I had a couple of minutes to burn this week while waiting for a child’s activity to finish, so I grabbed my Reader’s Digest magazine out of the stack of mail I had just pulled out of my mailbox. I looked forward to some sensible reading and was particularly drawn to an article that promised I could become stress free in 10 minutes. It was the snappy headline that caught my eyes: “Seven ways to chill out and recharge.”
Thinking that chillin’ and rechargin’ sounded like a plan, I looked forward to gleaning some helpful strategies that might prepare me for tasks yet to be accomplished that evening. It had been a full day and my “To Do” list was not completed. There was dinner to prepare, laundry to fold, phone calls to return, and e-mail to answer. Most of all, I wanted to remain on task and keep my good humor intact.
The Reader’s Digest answer to battling stress looked promising. According to writer Peter Jeret, 10 stress-free minutes a day — routinely planned and carried out — will help any one of us hit the trail with greater comfort. I learned that anyone can chill out by:
• Doing nothing. Spend five or 10 minutes a day sitting quietly, focusing on environmental sounds, emotions, or the tension in your neck. Hummmn.
• Laughing out loud. Carry around a collection of funnies or think about a favorite sitcom to prompt that old giggle.
• Tuning in. When facing a task, people should consider playing soothing music that might include classical, country, or jazz selections.
• Thinking happy thoughts. Focus on something or someone that provides happiness for as brief as 15 seconds or as long as five minutes.
• Hitting the trail. Get up and move. Take a 10-minute walk.
• Breathing easy. For five minutes, slow down your breathing to a rate of six deep-belly breaths a minute.
• Rising relaxed. Right before bed and after a morning alarm goes off, we should focus on taking five minutes to relax.
Do you believe these claims? Can you incorporate such activities into your life? I can and do, just like my friends, family members, and coworkers. I am the catnap queen and can easily take a quick snooze between activities. I listen to music on a regular basis and walk many mornings before work. I shoot short, direct prayers to heaven regularly throughout the day and contribute to environmental ambiance by lighting candles, especially at night. Oh, I’m there. But because stress can still be a bear that occasionally attacks me as I hike down the trails of life, I respond to these seven strategies the same way I react to the notion that if the bear continues to attack, I am best served by telling him a joke, tuning him out with a pair of headsets, or ignoring him altogether.
I want that bear off my back and I know I must grab a trailhead map and make some significant directional changes if I want to enjoy this long hike we call modern life.
Rick Warren, author of the mega bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life,” writes that knowing God’s purpose for creating you will reduce your stress, focus your energy, and simplify your decisions.
If you are willing to take a good hard look at your calendar, in addition to the multitude of activities that never get recorded, how many motivating factors might you be able to identify? How many of your commitments are driven by guilt? Anger? A desire for increased wealth so life will seem easier? The need for approval?
According to Warren, if we learn how to live a purpose-driven life, one that is directed and guided by God, gone will be the stress caused by those nagging, private worries that our lives feel trivial, boring, pointless and annoying. In fact, a purpose-driven life produces five main benefits and counteracts much of our modern-day stresses:
• We will feel empowered to create deep, meaningful lives.
• Our lives will be simplified because they are more focused.
• We will be able to avoid aimless distractions because we own a clarified vision of what we need to be doing each day.
• We will discover new motivations, passion, and energy.
• We will learn how to build an eternal legacy.
There are many forces, outside our control, that cause upset and worry. But we can counteract those uncontrollable stresses by asking God to make His presence known, stay clearly in control, and love us deeply. By accepting the idea that our experiences can define our strengths and character and give us vision for a purpose-driven life, we can pull those bears called stress off our backs and place our feet on alternate paths — laden with hope.