Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Failures and Reducing the Stress in our Lives

At the beginning of mass, Catholics have the benefit of being led through an Act of Contrition.  This is time when the priest calls us to consider those things we have done in the past week, (or failed to do) which have not brought glory to God.  Because we will be going before the table of the Lord it is important that we do so with a clean heart. Each week I generally find myself asking for God's forgiveness for the same things... Lord forgive me for being impatient, for being quick to anger, for using harsh words etc.  If our sanctuary were a cartoon, I am sure the word bubbles above the heads of the parishioners would be a little different, but many parents would have similar failings to confess.

And so it got me thinking about my in ability to stop falling into the same sins again and again.  I know each time I go to reconciliation and confess before a priest I have the double benefit - I gain forgiveness and I get guidance from him as to how to avoid falling into that trap again. But in-between the trips to confession, this weekly reflection is an opportunity too so see what I need to work on this week in particular.

Before I get any further here time for a disclaimer.  When we talk about sin - that is a willful disobedience of God.  Loosing your temper, or feeling impatient is not generally a sin.  However, willfully choosing not to improve upon those personal tendencies could be, if you are choosing willfully not to be a kinder, more patient person.  So when I say personal reflection leads me to want to stop sinning in this area, it is avery personal journey I am on because I do want to stop hollering in my house.   Hope that makes sense. I just don't want any of you all out there to think you need to call a priest for confession because you were impatient with your child today.  We all are in need of His grace to get through it all daily! Now back to it...

I am so tired of the same failings, and so this week I am addressing these issues like a scholar.  In doing so, I have identified that many of my guilt results from inappropriate reactions brought on by my own stress level.

I snap at the kids because I am behind schedule for meals, I over-react because I don't have the patience to tell them ONE MORE TIME the same things I have been telling them all day.  I ask the kids to do something (brush your teeth) but then I get caught up in another task (making coffee) and don't follow through to see if they have done their job - only to find they haven't completed such task and WHAMMY.  Mom is instantly mad.  If I had just monitored them little more and helped them brush their teeth instead of trying to duck away make coffee or put away the food from dinner, all would be okay.  But the stress of the mental ToDo List compels me to try to fit just one more 'thing' into the schedule ahead of the parenting task.

When I researched teacher-stress in the schools, I came across some great research.  One of the scholars (forgive me for not citing it as that was 12 years and 4 kids ago) pointed out that when you are under stress, or find a situation to be difficult, you can either remove the stressor, remove yourself, or change your perception of the situation.
For example, my husband was irritated for the first little while in our (then) new house, because when he came in the house the first thing he saw was a mess.  He entered from the garage, into our playroom/kitchen area.  Now, I don't know how the rest of you "keep house", but in our home the messiest areas are the one where we actually are playing/working.  If he comes home at 6 pm, and I have been cooking for a hour, and the kids are doing their homework/color at the table, and the little ones are playing on the floor of the playroom, guess what? It is going to be a mess! The rest of the house may be spotless (not usually), but his first perception is of chaos - of toys and dirty dishes, and pens and papers and books.

So he had a choice - remove the stressor,  remove himself, or change his perception.  Since we can't meet at a restaurant every night, and since he didn't want to come through the front door (yes I gave him that option), he needed to re-think what he actual saw - a family engaged in family activities: Kids working hard, little ones having fun, a wife creating a meal out of love for her family.  And it worked.

So when we look to how we can reduce stress in our home life (or work life too) the first questions become

How do we frame to problems we see? 
Can we just re-frame them?

Example:  As I am writing this I COULD be irritated that they left the TV on when they went outside to play football (I am listening to a Cialis commercial while I type this), or I could be happy that my boys and husband were in such hurry to play together that they ran out without thinking about the TV that was still on.  I can be thankful that my husband is around and not deployed somewhere, I can be grateful that our health is all good and my kids and husband are active and enjoy being together.

Some problems are pretty tough to re-frame.  Some sources of stress are serious and chronic.  I understand that and am thankful we don't currently have any chronic sources, but maybe you do - money, health, marriage difficulties, a death in the family, a move on the horizon - these are all intense and lasting.  But you are still subjected to the little stressors of life too - so if you have huge stressors, try to pick away at some of the little stressors because sometimes those little ones are what push us over the edge.

The second thing we can do is try to identify when it is that are we most stressed.

Can we reduce some of our stress by 
identifying the triggers for our stress?  

The witching hour is the most stressful time for many parents.  Another tough time for those with school-aged kids is the hour(s) between waking up and getting out of the house.  For me, it is stressful to try to write when the kids are around. As many of you can see from my blog dates - I just don't do it now.  I have a hard time putting two sentences together in a meaningful way when all 6 of us are at home, let alone writing something thoughtful and legible!  So I asked for a laptop for Christmas.  Once I get all my photos uploaded, the idea is that I will be able to take the computer to the coffee shop for a few hours a week and write - rather than trying to do it while the kids are playing apples-to-apples two feet away.

It is my prayer that after some attention to our own stresses through out the day, we will find yourself on the way to living a more grace filled life.  So join me and let's embrace that (somewhat annoying) adage 'to blessed to be stressed'.

What are you most stressful times of day?  

Do you find your tendency towards anger or impatience (or whatever is specific to you), to be effected by your stress level?

What de-stresses you? Music? Scents?  Adequate sleep?

Thanks for stopping by!  Lord willing there will be much more to come in 2015… once those kids are back to school!

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