We all have issues. It’s just a fact of life. When the issues we are concerned about are beyond our control we worry and stress over them and then do crazy things like eat everything unhealthy that we have in the house or run to fast food to get something even more unhealthy.
In addition to the mental and emotional stress we feel regarding whatever mini-crisis seems to exist in our world, we now have just added more physical stress to our bodies in terms of additional pounds.
Why don’t we just give ourselves a break? Why do we keep obsessing over things we can’t fix? What if we just made it our goal to put stress to rest? We can do by intentionally handing to God the issues that are causing us to stress and trusting Him enough to take care of them in His time and His way.
What’s Your Problem?
Many times, though, we don’t even realize what we are stressing over or perseverating about. We just automatically turn to food to try to make us feel better whenever the feeling of overwhelm hits us. We use food to try to mask our stress. It numbs it for a while but then we need more to forget about it again. We have a learned behavior and we’ve taught it to ourselves way too well.
For many years I thought my weight was causing me the most stress. However, my weight was simply a by-product of my stress. I would stress over some problem and then eat to try to make the stress go away. The eating caused weight gain, but the real issue wasn’t the eating. The real issue was that I was trying to fix every problem that came into my line of sight.
This makes us feel like we are going crazy because we weren’t created to handle every single problem that we see in the world, in our friends lives, in our family’s lives and even our own. We have to stop the insanity of trying to control everything.
If we can just stop and clear our minds, we can see everything that is happening to us right now is attributing to our stress because we are living in a state of chronic stress. So everything looks and feels stressful, even good things. I know I’ve been there.
In December of 2017 I was diagnosed with stage 3 adrenal fatigue, which means my cortisol and adrenaline levels were going crazy. When I got this diagnosis from my functional medicine doctor, I’d never heard of adrenal fatigue, but it definitely forced me to stop to look at my life.
I realized was stressed to the max and pushing myself way too hard. I was managing the staffing and care of two mentally challenged young women who lived in our home. I was running two coaching groups. I was doing FB ads, Instagram posts, writing blog posts, articles for Charisma and traveling every weekend and even some weekdays to speak or be on Christian television shows.
My brain said no more. It’s interesting that my physical body didn’t shut down. I didn’t have extreme tiredness like some do with this diagnosis, but my brain would turn off every day around 5 or 6 pm. It was like it went on strike and would not process another thought or plan another thing. Brain fog was huge.
I still don’t know if I actually had adrenal fatigue or if it was just God’s way of helping me see that I really was living in a state of chronic stress. Doctors who diagnose it say is helped by a healthy diet and exercise, which I was already doing.
Our bodies can only take so much stress. At some point, the stress is going to surface in some way. Since my brain was running on overload, that’s why it shut down. It was during this time I learned how to really rest in God. It was, and still is, a game-changer for me.
First and foremost, I rediscovered the pure joy of reading the Scriptures to hear God speak to me, not to teach them or write about them for others. I also prioritized the importance of taking time to soak in God’s presence to clear my mind of everything and tune my heart to God’s heart.
Relax Your Body
I started spending at least 30 minutes a day in a true quiet time with God where I didn’t bring any agenda or questions with me. I just sat with Him in silence. To say this went against every cell in my body is an understatement.
I first had to remember how to relax my body, which is something I learned in my grade school physical education class. I started with telling my toes to relax and then going up every part of my body to my brain. I paid attention to how fast I was breathing and told myself to slow down, take deep breaths and exhale.
Then as each thought came to my mind, I pictured a sky full of fluffy clouds. Each thought, issue, problem or thing I was stressing over I would send away on a cloud. I trusted if God wanted me to do something in regard to that, He would bring it back to me.
Finally I said, “I’m here God. What do you want to tell me?” This is always like a respite in the midst of my day. My brain turned off in November of 2016 and turned back on in February of 2017. Although I took some supplements my doctor prescribed, I really believe spending true quiet time was really God’s prescription for my recovery.
In Matthew 11:28-30 MSG, Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I am finally living in His unforced rhythms of grace. In the past, I felt like I was carrying a heavy burden of a calling I had to complete perfectly, but in these verses Jesus tells me those things which feel like heavy burdens are not from Him. The things from Him will help me live freely and lightly. I was in desperate need of just that.
God’s prescription for me was to set aside time in the mornings to just be silent, still and present with Him. In those times I was made aware of the cacophony of noise in my head and the time it takes my body to relax, clear my mind and focus on the Lover of my soul.
During those times the One I had worked myself into exhaustion for just held me and told me to stop and let Him take over, really take over. In doing that, I began to learn how to stop overthinking every issue and problem and simply hand them to Him.
In my times with God I have been taken to new heights, to an entirely different world that I cannot see in the natural. In that world, there is a harmonious symphony constantly playing. As I listen and play my part in the symphony there is peace and unity inside of me. Stress, worry, fear and overwhelm don’t exist.
Doing this, I learned God is not in as big of a hurry as I am most of time. When I see the birthdays piling up, I feel like time is short to accomplish all God has for me to do. I know, though, if I run ahead of Him what I do will be in my strength and will be useless in His Kingdom.
I learned the hard way that I cannot operate in my strength alone. God clearly has told me throughout my journey that He and He alone is my strength. Yes, He gave me gifts and experiences but those are not what I depend on. I can only depend on God and His anointing. When I draw from His well daily, I have all the strength necessary to do what He wants me and leads me to do for that day.
We have to give ourselves a break. Our brains need to rest from the constant mode of doing. It’s about resting in the One who made me and you and the entire universe. It’s about allowing Him and Him alone to guide us in our next steps. And if we don’t know the next step, then we don’t take a step until He shows us.
When I intentionally focus my attention on Him, everything else fades. He is my comfort. He is my strength. In His presence, listening to His heartbeat, is where I get my confidence, my creativity and my will to be daringly bold for Him. I come out of my time with Him invigorated and ready to face whatever my day brings.
How do we give ourselves a break? It begins and ends in one place … in His presence. He’s waiting. He’s waiting for you to come to Him and clear your mind and listen to what He has for you today.
For more, check out my free course, Eating Stress at teresashieldsparker.com/stress/.