Some of us can be defined by our stress level. My working definition of “bad” stress (as opposed to the good kind that keeps you alert to danger and alive to opportunity) = a measure of the lack of capacity to deal with the situation at hand, head-on. This is obviously a negative definition, focusing on lack. Red Zones. And nearness to health failure. That’s because stress doesn’t make an appearance when we have capacity for life’s challenges. It rears its wonky head whenever we fall short of making ends meet.
These can be emotional ends, financial end-dates or spiritual fallbacks. Stress can come from any direction, and compounds very quickly.
Trying to regain capacity to deal with the situation, to lower our stress levels is not easy for one reason: we think the source is external. We look outwards: at the people we need to appease, at bills we need to pay (or stop racking up) or at church politics we need solve.
To regain capacity to manage stress, decrease stress or bust it up somehow into bite-size chunks instead of letting it eat us alive—we need to look within, to look up to God for his direction in our life, which is usually to pull back, regroup, breathe and gain some perspective we did not have before.
We cannot go forward to deal with a situation head-on unless and until we pull back.
Only by stepping back—sometimes a little and sometimes a lot—can we hope to go forward in strength to finish the race we are slated to run to win!
Without taking time to pull back, check-out and unplug—in order to tune in to our inner resources and to receive God’s much-needed renewing of our spirits, minds and bodies—we may last a little longer. We may stumble through a few more years of debt-overload or dysfunctional relationship or sleepless nights, but we won’t finish well. We won’t accomplish all we hoped to. We definitely won’t have the energy to celebrate even if we somehow manage to cross that finish line in tact (which is doubtful btw).
If stress has got you beat, admit defeat. Instead of running one more lap on burnout, run up the flag of surrender. Take a break. Retreat. and even take time to Heal.
In your newfound sense of strength, energy, purpose and wonder, get back in the race. Pick up where you left off, but with a whole new perspective. Without taking time to pause to allow for personal, inner and spiritual growth to take place, you will never be the victor you are designed to be. Something got you going in the first place. There was some nudging encouragement to engage with life. You Want to Win. And you Can.
If you can’t quite remember why you’re here doing what you do, remember this: either you cross that finish line in pieces, disassembled one part at a time, or you cross that line whole, complete and a finished work.
That’s the trick, or I should say the HOPE: to Finish the Race as a Finished Work. The more you pause—even risking losing your placement, or the ground gained to date—the stronger and surer you will come back. You will find you even have strength—and CAPACITY to help others succeed on the path, to carry on without the burden of unmet basic needs on their back.
No one should have to stumble over a finish line only to be carried onto an ambulance stretcher. That’s not when someone says, “Well done.” No, when you cross that finish line should be the time to be caught up in the arms of Jesus and those you love and ran for, to celebrate and share the experience, the thrill of victory, of a job well done—sans casualties mid-course.
To run for Life, acknowledge the body’s need for breaks, the spirit’s need to retreat, and the mind’s need to gain off-course perspective. This is what it means to manage and even beat stress, regardless of the situation. If it’s bad stress, it’s a signal to get off the track because you are off-track. If it’s good stress, it will fuel you until the next rest stop. Either way, hopefully you have a new definition of stress that works for you!