Handling Stress and Decision Making

The thesis is beginning to feel like this! The pressure is on! I have just a couple of short weeks to finish a chapter and tack on an introduction and conclusion to submit to my committee for review. Yikes!

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” That’s exactly what I feel my professors are telling me right now. However, is not that the way it often is in life as well? Yes, there are times where all you can do is try. However, when it comes to some things, we have to take the Nike motto and “Just do it”. However, the process of knowing to “Just do it” or to not do it can be quite stressing especially if you’re already stressed out. So, I’ve compiled a little list of a few things to help you and me. I’m facing some decisions right now and most of this is based on experiences from others as well as myself.

So, what to do when things seem out of control much like Luke dropping everything in his “mind exercises”?

Yes, as Yoda puts it, “You must learn control.” Thought I don’t mean control in the same sense Yoda is referring to. My life right now definitely feels very much like Luke trying to balance several things at once and yes, something consistently gets dropped or forgotten. That’s what the time between falling asleep and being asleep is for because I seem to frequently come wide awake with a “Oh, good granny! That assignment is due tomorrow!” Yes, so, I pretty much just dropped R2, and I’m jumping out of bed running to the computer tripping over books and shoes on the way. That is part of my losing control in daily life. But, what about control in other aspects of life?

The control I’m referring to  is not being in control of every single detail of life because that is frankly impossible, but instead learning how to take control of yourself and to realize how much you can actually handle. I’m not necessarily trying make a profound parallel with a little green syntax-altering, pointy-eared, light-saber jedi knight, but there is some truth to his statement to learn control. So, how do we find control and what do we do about making those really hard decisions in times when we feel a lack of control?

1. Ask for advice and/or prayer from someone you trust and look up to.

You’ve got a big decision to make that will probably completely alter the direction of your life. You’re stressed out with daily cares and trials. There’s too much going on! You don’t know what to do!

You remember that friend or that pastor whom you look up to? In many cases they may be older than you or at least have traveled more through this life than you have. Chances are they’ve been in a similar place needing to make a really important decision. Maybe you don’t want to announce to everyone just yet that you’re having to make an important decision because you need to focus. Talk to that wise friend in private. Make sure he or she is someone you trust! It may seem a little awkward at first, but at least in my experience, it helps to just get it out there especially when you know that they care about you and will pray for you and with you as you make a decision. The other advantage is that they can look at your situation objectively and calmly because they’re looking at it from the standpoint of an observer. Thus, they can probably point out some things for you to think about that may help you in making a decision.

This turns out to be a good stress reliever as well. I felt considerably less stressed recently after doing this.

2. No, is also a valid answer.

As I found out this week, “no” is still an answer. Maybe it’s not the answer you wanted, but you still got an answer, right? I didn’t take my “no” so well this past week mostly because this “no” came at the end of a long day of several little disappointing things that really grated on me. I reverted back to #1 on this list and was told “Well, that’s one answer, Stacey. It’s okay.” It’s hard to see a door  close after hoping it would open, and then being faced with staring into the abyss of the unknown in the form of other options.

How do you handle a “No”? It’s disappointing indeed, but it’s not the end. There’s probably something else coming along that will make you glad that the previous answer was a “no”. Some of the most wonderful blessings in my life so far have often come after a series of “no’s”. So, don’t give up and don’t stress! A “yes” may just be around the corner!

3. Very rarely does a decision need to be made immediately.

You’re stressed. You feel like you can’t handle anything more without potentially screaming or taking up the life a hermit because you want quiet. Come on, hermit crabs do actually seem to be quite contented non-stressed little creatures anyway.

A decision is coming, and just the thought of that coming decision stresses you. Your number one rule is: STOP! DROP! and….(no, not roll)….LEAVE IT ALONE! In other words, stop stressing, drop it (stop thinking about it), and leave it be until you can think with a calm mind. My tendency is to make things worse because I’m already stressed out and tired and now I’m thinking about something that’s shouldn’t really be thought of until I have the peace of mind to think about it. Just drop it and don’t make that decision yet. Ask yourself these questions:

How long do I have until I have to make this decision?

Is it really benefiting me to think about this right now?

Is there anything I can really do about this at this moment?

Have I prayed about this today?

Answering those questions may help you to try to refocus your point of view and yes, most likely will help your stress level. Knowing that something is beyond what you can handle at this moment can help by the fact of knowing that you can come back to it later, it doesn’t need immediate action. For now, relax! Yes, there will be a few times in your life when you will have to make an important decision quickly, but those times are few and God will help you then just as He will help you now.

4. BREATHE!

It sounds rather basic, I realize. However, it helps to take a deep breath. I don’t know if this is scientifically true, but at least in my case, I don’t seem to breathe in as deeply when I’m stressed. I’m nearly holding my breath or taking in only small breaths. Less oxygen to the brain is not helping you! Just stop and take a deep breath before you write that email or decide on that apartment or write that paper. Before you make a big decision, just breathe! It can’t hurt!

5. Move on.

Once the decision is made whether yes or no, move on. Prepare for the results of the decision whether it’s moving, accepting a job, starting at a university, saying yes to a proposal, etc. If your decision has been made based on a lot of thought, prayer, and Godly counsel from others, you have made the best decision you possibly can. If God has given you the green light, GO! Don’t sit there hesitating and biting your nails at the starting line, He has a plan for you and He’s shown you the path to take! There is no more need for stressing and worrying about “what if’s”. A new adventure awaits!

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