Is it just me -- just us around the Church Office having an unusually packed and stress-full week -- or is there something in the air? Some wider contagion of low-level irritability that's around?
You know, the kind of grumpiness that stems from overtiredness...the powerless feeling you get when there's no one thing you can put your finger on that is causing your over busy-ness, combined with the prickly feeling you get from the realization that there's no one thing that you can do or change to make it go away...so you just have to power on.
That feeling. You know it? Am I onto something here?
It's similar to another feeling that seems prevalent this time of year, which is the "Let Me Just Get Through ___________" attitude.
You know, "Let me just get through this big meeting...let me just get through this conference...let me just get through this event...let me just get through this week, this weekend..." and THEN everything will be okay, everything'll settle down...
Like there's no next thing to get through, nothing else on the horizon, no "next thing" to "get through."
Don't know about you, but I hate living like that. It's no way to live. It robs me of the joy of living in the present day, as I if I were looking ahead to some distant station that never quite comes into view.
So the alternative?
Sorry to say, but I have no magic pill, no "one size-fits all," no formula you can apply, no "ten easy steps to decrease stress and live in the present."
What I can tell you is a simple truth that works for me, when I can remember, and apply it: the time for good diet, exercise, rest, and prayer is when you don't have time for them.
Diet: It's easy to have good eating habits and to lose weight when everything is calm, there's lots of time to prepare healthy salads and good meals. But just when I need the benefits of healthy eating -- in stressful, busy times -- that's when I'm most likely to shove a full bag of barbeque potato chips in my mouth; just when I need the health benefits of drinking lots of water -- in stressful, busy times -- is when my I start hydrating solely with Coke Zero and coffee and start looking forward a little too much to an evening glass of wine.
Exercise: It's easy to get my morning run in when it's summer and I don't need it as much. But just when I need the endorphin and other highs that come from regular exercise is when I am wondering if it is really worth it to try to squeeze it in between running Elizabeth to school for her early morning softball workouts and an 8:30 conference call.
Rest: It's relatively easy to take Monday (my day off) when my to-do list numbers 10 to 15 items for the day and the number of emails I can't answer in a day is 20 or 30.
But just when my "one of the things on my do-list" is to get the to-do lists I've written on fifteen little scraps of paper all together in one place so I can see what I have forgotten to do while I was doing things...just when the number of unanswered emails numbers in the hundreds and makes me secretly hope for a blue screen of death computer crash...just when I really need to step away from work and really rest -- not only for the rest itself, but for perspective we can only get from rest, which is "There is a God, and We Are Not Him," the trust-in-the-future that comes from observing Sabbath Rest -- that is when I am most likely to "try to catch up on a few things" on my day off instead of resting.
Prayer: Ah, prayer...it's relatively easy to remember to pray when I am full of joy or full of need.
But when things are neither high nor low but just "crazy-busy" -- when I am racing around, making decisions more from my head than from my heart...when I am starting to get impatient with loved ones and colleagues...when I starting to worry about the future or feel overwhelmed...just when I need to remember that God is present and active in that "crazy-busy-ness," and is working through those feelings -- insights available to me if I only take some time to pray...that's when I'm least likely to pray.
And so, say it with me: the time for good diet, exercise, rest, and prayer is when I don't have time for them.
Hope this helps,