Understanding & Managing Stress

Tools to Escaping a Stress-Dominated Culture

Before I met my wife, when I drove, I was a last minute planner. I often would get caught up thinking about other things, then at the last minute, realize I needed to get over into the other lane to turn. I was bold, confident and never thought twice about my driving approach. I always knew I would get into the right lane eventually, and I was never afraid to signal and push my way in so, in my mind –there was no need to stress. 

Later on, and after being married for a while, my wife began to graciously observe my driving habits. After a while her observational comments finally surfaced and she began kindly telling me that she didn’t know how or why I was able to wait until the last minute to get into the right lane. For me it was normal, but for her, it made no sense.
would have been a stressful approach towards driving.

After some conversation, she then proceeded to tell me that her approach was: different. She told me that she always made sure she strategically planned ahead of time where she needed to go. She made sure she always knew what lane she needed to be in far in advance. For her, it was less stressful to drive, if she had a guiding framework, some type of pre-planned out map in her head. She needed to know where she wanted to go and had to have all the steps strategically thought out logically to successfully get herself there safely while reducing stress.

There is a parallel here to our lives.

The Ignorance of a Stress-Dominated Culture:

As I contemplated my approach to driving and her approach to driving, eventually, the lightbulb went off and the analogy surfaced. Suddenly, I started to make other connections thinking that I would often cut people off or speed up really quick causing me to speed just to get into the line I needed to be in. As I analyzed my approach further, I realized this driving style was the bi-product of poor-planning, unnecessary speeding, not being considerate of my surroundings, living a hurried-life and living life with a stressed out and disorganized mind. It was a ripple effect of poor life-planning.

Fast forward to life, after a year and half of marriage. It’s ironic, that I now default to her driving style. And as I reflected driving today, I realized my new driving style was such a peaceful, more enjoyable and much calmer way of driving. The crazy thing is, I didn’t even realize I was living a stressed out, unorganized, inconsiderate and often unplanned life. There problem is, most of us live our lives the way that I drive.

Culturally, we live in a stress-dominated culture. In our North American culture, stress and success have become as normal as the air we breath. We rush to work, then we rush to small groups at our church, and as we are there, we rush through our prayers, then we rush to bed so we can rush to do it all again. In the morning we rush through our devotions so we can rush through another day to rush to do other things that are less important than our devotions. Everywhere we go, we are always living rushed lives.

The Bi-Product of Poor-Planning:

The truth is, stress in our culture, is not as normal as we make it to be, and it’s almost always a damaging bi-product of poor-planning, a disorganized life and a poor result of living a rushed and hurried life. It’s a poor result of a sad lack of proper preparation or a lack of proper action taken on one’s part to reduce stress firsthand.

Just think of any stressful situation in your life in the last week. Maybe you left your college paper until the last day to finish it or maybe you had a deadline at work and you spent your entire weekend having fun instead of preparing for your assignment. On the other hand, maybe your spouse told you to do some things for them but in your head you said: “I’m too busy for that”, and now they are mad at you. Or maybe your wife has been asking you to go to church with her to build your relationship with God or she has been asking you to go to marriage counselling, but you have said: “Honey, I’m too busy!” 

As a result, one day before the deadline approaches you are angry, upset, stressed and tired because you didn’t sleep one second since of you were up stressing the night before. On the flip side, maybe as a result your boss is angry and you lost your job because of poor planning, your wife is angry because you didn’t do what she asked, your relationship with God is non-existent or decaying and your marriage, that was about to fall a part 2 years ago, is now hanging by a thread and now you are staring at divorce papers: angry, upset, confused and…stressed, even more.

Trust me, I’ve been stressed before. I get it. However, the reality is stress is almost always a damaging result of poor planning, lack of preparation, lack of care, spiritual lethargy, apathy or a result of failing to diagnose the rush-rush-rush of our cultural context and come up with a cure to fight through the cultural noise of a go-go-go saturated culture. Stress is a terrible feeling. However, at the same time, we often only have ourselves to blame because stress is something that we can often control.

Bringing it Together:

Maybe for you, you work too often and it creates unintended, unneeded and unwanted stress in your life. Maybe you work so hard you are starting to have health issues or heart problems, because you just can’t stop working. You can’t and won’t enjoy life. Worst yet, maybe your relationship with the Lord, your family, a friend or your wife is strained, stressful and full of unwanted bitterness or full of stressful arguments due to poor planning or the refusal to put in place a plan to intentionally address problems that are very easily changeable and able to be avoided.

The truth is: stress is almost always a result of poor planning. If you’re stressed because you don’t know Christ and don’t know what will happen when you die, then you need to spend time to reconcile things with God and find out the answers so you can live a life of peace. If your work schedule is so busy that you can’t even take your family away for a weekend, maybe it’s time to drop the successful corporate act. Maybe it’s time to trade in a big paycheque and a nice Christmas bonus for good health and a thriving social life with your family.

At the end of the day, you are the one making the tiny little decisions every day that eventually set the metronome of your life, the speed of the rhythm of life you live and control the outcome. I understand, if you’re life-circumstances force you to work 3 jobs just to pay the bills. However, I’m addressing the over-worked-by-choice employee, the overachiever who can’t shut off his mind from work and be present with his family –the one who is unwilling to put in the time to make some planned steps of change in their relationship with God or with a family member or spouse.

Don’t fall into the culturally-programmed lie of living in a stress-dominated culture. Set new rhythms, today, and build new-life habits that focus your eyes on Christ, your spouse, your family and the things that matter or watch as your life passes you by, hurried and unaware of the precious things you are missing out on that are right in front of your eyes.

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Jeremy A. Siggelkow

Writer. Speaker. Teacher.
Jeremy A. Siggelkow is a, Husband, Speaker, Writer, and Founder of: One Minute Discipleship, 180º Relationships and 180º Pastor. He specializes in helping people create better life-stories through the supernatural power of the gospel. To read more click: here.

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