Putting Stress in Perspective

Mar 28, 2017, Written by Sue Miley

I don’t want to shame you.  Make you feel guilty for your stress.  It isn’t that at all.  I want to share my technique to putting stress in perspective.  Trust me I have years of experience.  It is akin to the gratitude concept.  We feel grateful when we see all the real problems going on in the world and in others’ lives.

It is a little shameful.  But, it is still true.  When we are complaining about not having enough money for that Hawaii vacation, all we have to do is think about how 98% of the rest of the globe lives and it is ridiculous how much we do have.

Our momentary shame hopefully turns to lasting gratitude.

I have to use the same technique when it comes to stress.  I can argue both sides and say that stress is relative…but really, it does each of us good to keep stress in perspective.

I was feeling stresses this week on a few different things.  Stupid things like pleasing a difficult client, last minute cancellations of a weekly bible study, time to exercise, and trying to figure out how to get a few projects moved forward while we are short one person for another week.

However, I think back on some truly stressful times in my life.  Yes, my life.  I don’t even have to look at anyone else’s life to diminish my stress.  I have my own inventory to run through before I start on yours.

Career Threatening Stress, Even with Opportunities

I was sharing with someone on our team one particularly stressful time in my career.  I was young and given the coffee house division for a strong regional coffee company.  We only had two locations open when I took over.  With the job, I was given 5 weeks before the next board meeting to create a 5-year plan of the new direction for the division, run full pro formas, develop a marketing strategy, and create a presentation for my very first board meeting as the division head.  I was 32 years old and having to present to many publicly-held company execs on the board, who were all at least 20 years my seniors.

I had asked for this kind of responsibility.  I wanted this job.  During those weeks of preparation, I couldn’t help but think this would be the shortest executive career anyone ever had.  When it came down to the presentation to the board, I thought I would pass out in the bathroom beforehand.  I was actually holding on to the walls for stability.

As you can guess, it all went fine and I went on to live another stressful day.

This is momentary, career-threatening stress.  This is nothing.

Life Threatening Stress, Even If It Just Feels That Way

This weekend I was working on a book I am writing and remembering when my daughter was 7 years old and her hair was coming out in handfuls.  I thought she was dying.  We couldn’t stop it.  It didn’t matter how successful I was in my career.  Our money and resources couldn’t buy a different outcome.   My work wouldn’t go on hold until we figured out how to help our child. The beautifully-crafted house of cards was collapsing.

Stress is nothing until something goes wrong with your child.  Really, nothing compares.

We learned that she has an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata.  This is where the white blood cells attack the hair follicles and sort of spit them out.  She has the form called “totalis.”  Complete hair loss.  Honestly, in hindsight it is a blessing compared to hair growing back and falling out routinely over the years.  Nevertheless, she is perfectly healthy!  Praise God!  And a healthy, beautiful, confident woman.  But at the time, it was a mom dealing with that possibility of her child being deathly ill or emotionally impaired because of the dramatic change in her life.

I can fast forward through other life-altering stresses.  We all can.  I can make a list of mine for you so you can feel better about yours!  And vice versa.

The Stress You Know

Sometimes it is better to keep our own stresses.  Our stresses are a part of our story and God’s plan for our life.  They are also the key milestones reminding us that we are not in control.  That our Father in Heaven is the One in control.  It is these seemingly monumental roadblocks that turn us back to the God who loves us.  It turns stress into prayer.  And even in trial and hardship our prayers turn to thanksgiving.

  • Leaving the all-encompassing job that was my life led me to a Christ-filled life as a Christian counselor and coach. I am truly thankful.
  • Which allowed me to care for my mother when she was recovering from triple bypass surgery and feeding tubes, and again after colon cancer and chemo – the blessing and thanks come weekly when I pick my mom up to bring her over from her own independent living home.
  • The ability to cope and not make things worse when I found out my daughter was pregnant at 17 – the blessing and thanks are expressed daily when I hug my beautiful 3-year-old granddaughter and see my daughter working toward her dream of becoming a vet.
  • The stress of starting a business and trying to make ends meet – the blessing and thanks when my business was strong enough to bring my husband in full-time and support our family.

I could go on and on.  And believe me, I know my list doesn’t even compare to others.  (I guess that is the point I tell myself.)  But I just want to show you my technique.  Make your own list…a timeline of sorts.  Write out key points in time where life stress was abundant.  It isn’t always in crisis or tragedy.  The first time I ever sought counseling myself was when I was pregnant with twins and put on bed rest at 4 months.  However, it was stress in the blessing…never tragic.  Stressful though, to say the least. 

How I Keep Stress in Perspective

When I have stress today in running my business or working too many hours one week, I just remember what our God has brought me through.  Knowing He is in full control and He wants to guide and help me in life is always a reminder to:

  • Lean in when stress feels high – do my part knowing God has my back.
  • Trust that there is learning in my current situation – God will use life for our refinement.
  • Remember that God can turn all things for good as he promises in Romans 8:28.

And at times, laugh at myself.

After all, I must keep today’s stress in perspective.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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