How to Recognize Stress

For some of us, stress is easy to recognize. We feel a sense of overwhelm, and we know we need to either change our direction or move away from the source of the problem.screaming woman

But sometimes, stress sneaks up on us and we may not recognize it so readily. That’s when we can check out these symptoms:

  •   I’m exhausted yet I can’t sleep.

When you know you’re tired and you catch yourself saying, “I’m so tired.” You may be stressed.

When you lie down at night but your mind is racing with a million things to do, you may be reacting to stress.

  • I keep forgetting things.

This is a scary place to be, because sometimes our minds immediately go to, “Is it Alzheimer’s? Is it dementia? Oh God – I hope not!”

It probably isn’t something as drastic as a brain problem. When you forget where you’ve laid your keys or you can’t pull up someone’s name – it may simply be an overload of stress.

Sometimes, all you need is a day off.

  • I keep getting sick.

Stress can affect the immune system and leave us vulnerable to the germs and bacteria all around us. If you’re constantly fighting a cold, you may be stressed.

Stress is particularly adept at attacking digestive issues. When your stomach feels wound in knots and/or you’re visiting the bathroom every thirty minutes – your body may be reacting to additional stress.

The best way to remedy this symptom is to rest. Force yourself to take a day off from work. Find a quiet place to rejuvenate. Drink lots of water and eat veggies.

  • I’m self-medicating.

Have a craving for chocolate? Ice cream? Potato chips? Just started a nice bottle of Merlot and now it’s empty?

Stress can often chase us toward some type of coping mechanism and usually, these aren’t the healthiest choices.

So if you’re mindlessly eating or drinking, if you’re compulsively buying more clothes than you need, if you’re searching for any type of self-medication – you may be stressed.

  • I’m overly emotional.

As women, we tend to think and react emotionally, but when we find ourselves overly emotional – crying at the simplest things – we may be stressed.

Tears are an important release and we often need to cry, to unload some of the pressure and/or to grieve in a healthy way.

But if you find yourself crying at every commercial or yelling at someone who doesn’t deserve it – check the stresses of your life.

These are some of the possible symptoms, and the ways we deal with stress may determine how we overcome the root of it.

So be aware of how stress may be affecting you. And when it seems to overwhelm you, read a Psalm, phone a friend or contact us at GateWay of Hope.

We can help.

©2015 GateWay of Hope

Inhale !

For the past several weeks, social media has included several photos, links and/or articles about relaxation and rest.solitude image

Maybe it’s because we’re in the last part of the summer season and everyone is either on a vacation or thinking about one. Or maybe it’s because of the increasing stress in our world.

We all need a break, but women who are stressed out need even more than just an occasional vacation. We need to find a regular place of rest – where we can inhale, find peace and be restored.

If we don’t inhale, we can’t exhale. If we don’t fill up with joy and hope, then we can’t share those qualities with anyone else.

Abby Seixas, the author of “Finding the Deep River Within” calls this place the “Time-in.” She describes Time-in as:

• A time without interruption, distraction or multi-tasking
• A time spent by yourself and with yourself
• A time where the emphasis is on being with yourself more than doing the activity

When was the last time you just sat and did nothing? Or at least, you thought you were doing nothing.

What you were actually doing was inhaling, resting your spirit and silently building up defenses for the next exhale.

Maybe you didn’t realize it at the time, but without that time-in, you would have reacted to the next stress-filled moment with a less than satisfactory outcome. Tears, exhaustion, screaming – these are reactions that sometime happen when we need a time-in.

So how in the world do we find a time and a place to truly rest our souls?

We have to be intentional about it. Schedule a time on your calendar to get away. Then do it. Don’t talk yourself out of it through false guilt or lack of personal boundaries.

Find a place that is away from your stressful job, home or situation. If you need to hire a babysitter or a caregiver – then do it. You are worth it and you will feel better for it.

Initiate the help of a friend or a family member. Let someone else fix supper while you escape. Then one day, you can reciprocate for that friend and cook supper while she escapes.

Ask God to help you remember that He created you as a human being, not a robot. He knows that no matter what good things you’re doing – you need a restorative time-in.

Even Jesus rowed across the lake for some R & R. If He needed a break, then so do you.

© 2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

The Courage to Be Still

Be still - Sara's blog post pikI want the courage to be still,
to not be afraid to exist in the spot I am
instead of racing for where I think I should be
or reaching for what I think I should have.

I want the courage to shed the shoulds.
to not be in control,
to not set the time table, to not pick the direction,
to not trust self before God.

I want the courage to fall in.
to be open, to be here,
to be present, to breathe it in.
to really listen.

I want the courage to accept that stillness is not the same as laziness,
that sometimes quality is not found in productivity;
to respect I am a part of a plan
even though my plans will likely fall apart.

I want the courage to be still in this time,
in this place, for this purpose,
to know God moves even if I don’t.

I want the courage to not push myself
but instead let him carry me.
I would arrive less worn and with impeccable timing.

I want the courage to believe there are times
I must do His will by not doing a thing.

Carry me, Abba.
Hold me still in Your strength.
Press my ear to Your heart.

Give me the courage to hear this is the start of something lovely.

© 2014 – Sara Brunsvold –
GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Steps and Stops

The grey asphalt with its yellow center stripe wound through the flatlands of Kansas. On our way home from vacation, we were determined to make the entire 11-hour trip in one day. But at a rest stop, God spoke through my fatigue.

“You need to stop,” he said.

“But we’re only three hours from home,” I argued. “Why stop now? We can push through and make it before midnight.”

“You need to stop.”

Why do we bother to argue with God? It does no good, and He always knows best. In fact, wise Solomon reminded us in Proverbs 20:24, “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”

God orders our steps, but He also knows when we should stop.

We found a comfortable motel room for that one night. As my traveling companion and I lay down in our respective beds, we both sighed. Our bodies were indeed too tired to go any farther. God knew best. He also knew that we might have nodded off in the middle of the highway and struck another car. He knew a deer might charge in front of us and our tired reflexes prevent us from hitting the brakes in time. He knew we needed to stop and recharge – then proceed on our journey the next morning.

Steps and stops – both ordered by the Lord and both important to our spiritual lives.

What about you? Has God ever commanded you to stop? What did you do?

The Power of Play

Ever since I sat in my school desk next to the little girl with everything, I’ve wanted it.  As I maturated through the grade school years, some kid always had one – and I didn’t. Even during the hormonal years of adolescence, I wanted one and didn’t get it. Somehow, it was so special – I couldn’t even whisper to Santa Claus or to Jesus that I wanted one. The desire just stayed in a secret cubicle of my heart. Until this year.

Then one of our incredible volunteers at GateWay gave me what I had so wanted for so long – a box of 64 Crayolas with the sharpener on the back. Also tucked into my Christmas sack was a unique coloring book with special tabs that lift to help reveal the entire picture.

Okay, I know I’m way past grade school – even high school – okay, even post graduate school. But that box of 64 with the sharpener on the back was the icing on my Christmas cookies. Not only did our volunteer present the perfect gift, but she confirmed the truth of the power of play.

Especially in our stress-filled lives, we need to recognize once again the gorgeous joy of play. During Christmas, I watched my great-niece busy at the work that toddlers do best – they play. She moved from one toy to the next, testing the shapes and licking the colors until she knew exactly how to make them work for her – to experience the height of joy in play. I wanted to be a toddler again, to forget the traumas of my childhood and the stresses of growing up and the financial burdens of today.

Then I realized – I can indeed be that young again. I pack up my coloring book and my new box of 64 with the sharpener on the back and drive to a quiet coffee shop where I play. For an hour, I find joy in being creative. I forget the rest of the world and all the other stress-filled people while I choose a picture to color. During that hour, I tap in to that young girl in pigtails who loved running around the farm and saw Jesus in every change of the seasons. As I choose a vibrant color from so many to outline my picture, I remember how God outlines me in His book of life. Then I pick a shading color to provide texture and movement on the page. I praise God for the many ways He shades my life with His compassion and provision and joy. When I am finished and pack up my box of 64 with the sharpener on the back, I know the fulfillment of an hour spent with myself and my Lord.

Then once again, I ask God to bless that GateWay volunteer who gave from her generous heart and reminded me of the power of play.  

True Rest

Psalm 116:7, “Return to your rest, o my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”

Here at GateWay of Hope Ministries, we often refer to our retreats as a 2-hour permission to rest. This type of rest or retreat is a time to step back from all the stresses of life, to find our genuine selves and to embrace truth. It’s a time of remembering who we are in Christ and feeling encircled by the compassion and acceptance of other women.

One definition of rest is “A state of unthreatened well-being.” We work hard at GateWay so that every woman who comes for counseling, groups, prayer or retreats feels completely safe and unthreatened. Confidentiality is one of our main principles, and we make certain that our women feel safe within relationship. Our group leaders are trained to respect that safety and employ relationship-building techniques within groups. Keeping women in that state of rest includes the peace of Christ, the safety of relationships and the well-being that comes when we defeat lies with the truth.

The Psalmist encourages us to return to rest and to focus on how the Lord deals bountifully with us. We invite you to GateWay to discover the well-being that flows from true rest.