12 Tips for Keeping Your Peace

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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This is Only a Test

Has the weather got you down? Things taking longer than you’d like to change? Traffic getting on your nerves? Or maybe you’ve picked up a few pounds, lost your job, or are just plain stressed out by life in general? It seems winter can be a particularly grueling season to get thru. If so, you are not alone, trust me. Everywhere I go people are asking the same question “Is this ever going to end?” And the answer is always yes. Or as I like to say “This too, shall pass.”

Trials and difficulties are not unusual. Things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like. Our plans get side-tracked by accidents, illnesses, or other unforeseen circumstances. I call them tests. What irritates you? What makes you lose your peace? What makes you ditch the diet and hit the sweets or the peanut butter? If you stop to take a look at your life, I bet you’ll
see a few patterns of your own.                          

This week, I’ve had a lot of tests and I’m sure you have as well. Like when the smoke detector on my cathedral ceiling went off at 4 am. Or when the heavily coughing neighbor stepped into the elevator with me. Or when I couldn’t get the casters on the newly delivered office chair to fit into the base.

Every day is usually a series of tests. Will I be kind? Will I guard my tongue? Will I not react? Will I ask for help? Will I trust? Will I be positive? Will I reach out to help someone else? Will I be generous? Will I be patient?

A good day is when I only have one or two tests and I pass them both. When I reflect back on my day, I think about how well I handled a certain situation. Then there are those days when I remember  how I reacted or what I said or thought and have to ask the good Lord for forgiveness. Self-reflection can be quite a humbling experience, that’s for sure.

The good news is every day we start with a clean slate.  God’s mercies are fresh every morning. I try not to hold a grudge against anyone, including God or myself. Forgiveness is the key to moving on and staying in peace and living in joy. Faith is knowing that whatever happens, God will see us thru it.

So, what kind of tests have you had this week? Pick one scenario that really gets your goat and then resolve to be at peace with it the next time it happens. Resolve to have faith and trust God to provide whatever is needed for the situation and He will. All we have to do is ask.

Until next time, repeat after me “This is a test. This is only a test.” Before you know it, you’ll be speeding along the highway of life and getting an “A” on the quiz!

5 Tips on Maintaining Joy

Christmas  is a few days away and the extra activities, demands, and social interactions are beginning to wear on people. Fuses are short and patience is at a premium. The needle on the joy meter is quivering. All the more reason to make time to consciously focus on the fourth gift of Advent: the gift of Love.

Love and joy go hand in hand. I find I am most joyful when I am loving and vice versa. If my joy tank is low, chances are my love tank is as well. Stress tends to deplete our joy if we allow it. An unexpected bad news phone call, someone running late, a harsh word spoken can all steal the joy from a wonderful day.

So how can we be more loving during times of peak stress? Here are a few tips on loving myself and others I’ve learned over the years that help me keep my joy level up and my stress level down.

1. Learn to say that two-letter word “NO”. I only accept offers and invitations my heart is into. Say NO to everything else.

2.  Ditch the guilt.  When I say NO, I am being loving by being true to my values. I don’t need to feel guilty for declining an invitation, not sending Christmas cards or not baking a gazillion cookies. If I feel stressed doing something, it’s just not worth it.

3.  Look at the big picture. I ask myself this question “What’s really important here?” When the stress level rises, it is easy to get bent out of shape over trivial things. Our logical brains go haywire and we can’t think straight. By keeping my focus on the big picture, I can find joy in any situation and act in a loving manner.

4. Overlook people’s mistakes. We are all human. We won’t always be on time, say the right thing, or give the right gift. Let things go quickly and don’t dwell on what someone said or did that really won’t matter tomorrow anyway. Focus on the positives of your friends and relatives.

5.  Learn to lighten up. Make people laugh. Tell a funny story and a joke that doesn’t offend anyone. Laughter raises the joy level. When tensions rise, saying those three little words “I love you”  can go a long way towards restoring peace and harmony in a relationship.

We need to be alert and on guard  so we don’t allow stress to get the better of us especially during stressful times. I’ve shared some tips I use to maintain joy and feel more loving. What techniques do you have to maintain your joy during stressful times?

Until next time, keep the focus this week on the true gifts of Christmas and share the joy and the love!