Hans Selye, the late Canadian endocrinologist and “father” of stress research, defines stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” Some people use the term stress only to describe unpleasant circumstances, such as doing taxes, the daily commute or the sound of screaming children. Stress is not the circumstance, it is our response to the circumstance. It is not ‘out there’ but rather inside us. Stress, as a term, is neither negative nor positive. The word simply describes an entirely normal psychophysiological process without which we would die.
Distress is the appropriate term to use in describing something negative or destructive. So, in the words of Forest Gump, “Stress happens” (I know. The T-Shirt and bumper stickers used a different “S” word but work with me here, ok?).
We are living in a time of unprecedented stress inducers:
- Exponential change
- Universal indebtedness
- Hurry and noise
- Complexity and overload
- Working Parents and one or both holding down more than one job
- Greater career insecurity
In times like this, Stopping would appear to be counterintuitive if not suicidal, metaphorically speaking. I would argue however, that there has never been a more important, lifesaving act for us to embrace than calling, ‘time-out.’ So, “stress happens” and Stopping is hard. As we enter the crazy, hectic, fun, meaningful, memory-making holiday season, I will offer 12 ideas for regaining control and balance in our lives. Individually and collectively, these ideas will address stress and emphasize going all-in with our friends, family and co-workers. I’ll post 2 ideas per day in order to have them all out there before Thanksgiving Day. For now, and in preparation for consider the blessing of allowing ourselves to be interrupted by God. This is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a wonderful book entitled, Life Together:
“God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions…It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”