I am very excited to share some more thoughts with you on this topic of anxiety and stress. I must confess most of this is from my learning journey and parts of this is quite recent. I am not here to judge you or the journey you are on as I expect you will not judge me or the journey I was on and the journey I am still continuing. I have tried too much with worldly ways to cope and build up my resilience, but none of that helped me. It helped me to understand, but not to change. I could only change when I started slowing down and made up my mind what I believe in. If I claim to believe in God, I need to REALLY believe, I need to demonstrate faith.
Faith is to believe without seeing the results.
This is was a four year old for me and until recently I learned even more and hope I am able to put it into context today.
I recently realized this journey of mine from anxiety and stress towards (more) calm and tranquility (I am no t totally there yet), are very similar to Jesus’s temptations in the desert. Mine is small in comparison to His, but it was big for me. I am not sure if I was actually tempted. I think I allowed the world and its values tempt me and influence my decisions. So here is my story – I hope it will work for you, I am not sure if you can identify with all the steps, but I believe all of us are tempted by the world in one way or another and when we learn how to overcome these, we are moving towards a life with even more meaning and satisfaction.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
In the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, they list Jesus’ temptations as follows:
1. I am what I do (Performance)
2. I am what I have (Possessions)
3. I am what others think (Popularity)
Is this summary the the ultimate message from Jesus’ temptations? I don’t think so, but these three ‘P” words resonated with me on this specific journey I was on.
A few weeks ago I shared with you the time at the corporate I was working for – the stress and anxiety of not knowing what the restructuring will be like. Not knowing what to expect and how it will impact me, so I started to implement a few things to walk away from the talks and I was able to experience calm within the storm. My journey at the corporate was wrought with anxiety to Perform. I was quite caught up in merit appraisals at a time, until I realized: that a month prior to merit appraisal, people start to talk about it,
how unfair it is going to be again,
how it will impact on our salaries,
how all of our hard work is going to be diminished by the rating we are going to have.
Corporates call it Performance Management, but I would rather want to call it Performance killers, because I have only seen how it lowers the efficiency of a group of people
a month prior to the discussions,
the month of the discussions
and the month after the discussions.
I have seen how 3 months of the year have been dedicated to endless discussion and bickering and anger and irritation (it is a quarter of the year!!) All the latest brain research shows how these feelings, discussions all influences performance and productivity negatively. Well, back to me – I have started to see this trend and I got bored by the same old same old. I also started to realize there were times that I worked hard (not crazy) and enjoyed what I was doing so much, it felt fun, energizing, effortless. Those years I did not care too much about my merit and thought maybe it will not be that good and those years are the years I received the best merits in my career of 16 years. The years when I worked like crazy – crazy hours, very stressed, intense anxiety and pressure, and I thought – “Wow, I worked hard, surely I will get a good merit” was wrought with disappointment at being average. About a year before I decided to end my career as an engineer, I was able to disconnect my identity from my merit and the whole process, I could carry on working without any expectations of the merit process. This allowed and helped me to downgrade the car I was driving – from luxury to basic.
I remember my son (he was about 5/6 that time) being very excited for the ‘new’ car. When he got in at the back, he exclaimed: “”Oh, cool!! This car has a ”thingie” that you turn that opens and close the windows!!”” Oh wow, all of a sudden I had gratitude for my smaller car – if my son can think it is cool, then I can also think it is cool – it is all in our perception of how we experience something.
Ecclesiastes sums it up so accurately
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
The course of Sandra Stanley Comparison Trap with teaching from her husband Andy Stanley addresses this concept so well. When we let go of ”strife” we can lift a great burden from ourselves. I found that I can think better and b more creative when I stop looking at others, stop comparing myself against others and focus on what I believe God wants me to do. Performance Driven is not the answer. I believe we should do whatever we do in excellence as for the Lord and not for human masters. If I cannot say “”Yes”” and know I will be able to do it excellent, I will rather say “”No”” – a valuable lesson I learned from the Boundaries book.
Now if people think that I am ONLY a homeschool mom, stay at home mom, it is OK – I don’t have to be the working mom, stressed with no time for her children to feel I have achieved something worthy.
With Performance addressed, and leaving my corporate career, I had to learn how to life with less possessions and money. I think I shared a lot with you in this regard already. If I really believe God is is my Provider, I don’t have to fear a lack of money. I did have to implement serious budget cuts and lower my standard of living. I had to be OK with having less. I had to stop caring what other people might think. We will not drive the best car out on the market. My house will not be perfectly maintained (our old house had a few more surprises than I thought originally), we will not wear the branded clothes that is top notch quality (my children grow out of it too quickly in any way). I had to learn to rely on God for His provision. At the same time I quit my corporate job (I earned more than my husband at that time), we also started to be convinced to pay our tithes faithfully. I was stressed at that time – how in the world will we be able to survive without my salary and with 10% less of my husband’s salary!! I can only stand in amazement to see how we do survive.
I had to learn that God has another currency with different rules than our worldly rules. It was a great relieve for me to let go of the concern of money. I learned how to be a better steward of what I have. If you want to stress less and have less anxiety – let go of the worry of money – accept what you have and what you receive, tithe, manage what you have prudently and let God provide for any additional needs you might have.
Oh dear! This is my most recent struggle :). I remember when I was still single, I played a game, a strategy, time management game, where I could build up a city. I had to get the workers to produce things that can be sold, I had to build houses for them that they can upgrade as the city becomes more fun to live in. I remember if the game told me “”The people love you”” it made me feel a sense of accomplishment. I want people to love me. I get very upset when it feels they are not happy with me. I wanted to be a people pleaser. I did not want to say “”No'””, get involved in conflict, disappoint people. I wanted them to love me and love what I do for them. Pleasing people does not bring satisfaction. Often you fall into the trap that whatever you do is not good enough. I don’t say we should stop doing things, Jesus was the ultimate servant. I think we should test our motivations – why are we doing this? We should stop linking our identity and our value solely from what we are doing for other people. I realized I thought I am the only one that can do A, B and C in a group I was serving, and that the group will not be able to achieve the same excellence if I am not part of it. When I realized I might actually be causing some conflict in the way I am handling situations, that I am making the team less efficient, and that anyone else can replace you, I realized it is OK to walk out. I am not the only one that can do certain things. I can be replaced. Today I can say with total calm and tranquility that doing good deeds are not going to fulfill you, sometimes doing less is doing more. Now I have more time with my children and more time to focus on the plans God has for me and not the plans I have for myself.
The more I become quiet and mindful, the more my brain and my soul and my spirit can align with God’s plans for me. His plan is NOT for me to stress and to have anxiety. His plan for me is to be happy and content. To keep on growing and pleasing Him. He is not pleased if I do things with the wrong motivation. He is pleased when I have relationships with Him. When I glorify His name.
Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.
So the more I practice peace and quiet, mindfulness, the less I feel stressed and full of anxiety
Look at where you feel you are still stuck at one of these temptations, pray about it, admit it, become quiet and ask the Lord for insight in how to overcome them.