Leaves blow softly in the wind. Birds chatter like a group of seniors gathering over coffee. Beauty, calm, community all surround me this morning as I put pen to paper to share my thoughts and feelings on stress in our modern day.
It isn’t without irony that clarity on stress is found in the peace of my setting.
Have you ever walked outside into a sunny day and, with shut eyes, raised your face to bask in the rays of light? Can you feel yourself breathing in deeply through your nose and exhaling from your mouth, a sigh that releases the stress in your mind and body?
At the same time, many will tire of the tranquility. Boredom creates a restlessness, that can manifest an internal stress, that needs action, change, or a bit of chaos to challenge us.
Children pull on our shirt tails asking, “what can I do now? I am bored.”
The dichotomy of our needs for engagement, and disengagement, to avoid the negative aspects of what we refer to as stress, are a bit of God’s irony.
It is the lesson of balance told and re-told.
Stress occurs when the scales are tipped to one side.
Age removes our resilience to the stress.
A lifetime of imbalance creates a short fuse for our need for equilibrium.
I run with abandon through my week. I love what I do and it engages me fully- intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Just like anyone, when things are going well it is exhilarating. When we mess up or face a problem, it is emotional and jarring, although maybe hidden to the outside world.
Working through the inevitable problem is part of the creativity and the eustress (good stress).
Come Friday evening I am racing through traffic to get to my back patio for a few minutes of sunlight, tranquility, and quiet.
Sitting in my adirondack chair, I shut my eyes, bring my face to the sun, and take that deep breath. I am beginning the weekend re-balance. Even….even when I had a great week.
Every cell in my body seeks to quench the need for equilibrium.
When I reflect on when I was my children’s ages now, in their twenties, I ignored the need. I pushed on and pushed through with long workdays, working through the weekend indoors, with no release valve to let out the building pressure.
Years of rebelling against how God created us, with the natural draw towards balance, ended for me in bone-weary, life-altering burnout.
But, in it, as with all of our rebellion, it brought me to my knees looking up to the God of the Universe, saying “please help”. My way is not life-giving. Years and years of stress in the name of resilience and grit led to decades of peaceful living to counter-act it.
Now in my fifties, I see it differently.
I don’t want only the extremes. Just like when I began to buckle under the stress of 70-hour work weeks and raising three kids under the age of three, I became emotionally stressed from the boredom, and lack of purpose, that followed those many years of too much.
After leaving the work that was all consuming, I craved peace and quiet. I wanted no responsibility. I needed time freedom and flexibility to explore the rest of life.
I did this for a decade.
Although comparatively the stress was much reduced, at some point in that decade I was plagued with the need for purpose, even if I didn’t have the energy to pursue it. I wanted to do more. I learned to bask in the sun, take up hobbies, seek God, volunteer, and spend time with my family.
But, I guess I got bored.
God created us for balance. God created us for His purposes. So once my kids were raised I dove into growing my business.
However, this time….this time I did it a little differently, albeit, still not perfect.
It has been another decade since I was in a place to begin to grow Crossroads. This time I paced myself. I went from 20-hour work weeks to 30-hour work weeks. And as my kids entered college, I could contemplate a 40-hour work week.
I don’t get it right all the time. I still have weeks or months where I overload on work and quickly the trauma of my bone weary burnout returns and I need to quickly recalibrate. I have also had a year or so when personal things, like the 3 kids who are all about the same age all getting married within 7 months, de-railed me from work. I can’t do both at a high level of stress.
So one way or another, I seek the equilibrium much sooner.
I still believe we can do it all in a lifetime, just not at the same time.
We need to maintain a reasonable amount of stress to stay healthy, and even with good stress, we still need balance. We need rest, restoration, people, love and life.
If you are in your 50’s, it isn’t too late. Make changes now.
If you are in your 20’s or 30’s or 40’s, my prayer is that you will see and learn from those ahead of you, maintain balance now, to gain the most of all that life has to offer every day….
…. not some day.