I believe in the value of stress busters. Massage therapy. Aromatherapy. Guided imagery. Meditation. Exercise. Vacation. All are good. They recharge your batteries.
However, once you roll off the massage table, you still have to negotiate rush hour traffic. Stress hasn’t left. “Are you finished?” it seems to ask. “Now, let’s get back to what we were doing.”
It would be good to develop a coping mechanism for dealing with stress when you’re in the midst of it, not when you’ve just had a break from it.
Paul, who wrote Philippians from a prison cell, was pretty good at coping. You’ll find his strategy in the passage above. Take time to read it carefully before proceeding further. (Do it!)
Now, what stood out to you in these words from a prisoner? For me, three things.
Love gently. What if we tried a little empathy and understanding, even to the rude teen, the surly boss, or the hateful coworker? “Gentleness” for Paul meant showing, to all, a spirit of generosity, acceptance, and humility.
Pray thankfully. Blood pressure usually rises in direct proportion to problems. Pain narrows our focus. Paul practiced thankful prayers to God for everything, which for us could include relationship breakups and lousy lab reports. While not alleviating grief and anxiety, practicing “Thank you, God” puts a problem in a wider perspective.
Focus daily. News and social media chum our emotional waters with shark bait. Violence, division, insults, anger. How easy it is to feed the frenzy of negativity. Paul, though, uses words like true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable. Daily positives do outweigh the negative, if we look for them.
Thus are Paul’s three strategies for coping with stress when you’re in the middle of it. Full disclosue: they are still a struggle for me. I like to tackle problems myself. However, that keeps me from seeing a broader picture and tapping a larger power.
Maybe it would be helpful each day to make at least one of these three a priority. Perhaps then we’d begin to discover a little of that “peace that passes understanding.”