and try harder then, I’ll prove genuine I am.
- I am weak – If I do more and more, then others will see me as strong.
- I am incompetent – If I do more and more, I will be viewed as competent.
- I am ordinary – If I do more and more, I will be extraordinary.
- I am a loser – If I do more and more, I will be successful.
- I am _______________ – Fill in the blank.
Here’s the deal, your Fear Monster is not your friend. And trying to prove him wrong never works! In fact, the more you try to prove him wrong, the more you feel that feeling!
How might your Fear Monster be perpetuating your stressful way of life?
Curious about the remedy to your Fear Monster? Learn more here.
2. Having A Victim Mindset
Contrary to what you might think, stress is not something that happens to you. You don’t experience stress because of your circumstances, you experience stress because of the way you perceive your circumstances and the way you choose to respond to them.
If you want a more relaxed life, take responsibility for your thinking and your responses to the external changes and challenges of life. Creating a more relaxed life is your job! You set and maintain your boundaries and choose whether or not you trust God. You decide what to take on and what to let go of.
Swimming upstream – that takes effort! In a performance driven culture like ours, saying “no” to more and carving out time to rest is not the norm, but I dare you to be different!
3. Not Tolerating Discomfort
Not long ago, as I sat in the waiting area for a massage, I glanced around the room. Everyone was glued to their phones. It was a perfect example of how uncomfortable people are when they have nothing to do and how “just being” is hard!
After being under stress for prolonged periods of time, incorporating more relaxation into your life or just being feels a bit wonky! It’s a muscle that has been underutilized, so feeling a bit of discomfort when you go to use it is to be expected! I assure you, it’s a temporary feeling.
How well do you handle discomfort? Once you push past it, you won’t regret that you made the effort to strengthen that muscle! And as relaxing feels less awkward, you will begin to feel calmer. Your energy will surge. You will feel more creative and peaceful – all changes that the people around you will notice and greatly appreciate. Best of all, your stress levels will decrease and you will wonder why you didn’t make the changes sooner!
You are the source of your own stress. You are also the solution. That’s good news! While you can’t change many of your circumstances, you do have the ability to manage how handle them going forward.
You did not arrive at this level of stress overnight, and you won’t eliminate it overnight either! Give yourself time to gradually eliminate the “extra” and to work on the thinking and beliefs that led to a life brimming with stress in the first place.
A more balanced lifestyle happens because of the daily choices you make, so ask yourself these questions:
- What’s most important today?
- How will I accomplish what’s most important today in a stress-free way?
- What would it look like if I really trusted God today?
- How will I slow down and rest today?
You are the solution! What will you begin doing to minimize the stress in your life?