It’s mid-January and already we’ve had a pretty bitter winter.  No wonder so many folks like to head south and escape to warmer climates. For those of us who live in more northern longitudes, rough weather certainly causes the stress barometer to rise, doesn’t it? We all battle stress and anxiety at some level and we each have different coping mechanisms. This week I’m sharing tips on how to maintain our peace and sanity during extra stressful times. Some of them you might already know but are you practicing them? Here we go with 12 ways to stay peaceful during stressful times.

1. Take a deep breath. Oxygen helps calm the body and signals the brain to counter the fight or flight reflex. When we are stressed we tend to take shallow breaths. Try a few deep, long inhalations and exhalations and feel the immediate calm. Close your eyes if you can and concentrate on breathing through your belly.                                              

2. Make time for solitude. Being around people all day long can be stressful. Talking drains our energy. Instead of picking up the phone to vent your frustrations, try talking to God. He always has a listening ear. Unless of course, it’s about work. In that case, you need to call somebody.

3. Slow down. The fast pace of life today is not only unhealthy, it is actually dangerous to our hearts, our brains, and our bodies. In order to live in the presence of God and the present moment, we must slow way down and that means not only our lives and activities, but our thoughts as well. My mind can go a million miles a minute. Ask my mother. It takes awareness to slow our thoughts down and we can’t do it if we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. God’s pace is slow, have you noticed?

4. Pray and meditate. The time to pray and meditate is BEFORE things get chaotic. If I know I am going to have a busy day, I make even MORE time to pray in the morning. If my mind and my spirit are not properly prepared, there is NO WAY I’m going to stay peaceful. I remind myself that I am a child of God, that Jesus is always with me, and that all I need to do is trust and obey.

5. Turn off the electronics. Learn to appreciate quietness. It might feel awkward for a short time if you’re used to constantly having the radio or television blaring, but soon you will begin to enjoy it and your ability to hear from God will increase. Guaranteed.

6.  Go for a slow walk.  Even a short 15 minute break on a busy day can get you off the rat’s wheel and into a more relaxed frame of mind. I know it seems counter-intuitive but believe me, a SLOW walk will give you time to focus on your breathing and quiet your mind.

7.  Watch the negative self-talk. Capture the thoughts running through your mind at any given point during the day. Are they positive? Or are you thinking things like “This XXX is going to be the death of me” or “These kids are driving me crazy” or “I’ll never get all this done”. If so, time to replace the old recording with positive affirmations instead. You will get it all done. You will not go crazy and you can handle whatever life brings at you.

8.  Repeat a favorite prayer or scripture verse. Some good ones are:
–  “I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.”
– “Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything.”
– “Lord, help me to be an instrument of thy peace.”

9. Keep your focus on God. He is bigger than all our problems and cares and He doesn’t want you to be stressed out either. Remember this verse:
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

10. Be gentle with yourself. Realize you are only human. You were not built to do it all. Take a hot bath. Treat yourself to a nice cup of hot tea or cocoa. Put your feet up and read a few pages of that novel you’ve been wanting to finish. Take the pressure off  by doing little things within your control.

11. Set limits. Learn to use that two-letter word ‘NO’ more often. We each have the same amount of time each day. No one sets our schedules but us. When I was raising my sons, I learned things usually take more time and energy than I realize. I learned to build margin into my life so I wouldn’t be so stressed out.

12. Forgive yourself and others. Unforgiveness is one of the main reasons we lose our peace. Ditch the false guilt. Realize you (or they) did the best you (or they) could under the circumstances and tomorrow is a  new opportunity to practice and to let go.

Start implementing a few of these tips every week in the New Year and you will see results. When we learn to make peace a priority in our lives, everything else falls into place somehow. Post a comment and let us know what tips you use to keep your peace and until next time – keep looking up!

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