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Transition and Stress

      Everyone will experience change, a transition, at one time or another.  

There is nothing so consistent as change

                During a time of transition, people normally experience stress because our brains and entire beings seek homeostasis, a survival mechanism.  We want things to stay the same.  here are some helpful tips to deal with transitions and the accompanying stress. 

                 We can help others – and us – by doing three things:

1.  Normalize This Time – People are not crazy; it’s normal to feel a whole range of emotions during this time.  From depression, anger, sadness, & disappointment to confusion and triggers which remind us of previous trauma and loss; it’s all normal

2.  Grieving The Loss – We all go through the stages of grief because in transition, we always lose something.  As in the death of a loved one, the stages apply here as well:  Shock and denial, anger and depression come and go as we grieve.  Just when we think we’ve successfully navigated one stage, we find ourselves back in the same feelings.  Again, that’s normal.  Grieving is crazy-making!  We eventuallymove to acceptance with sadness for the loss.

3.  Process The Feelings – It’s important that people don’t stuff all that grief and emotions but rather have opportunity to process, or talk about, the change in a healthy manner.  We can help by using the following skills:

  •  Create Safety – Provide confidentiality; knowing what they share with you won’t go any further.
  •  Listen without judgment – paraphrase the content and feeling; they will feel understood.  “i.e.,  “I hear you saying you feel pretty angry about this.” 
  • What NOT To say: 
     
    • Just trust God
    • Look on the bright side
    • I conquered it this way
    • Just read and pray more
    • Or any other “advice-giving” statements.  Unsolicited advice is like chopped liver – not appreciated. 

Turn The Ship Around! Part II - Invest In Yourself

ship in storm“Turn The Ship Around”

If you looked in the dictionary under “angry man,” you would likely see a picture of the man in my office who sat across from me. His body was uptight, he wore an intense frown and with clipped words began to list all the reasons he was entitled to be angry.   “I have never been appreciated,” he announced. “I’m the one who’s always being blamed for things not my fault.” As he continued to catalog all the wrongs in his life, it was clear this man believes the world is against him and to say he has a negative mind-set is an understatement!

As he told his story of a troubled childhood, failed relationships and difficulties keeping a job, I could quickly see the impact of all that negativity on his life! As a counselor, I knew he needed to feel a little bit of hope! Therefore, before we started probing into the reasons for all that anger, I acknowledged he must feel like he’s all alone on a ship in the middle of a storm. However, I went on, “Even in the midst of a storm, you can turn the ship around!”

He quickly and loudly declared he wasn’t just in a storm; he was in the middle of a tsunami! And, he wasn’t so sure about his being able to turn anything around. He, like so many people, felt certain his circumstances needed to change; that others should treat him differently, etc. That belief, of course, left him feeling helpless and out of control. No wonder he was so angry!

I then shared some good news with him:

Many years ago, the philosopher James Allen penned these words: “Order your thoughts and you will order your life. Pour the oil of tranquility upon the turbulent waters of the passions and prejudices, and the tempests of misfortune will be powerless to wreck the ship of your soul.” In other words, this man’s life can be transformed by the renewing of his mind - Romans 12.

“Angry man” will surely benefit as well from the teaching found in Philippians 4:8: “…think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

I was also able to inform him that medical science is now offering proof of these Biblical truths. Indeed, as Proverbs declares: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about this process: “As you think, you choose and you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.”

Because I know the importance of these scriptural and medical truths, I asked him to think of two or three things he might be grateful for, even now.  As you might imagine, however, he struggled to come up with even one! His thoughts had for so long been ones of depression and disappointment, it was clear that changing their direction would be like turning a big ship around in the middle of the ocean!

While most people won’t likely sink to the level of despair as “angry man,” it is the rare person indeed who hasn’t struggled to follow the scriptural principle to renew your mind and think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report….If there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.

Have you ever thought of turning off the TV as an empowering action for your mind? A way to “renew your mind?” In this age of constant broadcasts as close as your phone, rest assured you will most often hear what’s wrong with the world. It’s difficult to trust God for your healing when you’re regularly instructed to buy the latest pharmaceutical miracle medication because otherwise you will surely be struck with some horrific disease! There is certainly a place for modern medicine and medication, thank God! I’m just saying we can set ourselves up for all sorts of problems when we primarily hear about all the brokenness in the world and we neglect the renewing of our minds.  

When, however, we regularly invest in our minds, there are wonderful benefits! One excellent way to renew your mind is to practice gratitude. Psalms 118:24 instructs us to declare: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Interestingly, as soon as you start to feel grateful for what you already have, more good things will come your way. That’s because our mindset begins to change. As we practice gratefulness, we train our brains to move in positive directions. And good things are found in positive directions!

Similar to the advantages experienced by breathing deeply for your body’s benefit, let’s look at the medical benefits of gratitude for your mind’s benefit.

  • Being grateful 15 minutes a day raises antibodies.
  • Grateful people are less vulnerable to clinical depression
  • Expressing appreciation instead of anger, frustration or worry improves blood and heart rate.

One woman expressed those benefits this way: “I began to put into practice the

idea of saying that this would be a good day the minute I woke up. And I can positively say that I have not had a bad or upsetting day since then. The amazing thing is that my days actually haven’t been any smoother or anymore free from petty annoyances than they were, but they just don’t seem to have the power to upset me anymore. Then every night I list all the things for which I am grateful, little things that happened during the day which added to my happiness. I know that this habit has geared my mind to pick out the nice things and forget the unpleasant ones. The fact that for six weeks I’ve not had a single bad day is really marvelous to me!”

I think she learned to turn the ship around! You can too! I challenge you to declare in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Then, at the end of the day, think of at least three good things that happened that day. You will start to feel the difference, see the difference and you will find your mind on a different course – you’ve turned the ship around!