December 14, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Fighting stress with sensible changes and prayer

Shirley Vogler MeisterOne morning not very long ago, I had a “meltdown.”

Most readers know how it feels when nearly everything that can go wrong actually does. Then back spasms suffered nearly a year, despite normally healing therapy, continued with a vengeance.

I was at the limits of endurance, especially because I was getting very little rest. My “inner clock” changed drastically, allowing only five hours of sleep at night—and I need much more than that. I was at my wit’s end!

Many readers surely remember the Catholic writer, Erma Bombeck, who died in 1996 after a kidney transplant. Erma wrote an internationally recognized column called “At Wit’s End,” also the name of one of her books.

If I were a humor columnist like Erma, I could entertain my readers with silly details of my problems—and readers would laugh. However, I am not a humorist, although I usually can find something funny in most situations—but not when I’m so tired that I am “dragging my bones.”

Instead, I will share with readers something that my sister, Beverley, sent to me on the very day that I felt so thoroughly at “wit’s end.”

It is called “36 Christian Ways to Reduce Stress” and is attributed to Pastor Paul Ciniraj of Salem Voice Ministries in Kottayam, Kerala, India. It is prefaced by this advice: “Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn’t happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.”

Right! However, here is some of the advice that I now try to remember to help the body and soul:

“Pray. Go to bed on time. Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed. Say ‘no’ to projects that won’t fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your mental health. Delegate tasks to capable others. Simplify and unclutter your life. Less is more. … Allow extra time to do things and to get to places. Pace yourself … and difficult projects over time. … Take one day at a time.

“Separate worries from concerns … and let go of the anxiety. Live within your budget. … Do something for the kid in you every day. Carry a Bible with you to read while waiting. … Eat right. Get organized so everything has its place.

“Listen to an [inspirational audio recording] while driving. Write [down] thoughts and inspirations. … Every day, find time to be alone with God. Meditate. Make friends with godly people. Keep a folder of favorite Scriptures on hand. Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often … “Thank you, Jesus.” Laugh. Laugh some more. Take your work seriously, but yourself not at all. Sing.

“Develop a forgiving attitude. … Be kind to unkind people. … Sit on your ego. Talk less, listen more. Slow down. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe. … Every night before bed, think of one thing you’re grateful for. … God has a way of turning things around for you. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Rm 8:31)”—even during the often stressful preparations for the Christmas season.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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