Dealing with Stress

We’re all familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Whether it’s half a dozen homework assignments all due on the same day, a lot going on at work, or friend drama, everyone experiences stress from time to time. Although it is sometimes inevitable, there are a few things I’ve discovered over the years that make it easier to cope with stress.

The first and somewhat self-explanatory way to help is to keep from spreading yourself too thin. If you know you have a big paper due in a couple of days, don’t make a lot of plans with friends and only leave yourself a couple of hours to do the assignment. Using a planner or calendar to schedule plans and projects that you have to do is the best way to avoid over-booking your time.

Another key when trying to cope with stress is making sure to give yourself time to relax. Yes, it is important to be productive when you have a lot going on, but it is also critical that you set aside a few minutes to take a walk, watch your favorite show, or have a short nap. Taking a step back from the work can help calm you down and will give you a fresh perspective when you return to it. I would even suggest turning off all electronics so that you can completely clear your mind. No matter what you have going on, allow yourself a few minutes to decompress.

Finally, remember to lean on the Lord. God can give you peace even when you feel completely overwhelmed. When you feel the stress coming on, take a moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to calm your heart. No matter what the situation is, He is in control and will use it for good. I often find myself so focused on the issue at hand that I forget I have a wonderful savior who can give me serenity. I’ve learned to stop and pray the moment I begin to feel stressed out and it always helps almost immediately. As He says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you…let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Written by Taylor

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It’s Not Enjoyable. It’s Not Healthy. It’s Not Worth It.

Stress: a word that often appears at the top of a college student’s vocabulary list. We are exhausted, always, as stress and pressure to excel academically is ever-present in our lives. Whether it is brought on by parents, professors, or one’s own drive to succeed, stress holds an intense amount of power in the way that we interact with the world, and, more importantly, stress can definitely hinder our relationship with God.

Now, let’s be honest.

I’m the type of person who greets each new semester with a big smile and arms wide open. I get thoroughly excited about picking out new school supplies, and the smell of sharpened pencils brings me entirely too much joy. My obsession with new supplies and organization is so real, that the TV show,  “My Strange Addiction,” reached out to me in hopes of doing a segment on the girl who sniffs sharpened lead (JK, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this actually happened).

The moral of this story is that I love school, and, for the most part, I enjoy completing assignments that require creativity and prepare me for my future career as an educator. I have a passion for higher education, but sometimes that passion transforms into complete and utter drudgery.

Being that I literally will NOT submit anything less than my best for grading, an abundance of stress and exhaustion begins to reside in my being not too long after the start of a new semester. Like my second cousin at Christmas time, stress storms into my life, unwelcomed, and refuses to leave until I’ve fed it all of my time and energy. This relationship with stress is toxic. It affects not only me, but those who are gracious enough to want to spend time with the girl who lets an unnecessary emotion control her life.  It’s not enjoyable. It’s not healthy. It’s not worth it.

Why is it that I, like so many others in my generation, insist on allowing stress to consume me? After three years of struggling and fighting and persevering to succeed in a collegiate world dominated by stress and pressure, I think I finally found the answer:

Priorities.

For the past three years, my number one priority has been to perform in a way that would please my professors, make my family happy, and impress my peers; I wanted nothing but for others to find pleasure in and be impressed with my doings.

Were these bad desires? Not exactly. But, there were some drastic flaws in my intentions, which were, what I believe to be, the causes of my stress filled life.

Had performing in a way that pleased God been my number one priority, I would have been reminded that He longs for me to work wholeheartedly for Him and not for man (Colossians 3:23). I would have been humbled in the fact that He is the source of all of my creativity and talent (Ephesians 4:17). I would have found peace by reflecting on how He has an everlasting, passionate love and care for me that is not based on the quality of my work or the grades that I receive (Romans 8:38-39). I would have sought to please Him more and others less.

We, as sinners, spend too much time living and striving and breathing to find approval from the world that we often become blind of the approval that God has already given us. So, we work hard through the stress, and we get the good grade, and, though we win the approval that we desire at the time, we almost always end up just as empty as before because we sought acceptance from everyone but the One who actually matters. Whose opinion of us is never less than wonderful. Who sees our imperfects, yet loves us all the same. It really. isn’t. worth it.

Some anonymous smart person once said, “Be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier,” and that is exactly what I encourage you and me to do today.

prayer warrior

Whenever you’re feeling stressed or worried or that you must do everything on Earth and Mars perfectly in order to get someone to approve of you, stop. Take a second to pray and ask the Lord to help you find your worth in Him, and I can promise you that stress will be much more hesitant to come around.

Written by Haley

Photo credits: Featured Image, Prayer Warrior

Stronger than Superheroes

My favorite superhero from the world of DC Comics is Green Lantern. Now, if you are a fan of superheroes, the previous statement may puzzle you. After all, what sort of crazy person would pick Green Lantern to be his/her favorite DC Superhero when he resides in the same universe as other incredible beings like Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and (insert your favorite DC superhero here)? When you look at Green Lantern next to these amazing heroes, he really doesn’t seem very special at all. So why on Earth is he my favorite superhero? The answer to that question is simple: Green Lantern is my favorite DC superhero because I can relate to him very well.

Yes, I know that sounds insane. How can an average college student who struggles just to pay rent relate to a green superhero? That’s another great question, but before I can answer it I need to explain who Green Lantern is for those who are unfamiliar with him. Green Lantern was once a normal human being with no special powers, but one day he was given a green alien ring that allowed him to harness the power of his will. As long as he was wearing this ring, he could create temporary constructs of anything he wanted. For instance, if he focused on using his ring to construct a hammer, a green hammer would appear out of thin air and stay there until he stopped focusing on it. He could then make that hammer do whatever he wanted it to do. When he stopped focusing on it, the hammer would disappear and no trace of it would be left behind. Thus, using his ring, Green Lantern could create and use anything he wanted. The only limit to what he could create was his willpower. If he was strong enough to will a construct into being, then it came into being.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I can explain just what it is about Green Lantern that I find to be so relatable. In order to understand my thinking here, you must understand something about me: I like to work alone. Now, that doesn’t mean that I like to sit in a confined cubicle and have no human interaction while I work for hours on end. In fact, I love being around other people at any time, including when I’m working. What that statement does mean is that a lot of times, I don’t want any help from others while I work. As I work on a project, I sometimes find myself thinking “I can do this, I don’t need help.” If I come across a difficulty, I think; “I will do this all out of my own strength and power; I just have to work hard enough to push through my difficulties and then I can achieve anything.” This tendency to reject help is so bad that, every once in a while, it leaks into my walk with God. When this happens, I start trying to overcome all of my sin and be a good person on my own.  I fight and fight and push through using my own power, and, occasionally, I manage to fight my way past a little sin. However, no matter how hard I try, I always end up facing a temptation that is far too strong for me and I fail.

That evil habit of trying to do everything through my own willpower is exactly how I relate to Green Lantern. See, a lot of times he believes that he can use the green power of his will to overcome any obstacle without help. This belief leads him to try to fight off all of the bad guys on his own. Sometimes, he does manage to take down some of the smaller, weaker villains without help, but eventually he gets tired and worn out as he fights on his own. And just when he is getting more and more tired, a powerful villain begins to attack and he finds that he can no longer fight alone.

So, what happens when Green Lantern is getting beat up and can no longer fight on his own? He calls in the Justice League, of course! That way, the group that is more powerful than he is can come alongside him and help defeat the evil he is fighting against. In the same way, the only way that I can fight against my sin is to call on a power greater than myself: God! Learning to call on God and trust his mighty power and grace is a crucial lesson for Christians. We cannot fight temptation all on our own, but we do not have to! God has offered His grace and power and, like the Justice League swoops in to save Green Lantern, He wants to swoop in and save His children. Paul shows how wrong it is for us to try to overcome our evils on our own in Ephesians 2: 8-9 when he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We must stop trying to do everything on our own. God has offered his grace, and all we have to do is accept it.

Our willpower will never be enough to overcome sin, but that is okay because we have help! We are forgiven and no longer have to try to fight against our sin alone. All we have to do is accept what God has offered to us. He is so much more powerful than the Justice League, and he loves those whom He has created even more than the Justice League loves Green Lantern. It is only by His awesome power that anyone will ever be able to take on one of the most devious and evil villains of all time: sin itself.

Written by Nathan

Image credit: http://screenrant.com/new-green-lantern-actor-batman-superman-amboyer/

Supernatural Sleep

Sleep is an idea that’s never wandered far from my heart. Just to paint a picture of how much I’ve always enjoyed sleep, my mom says that when I was little she used to lose track of me for entire afternoons at a time. She would look all over the house, worried sick, and finally find that I’d just been asleep in my bed the entire time. Lately, I haven’t been able to sleep. For whatever reason, my heart has begun racing every Saturday night, like it’s excited about something I don’t know about. I’ve been looking all over, asking everyone I know for tips on how to relax before bedtime and get a good night’s rest. What I found, instead of direct information on relaxation and how to get to sleep, were fundamental ideas of how I should think of sleep in general.  This valuable, new knowledge of what sleep is has changed my sleeping habits radically. Now that I understand what my sleep means to me, relaxation and falling asleep come naturally once again.

I know I perform better during the day if I’ve had a solid, restful seven to nine hours of sleep the night before. The days after I’ve had a good night’s sleep are always the easiest for me to have a positive outlook and attitude in everything I do. It’s easy for me to be especially nice to the people around me on days when I feel rested. Knowing that days are easier to tackle when I’m rested makes it all the more stressful for me when I can’t sleep. I lay in bed, awake, worrying that I’ll be exhausted and more easily prone to anger the next day; it’s miserable because I know that sleep is of the utmost importance for me.

I have learned that tomorrow’s day actually begins at tonight’s sunset. What I mean is that, by getting a good night’s sleep tonight, I will be ready to run with the day tomorrow. Thinking of sleep as the end of my day made it extremely easy for me to write it off as the bottom of my priority list. It became less important to me than almost every other task. Sleep didn’t even register on my mental to-do list until I was finished with homework and other obligations, and it was already time for me to get ready for bed. Knowing that sleep is important enough to be the key to an easy day brings it to the forefront of my mind. Lately, I wake up in the morning feeling victorious, like I’ve already accomplished a huge feat by sleeping well through the night. Let me just say that feeling triumphant every morning definitely affects my entire attitude throughout every day.

After discussing the subject of sleep with my dad and my brother, I realize that sleep is a vital time when I encounter God. God often communicates with me in my dreams.  I can remember vivid dreams I’ve had in the past that have given me answers to questions I’d been asking myself while awake. I also know now that being at peace is an essential part of falling asleep and staying asleep through the night, since I’ve experienced a  lack of sleep caused by stress and excitement first-hand. Expecting to encounter God in my sleep makes it easy for me to remember that He has already provided me with the fruit of the Spirit, including the peace I need to relax at night before falling asleep (Galatians 5:22-23).

little mermaid

The random excitement I’ve been feeling on Saturday nights makes me think of that scene in The Little Mermaid where Ariel watches Prince Eric on the beach and realizes that somewhere, somehow, circumstances are being lined up for her dreams to come true. Until I find out exactly what circumstances are being lined up for my dreams to come true, I need to sleep at night. After much searching and asking everyone I know for answers, I think I’ve finally found some ideas about ways to sleep that work for me. Understanding what sleep means to me and how it affects me every day has been the key in finally getting the rest I’ve needed.

Written by Becca

Image credits:

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https://www.pinterest.com/leilamounji/me-aka-ariel-my-love-in-life-the-little-mermaid/

Slow Down

What is life? Is it a series of events on a long and winding road? Is it a game of chance where things happen for no apparent reason? Or are we just pawns in a game being played by alien overlords? Whatever the case, we all have to go through life together. Here’s the rub, though: some of us go through life way too fast.

Many of us rush through life trying to get to the next step or moment. When doing this, we often miss out on some of the best parts of life. As students, it’s really easy to live and work for a paycheck. After all, classes and work aren’t fun! I’ll often sit in class and think about my schedule for the next day and count the hours before they even happen. This way, I can figure out when I will get out of class and when I can relax again. It seems there is this rollercoaster of going up on the weekdays and down on the weekends.

Even if that’s not the case, it’s that we’re always busy. As a society, we’re going a mile a minute (which is really impressive, when you consider how fast that actually is) and we don’t seem to be slowing down. Even our relaxation time has been encroached upon by things to do. Can you believe that? We consider it relaxing to do things! I’m not talking about reading a book or playing video games. I’m talking actual activity. As Relient K puts it, “Lately, it just seems to me that we’ve got the letters A.D.D. branded into our mentality.”

I get this guilty feeling quite often when I’m doing absolutely nothing at all. I feel like I should be doing something. I feel like relaxing and doing things that really aren’t productive is bad. We have this engrained into our minds: if we’re not busy, we’re not productive and we’re lazy. I can’t even remember where or when I got this idea. I just remember going from Saturday morning video games and cartoons to freaking out if I sleep too late on Saturday, worrying that I’ve wasted the day.

While all of this is not inherently bad, let’s take a look at what all of this busyness actually does to us. In 2011, the American Psychology Association posted the results of a study done on stress in America. The causes of stress are not nearly as important as the symptoms. Some of the biggest symptoms include irritability or anger, fatigue, lack of interest, anxiousness, headaches, depression, and the list goes on and on. Furthermore, in order to cope with stress, people turn to unhealthy habits. Things such as drinking, binge-eating, smoking, and the like have been used to self-treat stress.

Obviously, there’s a problem. The problem isn’t stress, though. Stress is merely a byproduct of a lot of different things. The biggest perpetrator appears to be busyness. While laziness is indeed a sin, I would say that busyness is one as well. It hurts our health, puts a strain on our families, and, most notably, hurts our relationships with God.

On Wednesday nights, I work with the teens in the youth group at my church. The most common excuse I get for not spending time with God is busyness. They all talk about how, thanks to school and dozens of extracurricular activities, they cannot find the time to spend with God. I feel like that’s how it is with a lot of us. Imagine if we treated our significant others the way we treat God. I doubt my girlfriend would be cool with me postponing our plans because I was just too busy.

I once heard a pastor say that if you’re too busy for God, then you’re too busy. And that’s just it: we’re too busy! We like to busy ourselves, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s to escape the reality of life or a bad situation. Regardless, it’s literally killing us as a society and it hurts our individual relationships with both God and man. So… Slow. Down. Take a breath. Take a break. Remember to relax. If need be, schedule time to relax. Schedule time with God and family, too. Spend time resting, however it may be. You’ll be surprised to see how much it actually changes your life.

Written by Alfred

Image credit: clipartbest

10 Survival Tips for College Freshmen

I’ve been in college for all of five weeks, so I’m pretty much an expert now. Yet even in my limited time, I’ve gained some insights into which habits help me thrive and which ones make me prone to breakdown in front of a Disney movie, scribbling away my sorrows in a coloring book. (Target has coloring books for two dollars…but you didn’t hear that from me.)

1: Nap whenever possible.

But always, always set an alarm. It’s cute how you think you won’t fall asleep for more than twenty minutes. Ha!

2: Eat Grab and Go Food

Those pre-packaged sandwiches and salads by the door of the cafeteria? Yeah, you aren’t above them. Try it next time you need to eat lunch in a hurry. You’ll more than likely never go back to the dark side.

3: Coffee.

Who are we? Students! What are we? Tired! What do we need in an IV right now? Coffee! If you aren’t a coffee drinker, become one. Personally, I don’t believe that tea cuts the mustard, but you may certainly try it. *pats head*

4: Take dat shuttle.

You’re not too cool for the shuttle. I know that when school first starts, we’re all forming huddle circles, chanting about our mutual determination to not gain the freshmen fifteen. But walking across campus five times a day with thirty pounds of books on your back gets real old real fast. Who knows? The shuttle drivers could become your best friends. They’re usually pretty nice people when they don’t almost close the sliding door against your backpack on your way out.

5: Look pitiful in order to score rides

I don’t know about you, but at my university, all freshmen are required to park their cars at the bottom of the hill, near the entrance. Meanwhile, our dorms are up the giant, steep hill. And lemme tell ya, coming back to campus on a Sunday night and trying to walk up the dark hill while carrying your laundry and your books, isn’t the jolliest thing I’ve ever done. At times, upperclassmen are kind enough to offer rides in their snazzy vehicles that get to park wherever they choose. Yet in order to ensure a ride, I would recommend walking with a hunched back, drooping your shoulders, and dragging your feet. If possible, play the sad Charlie Brown theme as you walk.

6: Nap

Oh, did I mention napping? It’s worth repeating: Nap!

7: Get a Planner

Get ready, this is an actual piece of advice. Your phone won’t cut it. What if you lose it, or it dies at a crucial moment when you need a reminder? It’s time to go back to the primitive ages of pen and paper.

8: Find an Outlet to Keep Sane

I’m currently watching Parks and Rec for the second time whenever I need to wind down. And you know what? I appreciate it much more this time around. Sometimes, all you need is a laugh to remind that you are indeed a human, and not a studying robot. Go rest in a hammock, look at the stars, watch Netflix. Whatever your relaxation method is, allot a small amount of time for it every day.

9: Don’t, spend, your, money!

What’s a savings account? I don’t know anymore, cause it’s practically all gone *sobs*. The other day, I unashamedly washed out of my coffee cup with Sauve shampoo…listen, we didn’t have any dish soap, and I’m pretty sure it got the job done. See? Frugality encourages creativity.

10: And Finally…

Don’t forget to nap. 😉

I don’t want to be cheesy, but I do want to wish you gouda luck with the rest of your semester. We’re all in this together!

Written by Karoline

Image credit: http://img.sparknotes.com/content/sparklife/sparktalk/scaredstudentbooks082112_LargeWide.jpg

Confidence to Write Freely

I’m kind of scatterbrained. This is my third attempt at writing this blog, and honestly, I’ve written over a few thousand words by now to no avail. I just don’t think that what I’ve written is good enough. I keep looking at the points I’ve made and wonder whether they’re valid or relatable. I’ve written about how to be assertive, how to find peace in every moment, even about how to find hope when life is a pain. What I’m experiencing is a form of writer’s block. Funny thing is, I’m sure many people have already written about writer’s block, so what other points could I make about it? How can I find something new to say about it, despite knowing my thoughts are hardly original?

First, that line of thought is entirely wrong when approaching writing. Everybody is unique in their own way. So why couldn’t my point of view of writer’s block help somebody else? It’s not for me to say whether my thoughts will hit the exact pressure point needed. Nobody else will repeat my same words in the same place at the same time, so I’ve already found originality here and now. Sure, when it comes to stories, one has to avoid copying other works. But given individual perspectives and styles, as long as one isn’t lazy, almost anything can be original.

Second, I’ve subjected myself to an opinion that I have to achieve a certain quality of writing. However, I’m the only one who’s read what I just wrote. I don’t know what other people would think about it. So how can I accurately appraise the quality of my work? Whether we judge ourselves too harshly, too highly, or not at all, there are several perspectives that have to be considered. Yet I never even tried to get feedback about my work. How am I to say my writing isn’t good enough, when my opinion of this will be different from someone else’s? This is why writer’s groups are wonderful things. I can’t count the times (well, I can, but I’m crazy) I’ve brought an excerpt of writing to them, insisting it’s the worst piece of garbage I’ve ever seen. I completely expected my group to tear it apart, and I would understand. Even so, they always assured me otherwise; sure, I made mistakes, but they weren’t as bad or as all-encompassing as I thought. As it turns out, many writing mistakes are easily solved with a little know-how. I was surprised to find that even if I didn’t know how to fix things, I could just ask, and I’d get help with no judgment attached. Weird, right?

My starting approach and my tendency to over-criticize are just two of many big things that hold me back from writing (also planning, at which I’m horrible). They also stop me from other creative activities such as making art or music.  However, the best weapon I’ve found is that even though I might not be happy with my abilities now, I won’t get any better if I don’t try. I can’t get input on the perceived quality of my works if I don’t get it critiqued by others. The saying, “practice makes perfect” might be aiming a little too high, but practice at least provides progress.

So if you’re reading this right now, trying to get inspiration to write, I say to you: Go! Be free! Write whatever comes to mind and filter it all later! And then filter it again, and again, because writing is a process that is always in motion. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first draft or your fifteenth, writing can always be developed. There’s another adage that says, “a penny for your thoughts.” If, indeed, thoughts are that cheap, why cling on to them like a miser, when you could cast them into the furnace to develop and refine them into a great big, copper pinnacle of creative completion? Or why not use them as currency and include yourself in the great economy of imagination?

Go! Write! Say what only you at this time and place can say!

 Written by Isaac

Photo Credit:

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