I was sitting around a table of perfect strangers at my first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting. It was the first meeting that year, and there were a lot of newbies like me.
We were getting underway in our inaugural discussion group, our coveted 20 minutes to talk about parenting issues. The group leader started out with a question about our speaker. And that’s when something terribly unexpected and uncharacteristic happened.
One of our fellow moms had just learned that her nephew was diagnosed with an incurable disease. He would die before his sixth birthday. She began to cry. Other moms also started to cry, and then to share. Before long, everyone’s fears and worries were heaped onto the table, and we were all holding our own damp tissue.
We talked about our insecurities as mothers, our relationship with our own moms and how that changed after we had children, and how we are received by other women, even moms, in our communities.
For a group of moms, most of whom just met one another, we sure had a lot to say. It seemed as though we’d all been carrying around some burdens: stress, guilt, anxiety, anger, resentment, pain, sadness.
Boy, it felt good to unload.
Often as parents, we feel incredible guilt when we complain. We try so very hard to be emotionally stable and positive forces for our children. It’s hard work keeping it all bottled inside.
All those worries we had before children – finances, commitments, work – multiplied after their arrival. And yet, these precious babies of ours showed us that these issues are really quite trivial.
And so naturally, we attempted to push these stressors to the side to concentrate on all the other new demands for our attention. Now we have soccer games, piano recitals, church choir and math homework to coordinate and supervise, all while handling the all-important role of moral compass and nurturer.
There’s also our own lives: church activities, jobs, housework, exercise (often the first thing to hit the back burner) and hobbies. Add multiple children and a spouse to the mix and it’s no wonder we often need to unload.
The good news is that God wants us to cast our anxiety on him, a message found in 1 Peter 5:7. It’s a theme reiterated throughout the Bible. In Psalms 55:22: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
What a great comfort it is as busy parents to know that we can share our sorrows, doubts, pains and anxieties with our Heavenly Father. It tops the list of the best advice for de-stressing:
1. ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer.’ – One of my favorite hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” sums up our need to transfer our burdens to God in the first verse: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! / What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! / O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
We thank the Lord, ask him to watch over loved ones and seek his blessings. Why then should we not cast our anxieties upon him, in exchange for peace?
The Lord tells us in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Why do we so often hang on to our problems when prayer will offer the solace we’re seeking. God wants us to dump our worries in his lap. What a precious gift!
2. Don’t apologize for your feelings. – Having ups and downs in life is normal. Sure, we’re not supposed to “sweat the small stuff.” Sometimes, however, we do. And that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up for letting the little things get to you. Likewise, don’t feel guilty about having a terrific day. Each day is different.
3. Leave your luggage behind. – A great deal of stress comes from past encounters, worries, tribulations. Leave them there where they can’t haunt you. You may not be able to completely break away from your past, but you can feel better about it if you forgive or seek forgiveness and then move forward.
4. Live in the present. – As much as we fret over the past, we also fear what lies ahead. God gives us permission to live only in the moment. In Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
5. Leave work at your workplace. – Our jobs can often be tremendously stressful with long hours, demanding deadlines and tedious tasks. You’ll find more peace at home if you leave your work on the other side of the door.
Three out of four people who work in an office with 100 or more employees work on the weekends, according to the Steelcase Workplace Index, a semiannual survey of workplace trends in the United States .
This isn’t surprising, given that so many workers put in more than 40 hours a week. It’s easy to fall into this trap. Instead, find ways to make your time more effective in the office and prioritize your life’s goals. Meet your deadlines without putting additional pressure on yourself and your family, and free yourself from long hours at the office.
6. Listen to music. – Many Christian artists perform songs of soothing qualities. Instead of grabbing the morning newspaper, pop in a CD and start your morning with inspiration. Fill your soul with hope, and mend your broken spirit.
7. Go to God’s word. – Some of the best stress-relievers are Bible verses. Read them, memorize them, pen them in your best handwriting and hang them on your refrigerator or on your desk at work.
Find out what Jesus said about worrying in Luke 12:25-26. And read that God is your refuge in Deuteronomy 33:27. Find the courage to quit worrying with verses like Luke 12:25-26: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
8. Talk it out. -- When all else fails, make an appointment with your church counselor, a Christian psychologist or your minister. Seek guidance from someone who can lead you to solutions.
9. Meditate on what you read. – Think about what the Bible has to say and how it’s relevant to your life as a stressed out parent. Can you relate?
Then you must also find solace here. Know that you’re walking hand-in-hand with God. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Remember the backbone of your faith, and envision the peace of God passing over you. Meditate on verses such as Numbers 6:24-26 and Psalm 23:1-3. Imagine, as you pray and read God’s word, that the Lord is rejuvenating your spirit and offering you peace.
Fight off those daily stressors with Bible in hand.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:7-9a,10).