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I was working my way through a row of tomatoes, picking what I could while pulling weeds at the same time. Lori was shoulder high in the okra, quickly filling one bucket and exchanging it for an empty one.
Tossing the weeds to the side, emptying another bucket of tomatoes, eyeing the rows of ripe peppers, I said to Lori, “I’m overwhelmed. I’ve gotten behind, and I don’t see how we can catch up.”
The garden, meant to be a stress reliever, was beginning to feel like one more thing that had to get done on a day already maxed with responsibilities.
It is easy to get so overloaded with good things that enjoying them gets buried beneath the very activity of doing them. We want the kids to play ball, then get exhausted from attending games and practices; we urge them to take music lessons, yet pant from one rehearsal to the next; we want to stay healthy, but struggle finding time for the gym.
Usually it’s not one huge stress factor that causes us to feel fractured, it’s a combination of several. I was frantically working in the garden after Lori and I rushed through the grocery store so I could prepare for a wedding later in the afternoon before I studied my sermon. And, walking from the garden to the house, I realized I was carrying, in addition to vegetables, the emotional weight of moving my son next week.
The problem was not the weeds in the garden, but me and my commitments.
We are overloaded: responsibilities at work, email and text messages that seem never ending, junk mail stacked on our desks, and, oh yes, house work and lawn work all seem to pile on us like football players on a tackled running back.
We get so involved in what we are doing that we don’t realize what’s happening to us. One doctor has said that stress is the most harmful and widespread health hazard in our society today. So, what do we do about it?
• Take time to step back and evaluate your situation. If what you enjoy doing has become burdensome, it may be because you’ve taken on too much. Ask yourself what’s truly important. Take time to identify stress makers and stress relievers. While we can’t always avoid stressful situations, we can make time for tension releasers.
• Rest. When we don’t get enough rest, everything seems worse. Our bodies and minds can’t operate efficiently when we are tired and exhausted. There is a reason why the Lord told us to take a day for rest: It’s necessary for our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.
• Take one day at a time. We can prepare for the future, but we can only live in the present. Jesus admonished, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34).
• Exercise. A brisk walk or run can do wonders to burn off stress. Endorphins are released as you exercise, helping you feel better.
• Set boundaries. Define what’s important to you, set boundaries and then be prepared to defend them. If spending time with your family is a priority, you will have to say “no” to those who unwittingly call you to neglect that time.
• Take control of your schedule. If you keep taking on more, something else in your life is edged out. Look at your schedule. Is it realistic? Are you expecting superman capabilities of yourself, thinking you are able to leap with a single bound from one item on the “to do” list to the next? If you are feeling overwhelmed, like I did that day in the garden, you might be putting too much on your plate.
• Take action. Someone has said insanity is doing the same things you’ve always done while expecting different results. If you are stressed and continue living the way you are, you will continue to feel overwhelmed. You are the only one who can take steps to correct your course.
So, yesterday we went to a movie, and I forgot about obligations for a while, came home, sat under the stars, gazed at the moon, winked at my garden resting silently in the dark, told it to be patient, for I would visit it tomorrow, then closed by daily planner, gave it to God and slept soundly.