How I Use Gratitude to Defeat Stress
Today I made friends with my monster.
I haven’t been coping very well lately. There has just been too much to stress about: stuff going on at work, uncertainty around next year, changes at work for both my hubby and my son, not to mention my daughter’s wedding in two short weeks. It has just been all too much, and I have been struggling to keep myself together. Friends and colleagues have asked too many times how I was going, chocolate and tissues in hand. I’ve been a bit too cranky, and a bit too teary.
And it has been taking its toll on my body. All the classic symptoms… mouth ulcers, tight and painful muscles in my neck, sore eyes, not sleeping well, days of nausea. All the signs that I am way too stressed, and something had to change.
I had tried to put some of my tried and true stress management tools to work. I’ve been to my counsellor, my physio, exercising, eating fresh food, drinking probiotics. I’ve downloaded with trusted friends, rested on my days off, stayed away from too much TV news and sad movies; all the things I know to do when I’m stressed out. But this time it didn’t work. All it did was constantly remind me of how stressed I was.
So a couple of days ago I sat at my desk, tired from the weight of the world pressing heavy on my shoulders, to open God’s word and write in my journal. One more strategy. I read back through a few pages. I seem to write the most on my worst days. The pages are full of worry and concern. Here we go again. I couldn’t think where to open my Bible, but staring into space I found a verse, sitting on my desk. It was a Honey & Gold verse pack that has been sitting there for a year or more; so long it had become virtually invisible. And the verse was not new or different. I have read it often, referred to it often, told others to read it often.
So, I started to journal out the verse, one line at a time. I wrote out the things I was anxious about, listing the concerns of heart, describing the monster on my shoulders in detail.
… with Thanksgiving
I got to the thanksgiving part of the verse, and started writing again, listing out the blessings in my life, the people and things I am grateful for right now. It wasn’t long before the monster wasn’t as heavy or frightening anymore, and after just a few lines down the page, we became good friends. My whole outlook changed in almost an instant, and I have felt like a new person ever since.
As I listed my blessings, the things I am grateful for, I realised that they were the same things that I had on the worry list. My job, my colleagues, my family, the wedding. There is a lot going on, there is a lot changing, but they are all good things. My life is full of good things and good people! I just have a way of turning everything into a big scary monster.
Take the wedding for example. My daughter is getting married in two weeks. My little girl. That’s huge! The world as I know it is changing forever. What if I have forgotten to invite someone? There is so much flu going around—what if I get sick? What have I forgotten to do? What if the dress isn’t finished, or doesn’t fit, or, or…
The grateful truth: the wedding is all under control. The plan is coming together, the jobs are up to date, and the bills are being paid. My daughter is happy, the dress is going to be beautiful, and the man she is marrying is lovely. I could not hope for better.
The wedding is not a scary monster; it is totally friendly, just like so many of the other challenges in my life right now. I have this annoying ability to turn an exciting opportunity into a frightening ordeal, but the monster is entirely in my mind. I don’t need to be anxious. I don't need to be afraid. I just need to be grateful.
I’m still dealing with some of the physical symptoms of my stress, but they are improving. I will continue to work my stress management tools, but at the top of the list — gratitude. I am grateful for my amazing job, and the opportunities it brings. I am grateful for the incredible people who I work with and for. I am grateful for my family and all that is going on in their lives right now. I am grateful for the wedding, and the memorable celebration it will be. I am grateful for my health, which I take for granted so often. I am grateful to God, who helps me make friends with my monsters.
How about you? Is there anything or anyone on your worry list that is also on your grateful list? I hope you can make friends with your monster too.