Today is the last day of a 3 ½ day conference I’m attending in Florida for work. It’s been a great conference for the most part. I saw some good friends who I only see once or twice a year. I gleaned some tips and ideas that I will be able to implement back at the office to increase revenue and make my staff and me more productive and efficient. And I got to spend some time in the warm, sunny Florida weather, which has been a nice break from cold, rainy Oregon.
On that last note, I should have enjoyed just a bit more of that sun this afternoon instead of attending the final plenary session, but the topic looked interesting so I went. The topic was emotional intelligence. I thought I would come away with at least one or two tips on how to better deal with others, maybe something that would help in my role as a manager and program director. Alas, that was not to be.
This far too touchy-feely session was all quite odd. The “speaker” started by having us meditate for 7 minutes, during which time we were supposed to visualize ourselves next to a lake. Then he had us doing exercises to illustrate how we experience stress because of the fight or flight response of the amygdala of the brain because of the 99.9% of the human existence that involved running from tigers, followed by an exercise in which we were supposed to look into the eyes of another person for 2 minutes — twice — and I’m still not sure why.
In general, the “solution” to stress that he seemed to be offering — though he never came right out and said this — was to focus inwardly on our real self. He also suggested that we need to recognize the way things truly are.
I generally am not a very stressed-out person. Things don’t rile me up too easily and I don’t worry about all the things on my to-do list. I take one day at a time and one task at a time, and if no one is going to die as a result of my doing or not doing something, I don’t let it stress me. My solution to the problem of stress has been this:
- I spend at least 15 minutes in prayer every morning, not focusing on me but on Jesus.
- I concern myself more with the needs of those around me than with myself.
- When I catch myself being “me” focused, I stop and ask God to refocus my thoughts onto Him.
I do agree with the second solution that this speaker suggested — that we recognize the way things truly are. And the way things truly are is that God is in control of the big picture, no matter what the little picture in front of me might suggest.
I thought of Peter who was able to walk on water, until he took his focus off Jesus. As long as we focus on the source of our strength, power, and peace, we will not sink into a sea of stress and worry.
I also thought of Daniel who was able to spend the night in the lions’ den without a scratch because he trusted in God to protect him. As long as we trust in the One who cares for us, we will have no need to engage in fight or flight behavior in the face of lions.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV).
So where is your focus today? If you are feeling stressed and anxious, don’t look within for strength and peace. Focus on Jesus who is the Prince of Peace and cares for you like no other.