5 Ways You Are Dealing with Stress Wrong and What to Do Instead

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You know the feeling, those moments of panic that happen throughout the day–they wash over you like a fever. You start to feel the pit in your stomach, your lungs become heavier in your chest and, if you are blessed with anxiety like mine, your bladder becomes a nagging companion every 5 minutes. Anxiety is a @!(#@*.

I have struggled with this for years, reading article after article and trying thing after thing to relieve the unwelcome accomplices of stress in my life. We all deal with stress in one way or another, good or bad. Here are some ways that you might be trying to cope with stress (in no particular order) and some alternative suggestions to help you overcome stress instead of letting it overcome you.

1. You are binging on Netflix (escapism)
Now hold on a moment, don’t panic. I am not telling you to cancel your Netflix subscription or sell your firstborn child. As far as I am concerned Netflix is close to greatest thing since the sliced bread. However, I have noticed an unhealthy cycle in which, when I am stressed and the shadow of my To Do List is looming, I use the escape of a TV show to calm my overwhelming nerves. But in the long run, I neglect my responsibilities and that just leaves me with more guilt and stress to deal with.

Instead: tackle a task and reward yourself

I have found that tackling something on my To Do List actually gives me more of a stress relief than ignoring it. Start with something easy–organize your day planner, do the dishes, do an easy assignment, etc. This will give you the confidence to tackle the giants in your life, and then reward you with something that is enjoyable but won’t distract you too much. Save Netflix for Friday night! (Or, watch it only when you are tackling easy tasks like dishes.)

2. You are over sleeping or not getting enough sleep
Sometimes the sheer weight of the day greets me in the morning and all I want to do is stay in bed and sleep until my problems go away. Or other times keep myself busy until the early mornings trying to convince myself that I am being productive.

Instead: adopt a routine

Find a comfortable routine that gets you out of bed even when you don’t want to. Include exercise in your routine (!!!). I can’t stress this enough. If you can make time for facebook, you can make time for a 30 minute walk outside (Vitamin D!). You are probably thinking I look like a hypocrite but I am only telling you this because I am just starting to reap the benefits of being disciplined in this area of my life. I have been on an exercise program for going on 3 weeks, working out 30-60 minutes every day, and it has made the world of a difference in my outlook on life. Find something that you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the gym or watch a cheesy home video–do what you love and get  your butt movin’!

If you are interested in learning about how physical exercise affects your cognitive and psychological state, Spark by John J. Ratey is an interesting read!

3. You aren’t feeding your body
Now you may be eating 3,000 calories of junk, but are you fueling your body? Do you feel stressed, lethargic, have unpredictable waves of energy, mood swings, headaches, or are you having the emotional or physical craving to overeat? My [unprofessional] guess is that your body is not being fueled properly.

Instead: fuel your body!

I challenge you: make sure to get in all of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats and cut out as much processed and sugary food as you can for a week or two… and see how you feel!

4. You are ruminating, a.k.a “chewing the cud,” a.k.a focusing on the problems that are causing you stress

Wikipedia explains this psychological phenomenon as “compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.”

I find myself doing this whenever I know that I need to initiate a difficult conversation. I continuously think about the worst outcomes, and while I think that I am emotionally preparing myself for the discussion I am only paralyzing myself with fear.

Instead: meditate on positive thoughts

Find a scripture or a mantra or whatever floats your boat and take control of your thoughts. One of the cheesy quotes that I have been telling myself is “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” (Jim Rohn.) There you go, folks. Yes, it’s cheesy, but for some reason I feel empowered. Find what works for you! And if there is a problem that needs a solution–make a plan and start from there.

5. You are settling into the grind

You are a hardworking, nose to the grind kind of person. You push yourself to achieve and to always do well. But eventually your drive will wear down. Personally, I have been working towards getting into Nursing school for a number of years, and when I settle deeper into the grind of school and work and… life, I forget what made me want to do it in the first place. Wake up call: you don’t have to stay in that mental state!

Instead: get inspired!

Stop, drop… and try to remember what made you want to do what you are doing right now. What gives you butterflies and makes you excited to get up in the morning? What originally inspired you to live the life your living… or the life you want to live? We all have something that makes us want to giggle or get up and do a happy dance. I look up videos of the stories of people that I look up to and it inspires me to keep working to reach my potential. I imagine myself exactly where I want to be and tell myself that I AM going to be there. This is one of the most powerful things you can do to emotional and spiritually refuel.

You have a purpose and you are WORTH IT. So embrace the fact that even though you may not always have control over the amount of stress that comes your way, you have control over your mind and your life. As always, I love to share ideas, so let me know what you think!

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Things I No Longer Feel Guilty About

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I’ve been trekking through a very new and exciting and difficult season of my life recently. I am coming face to face with myself and my struggles and learning how to be honest. Honesty is hard. Vulnerability is hard. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for a number of years and with that often comes  a cycle of guilt. But, inspired by another article I found, I decided to make a list of things I am choosing not to feel guilty about any longer. Here goes…

-Not being the best at everything

-Getting a bad grade

-Being an introvert

-Releasing myself from unhealthy relationships

-Finishing a season of a show on Netflix in one weekend

-Forgetting to reply to emails

-Not replying to every text

-Sleeping ’till noon on Saturdays sometimes

-Taking naps in the middle of the day

-Liking country music sometimes

-Liking mainstream music sometimes

-Wearing makeup

-Not wearing makeup

-Not being a size 2

-Wearing sweats sometimes

-Drinking cheap wine

-Asking for help

-Being wrong

-Making mistakes

-Not showering everyday

-Not shaving my legs

-Having a rough day

-Wearing ugly clothes because I like them

-Feeling anxiety

-Feeling depressed when I should be happy

-Losing library books

-Having greasy hair… never doing anything with my hair

-Locking myself in my room and detoxing from stress whenever I have the chance

-Over-promising myself and having to say “no”

-Getting way too many free refills of coffee at a coffee shop

-Spending hours at a time looking at wedding decorations on Pinterest (no wedding coming anytime soon!!)

-Not always accomplishing my goals. Readjusting my goals. Creating new goals

-Being bad at keeping a routine

-Always saying I will journal and forgetting to do it 9/10 times

-Reading chick lit and watching rom coms

-Wanting to share my passions with uninterested people

If you are reading this I encourage you to take time to think about unnecessary guilt you are placing on yourself and make a decision to release yourself from it. Be unapologetically you! Cheers.

Before You

Leadership is something I rarely feel fit to do. Yet it is something that God has called me to do, again and again. I’ve been told that my mom prayed that I would be a leader, even before I was born. I have known for a long time, that it was something I’ve been called to do. Stepping into the role of a leader is a scary process for me, but it has caused me to grasp tighter to my anchor, Jesus.  In Deuteronomy chapter 31, Moses speaks to Joshua, who is to take his place leading the Israelites. He tells Joshua:

“6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them…

8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

From one leader to another. These words are a comfort to me as I come to terms with the fact that God is always going to lead me out of my comfort zone. But, at the same time, it is exhilarating to know that my life is ultimately out of my hands, and I don’t have to rely on my own strength or understanding to make a difference in the world. The Lord goes before me.
God has been reminding me lately that the leadership he calls us to isn’t knowing exactly what to do in every situation. It doesn’t always equate to being more advanced in your journey of faith. But it is being willing to take the steps forward, ahead of the rest. To lead in faith, knowing that God already went before you and prepared your path. Like the saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” A little bit cheesy, but true. I often feel that I need to be more equipped to lead, but I’m reminded that he qualifies and equips us when we obey his call. He calls us to rise out of our own fear (our own inadequacy), and to replace it with joy in the journey he has for us(his perfect capability!). He is FOR us. Like a coach, he knows how to push us in the ways that we cannot push ourselves. He is there to drive us to always be better, and to carry us when we can do no more.

This week I am preparing for a new semester. It is going to be crazy busy but I know that it is my time to step up to the calling God has on my life. I am praying that I will keep my eyes forward, on the one who goes before me. If you would like to pray for me, I have some specific things I’m praying about right now:

John; A friend of mine, a regular who comes into my work, has been living on a sailboat, without much else. He has a seizure condition and has a very sweet service dog, who is also a regular. This week my friend’s boat was ran into, and it sunk to the bottom of the lake, with virtually everything he owned. He sustained a number of injuries and his dog, his most loyal companion and friend, almost drowned. I am praying that I would have the wisdom to know how I can help my friend. He doesn’t know God, and I know he is in a very hard time in his life. Pray with me that he would receive physical and emotional healing from past hurts, and that God would provide for him! If you would be interested in helping him out, comment or message me at the1movement@live.com
Healthier Habits; I am praying for healthier habits this upcoming semester, in every area of my life–my spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and academic life. This is going to involve a lot of new habits, but I am so ready to have that balance in my life.

Leadership; God has really been putting leadership and discipleship on my heart lately. Pray that I would be wise as I strive to be a leader in my community, specifically with my upcoming trip to Zambia, and some other potential opportunities that I am unsure about.

Provision; I completely trust that God is capable of providing for my every need. I am praying that God would provide financially, and that I would continue to be in worry-free surrender as I try to work and raise funds for my upcoming missions trip to Zambia. If you would like to support me in this way, check out my Support Me page or go directly to my Fundly Account to make a donation.

I appreciate those of you who are thinking of me, praying for me, and sharing in my journey. I love doing life together, and I am so blessed to have such a community of awesome, passionate people in my life. God bless.

–Photo courtesy of Murad Osmann

Receive

We often accept the love we think we deserve… Which may be why it is so hard to accept God’s love without trying to repay him. But like the gifts we joyfully receive on Christmas day, we can joyfully receive the gift of God’s love and grace. Good thoughts.

Yours

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We are often are blind to the brokenness of our world and hurting people that sin leaves in its wake. In America, we often live comfortable lives, ignorant to world issues like human trafficking, extreme poverty, genocide, and religious oppression. But I’ve also found that we are often ignorant to the hurting people right in front of us–our next door neighbors, peers, or the person we wrote off as “criminal,” “deadbeat,” or “loser.” To be brutally honest, it is often easier to have compassion on a helpless starving child across the world than it is to have compassion for the alcoholic living off of your tax money, or the homeless man with his hand in your tip jar. But I have to ask myself, does God value the one over the other?

It is easy to be on a “mission” to another country, and then go back to the comfort–or struggles–of your life back home and live a life of “one days.” One day I will volunteer my time. One day I will be generous with my money. One day I will be a leader in my community. One day I will live adventurously. But it is really my mission if I am not living it every day? I love what Mother Teresa once said,

“‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.'”

Often we find ourselves at a hard place, and dismiss the idea of living missionally or sacrificially, until we feel financially or emotionally stable enough to have compassion. This disillusionment happens easily in a culture that tells us we never have enough; we are never “there”–that illusive place of contentment when we have everything we “need.”  I’ve been there, I still am there often times. There have been some low times in my life, times when I would drown in my own negativity. But there have also been times, even when I was living in a car and taking ice cold showers in campsite bathrooms and I felt I had nothing left, that I realized that I would always have enough to give. My life changed when I realized I will never be so low that I can’t give someone a smile, a hug, or a word of encouragement. I will never have so little that I cannot bless another person.

I’ve struggled feelings of guilt for being as blessed as I am, even though life isn’t always easy. But God chose to bless me with an education, a warm home, and more than enough to survive. He doesn’t give to us so that we feel guilty, but so we can turn around and continue to bless others. Ultimately, living sacrificially isn’t about money or material things at all. It is about surrender of our hearts, our attitudes, and our perspective. As Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it

Living sacrificially, for me, is often about saying “I am willing to look at my current situation not as a hardship, but as an opportunity and a blessing.” Your heart is what God wantsBecause when God has your heart, wonderful things will flow out of your life. I will never claim to be perfect, I am so far from it. But I can say that I have been able to see how blessed I am because I am striving to let God radically change my heart, and with it, my actions, and my future. I’ve had a little taste of what awesome things God does when you surrender your life, and I’m compelled to give up my selfish, shallow dreams, and follow in the footsteps of a radical world-changer named Jesus. It’s not always easy, but its infinitely worth it. The call to change the world is yours, and no matter where you are in life, your time is now.

 

Photo courtesy of iStock

Stripped

What mask are you wearing?

This video illustrates the masks that men and boys often feel they have to live in. A mask is something that we feel we must cling to in order to have value. We all have masks. I’ve worn many. We hide in masks that consist of attitudes, money, accomplishments, beauty, talents, material things, social groups, even good deeds–afraid that without these things we will not be valued or cared about.

Many Christians cling to the idea that they have value because the don’t do the “worst” sins. Because I don’t drink, smoke, swear, or have sex outside of marriage, and I volunteer every Sunday I have done well and I am a good Christian. That is the mask many Christians live in.

What mask do you live in? The good mom? The good student? The moneymaker? The one who has it all together?

I’ve worn many masks. I’ve clung to the idea that I am intelligent, artistic, hardworking, and successful in hopes that somebody would think I was… worthy. Special. Valued. The sad truth is that our self-worth has become relative to other people’s value. I remember when I was a child, and I would proudly show my mother a drawing I had created, a new fort that I had built, or a new trick that I had learned. I was proud of the fact that I had worked hard and done well. It was not until later in life that I would look around and see that others had done better than I, and feel inferior because I did not feel as good as others.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Genesis 1:26-28, 31

We often see that others are more talented, more intelligent, more beautiful, more wealthy, and forget that we are not worthy or valuable relative to others, but that we were created with inherent value and worth. It doesn’t matter what others are. You are good. You are excellent. God created and crafted you with value and purpose, not to be better than others, but to shine in your own right and bless others through the unique gifts and personality that you’ve been given. You have inherent value because you were made as a reflection of your perfect creator, and the perceived value of others cannot taint that.

If you were stripped of everything–your talents, your looks, your money, your house, your friends and family, your education, your achievements, your past even–who would you be? Would you have confidence in your value as a person? What if we were all stripped of our masks? How would we see each other different? These are questions I am asking myself.

My 2014 New Years resolution is to actively dig deeper in my relationship with and understanding of who God is, so I can become more like the person he made me to be. I am striving to strip myself of my masks, security blankets, and ego-boosts, so I can ask the question Who am I?

Happy New Year!

A Sinner Like Me

I had a good conversation with some friends this week. They were expressing irritation at another Christian who, she said, always seemed to let religion “slip into” conversation. One friend joked about putting on their “God slippers” when being around this person, as if they had to be some plastic, church-going, clean-mouthed Christian to even be around them. I believe that this Christian person is wonderful and genuinely strives to be like Jesus, but I can’t help seeing how there can be some mishaps and miscommunications in the way that we express our faith.

For the rest of the day I was thinking about this conversation and how we, as Christians, may be going about things a little wrong. Many of us have admittedly said things like, “Oh man, they just need Jesus!,” and “Well, if they just knew Jesus…”   My recent thoughts are, God gave us the responsibility to be like him now. We aren’t supposed to just give a half-hearted “I’ll pray for you,” or recite some regurgitated Bible verse to them. We are supposed to, we have the opportunity to be Jesus to them right then. Are we living out the prayers and scripture that we cast to people who need Jesus?

James 2:26 says,
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Jesus lives out grace and love in John chapter 8. An adulteress is brought before him, expecting to be stoned for her sins according to the law. Yet he tells the crowd  “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He stood up saying, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-10, NIV)

Can you imagine the disbelief that she had in that moment?  She was given grace and accepted for who she was and where she was, by the one person who was completely without sin. I just wonder, are we sending that same message?

Are our actions being transformed by our faith or just our words? This is something I am working on! My hope and endeavor is to learn, ever gradually, how to be like Jesus in those moments. I don’t want to be an individual who is all righteous-talk, yet throws stones at sinners who are just like me. I want to be authentic. I hope to be a person that makes people feel understood, valued and accepted exactly who and where they are. That was the kind of person Jesus was and is, and always will be. That’s who Jesus is to a sinner like me.

Back again!

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.” Ps 16:2

Hello friends! I have thought about keeping up this blog after getting back to the states but since have been caught up in the whirlwind of life. For those I haven’t talked to lately, to update you, I spent the summer back home working in a local salon, and before I knew it, was on my way to school in Seattle. Since being here, I have started a new job at a local Starbucks as a barista, and have been blessed by that job in so many ways. My coworkers and customers are wonderful, and I have to love that it supports my coffee habit. I am falling in love with my school, and feel so blessed to be in a community of ambitious, compassionate, God-seeking people. I have been praying for friends like the ones I’m making here for years, and have been able to get involved on campus and around our community.

One of the ways I am plugged in is through Embargo, a campus ministry group that raises awareness and funds to fight Human Trafficking, something I’ve been passionate about fighting since I became aware of it. This semester we have had the opportunity to raise funds for a safe-house for women who have been rescued from human trafficking, raise awareness through skits on campus, and helped out a local safe-house for girls in the local area that have been rescued.  I have really loved being involved and hope to do a lot more in the future with Embargo!

There has been a lot to adjust to being at a new school, a new job, new church, having an entirely new social group but I am loving it! God has been moving in my life and challenging me to grow daily.

One of the reasons I am starting this blog back up is to share my journey as I prepare to co-lead a group of students from my school on a missions trip to Lusaka, Zambia this summer. I am blessed to have this opportunity and I hope you will share in my awe, joy and gratitude as God continues to orchestrate, provide for, and inspire this trip… (and just life!) Amazing things happen when you ask God to invade your life.

I hope you all have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Mical