I never had a semester in grad school when I didn’t cry because of overwhelming stress. For 3 years, I looked forward to not having deadlines. I longed to have time to visit with friends and take care of my house and family without the pressure of reading that chapter or responding to that classmate’s post or editing that paper. I was sure that once I received that beautiful Master’s Degree, I would go back to life as it was intended to be. Of course, I knew regular life stressors would still pop up from time to time. But at least I would be able to deal with them without a 10 page paper due, as well!
Fast forward to the present. It’s been 8 weeks since school started back up and I’m working in a new position. It’s a great opportunity and I love it. We got a dog named Bonnie Jean and she is the sweetest thing and we love her. I’m planning to run my first 10k in over 2 years and I’m so excited to have the time to train for it. All these new ventures take work but all are worth it.
My shoulders have gotten just as tense as they used to. I worry about missing a run. I think about troublesome students at home and get anxious thinking about how I’ll ever get through to them. I find myself overreacting to little things (the dishwasher has to be unloaded AGAIN?!). Somehow, I’m still stressing out about things and it feels even worse than before.
And so, I’ve come to the unpleasant realization that I’ve made stress a habit. In high school, I stressed about projects and rehearsals and swim practice and various leadership meetings. In college, I stressed about papers and rehearsals and needing to exercise and leadership meetings. In figuring out marriage and grad-school life, I stressed about papers and rehearsals and my running schedule and all kinds of meetings. Now, with one of the most stressful pursuits out of my way, my brain and heart are still finding things to freak out as if they need the unpleasant sensation of racing adrenalin.
I’m thankful to say that I came to this realization just before a much-needed recent church retreat. The Lord really prepared me going into it and then used the retreat itself to help me understand this new-found habit (addiction, really). I’m still working through the how’s and why’s, but I’m glad to say that just acknowledging the struggle has eased the stress in a major way! I’ll share what I learn along the way. :)
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:25-27)