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Finding Strength To Conquer Stress

Posted May 24 2009 10:12pm

ellen and levi

Originally uploaded by noahstone

How does a person keep stress in check?

This year is not quite halfway through yet, but I can honestly say it certainly has been one of the most difficult and challenging years I have ever encountered. And while I have managed to ward off any depression setting in, I definitely had to work hard at keeping my stress in check.

Here’s a touch of what’s been going on in my little corner of the world:

  • After a couple of long stays at the hospital with serious heart and lung problems, my Dad was finally released with these departing words from his heart doctor: “Your heart is only functioning at 30% and will never get better. You may live up to 10 years, or you may live only 10 days.” Not quite the encouraging words we had hoped for, but they could have been much worse I suppose. The doctors then told this 75-year-old workaholic to go home and sit in front of the TV. Instead he went home and fretted over completing repairs on his house which my Mom would have to burden alone should the worst happen to him. Therefore, my siblings and I are hurriedly doing the repairs for him (if we don’t, he’ll do them himself), while still somehow trying to maintain our own households. We’ll be replacing his roof soon and I can’t wait to get that over with. (Here’s a bit of strength training info: My Dad has always been an extremely strong man. When he first entered the hospital, the doctors said they were surprised he hadn’t died of heart failure yet. They claimed it was due to the fact that his body was so strong.)
  • Before the health issues with my Dad popped up, my husband and I were already burdened with concerns over my husband’s business which quickly went from thriving to dying due to the economy. We’ve had to temporarily find other ways to make an income. Business has picked up again (yeah!), but it certainly set us back a huge step.

Outside of my home:

  • I watched a friend suffer through agonizing surgeries after having his kneecap removed due to an infection which consumed his entire leg. He finally received an artificial knee and is healing well now, but, Yikes!, the pain he endured. Luckily, he was in the same hospital as my Dad so I could visit the two in one trip. And, luckily, he didn’t lose his entire leg.
  • And, sadly, just last week a wonderful and loving neighbor lost his battle to cancer. Such a tremendous loss for us, but who can blame God for wanting to take such a loyal servant to finally serve in his Heavenly Kingdom.

Now, not everything is bad in this little spot in the middle of the U.S. I do have good news too. My daughter announced early in the year that she is getting married … in June! This is great news, but how do you pay for a wedding on such short notice when your business suffered so tremendously? The timing could have been better. And how do you help one person, my father, get through a difficult stage of his life (preparing for death) while cheerfully helping another person, my daughter, start a new and exciting stage of her life (a family of her own)? From roofing clothes to wedding clothes, it seems I’m constantly going from one extreme to the other … that being from sadness to gladness.

When I think back to being in my 20’s, I’m certain that dealing with just one of the struggles mentioned above would have put me into a depression that would have taken me weeks to overcome. But while my motivation for the goals I have set for myself is definitely slacking, a depression is not yet overtaking.

What do I have that gives me strength now that I didn’t have in my 20’s? Well, two important things give me the strength I need to fight stress.

First of all, in my 20’s, I was not a born-again Christian. While I had my heart set on earthly goals, I did not have my heart set on more important heavenly goals. I did not have in my life an awesome preacher whom I have today to help me keep my eyes on the ultimate goal. Being a born-again Christian sure seems to make troubled times seem not so troubling.

Secondly, while I do occasionally lose track of some of my earthly goals (such as this blog), I never lose focus on my health goals. Day-after-day I continue to arise at 5:30 a.m. to take my daily dose of cardio, weight lifting, boxing, and/or abdominal crunches. There is no doubt in my mind that exercising has played a major role in fighting off depression and possibly other health issues. By pumping up endorphins, exercise improves one’s mood. It gives self-confidence, which empowers a person to tackle the worst situations, and it lessens the symptoms of depression. It helps you sleep better and it helps ward off other illnesses that may try to set in.

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