Feeling Under the Holiday Pressure? Pressure handling is a trait some take pride in, have you ever heard yourself say ‘the more stress, the better I perform?’. I like to say ‘that’s me’. The other day I found myself stuck in bed, so filled with anxiety from demands from other people, I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and stay there the rest of the day. I was frozen stiff with stress oozing from every pore. Demands for our time and money are a constant. At what point do we say, ENOUGH!
To set the mood, tap here to listen to a stress related song with the title Under the Pressure. (I love the originality of the instrumentals, it is worth a listen and fits with the title of this mini-story very well.)
Typically I do not have dreams (or should I say nightmares) but on this morn I had one that set my brain a thinking about the life I live daily. Maybe you can relate: Melting faces were vividly attacking me with long arms swirling and melting fingers pointing at me. Some of the faces were familiar, some not, some animated, and all were asking me to do things. There was a calendar overflowing with activities in every slot for everyday of the week. Every empty slot was filling with activity on top of activity. Slowly the ink was melt dripping off the calendar. Every demand pierced my eardrum and each touch left thumbprint marks on every inch of my body. Then I awoke feeling like my hands, arms, legs and whole body were glued to the bed.
Prior to the dream, I honestly had not considered the fact I was stressed out. Dreams can be a good thing to point out; I have a problem!
I write this story because I know many others are in the same boat. I hate when I hear messages that say, ‘some people wear their “busy” on their collars as it makes them feel important and increases their self-worth’, or ‘busy-ness is their badge of honor’. Honestly, NO, that is not the case. I do not seek attention by proving I am busy, it just happens. Nearly everyone I know is extremely busy, we all are. I will admit, saying NO, is not easy, further compounding the problem. We live in a world of tightly run (often layoff laced) companies with pushy stressed people who want things from us. Some have good intentions, but most have agendas, often not even knowing they have them. If they can control you, then it helps fulfill their agenda. Alternatively, in the case of middle managers, it allows them to pass off the trickled down demands, requests for reports, and requests for business plans they were handed to them. It is a never-ending ripple of pressure passing.
Meanwhile the self-directed list of pressures from home only perpetuates the worry list. With the holiday’s one must find the day to hang the lights, put up the tree, buy the Christmas presents, and somehow fulfill all the family visitation plans. The friend invitations fill up every evening and you insanely say yes to every invitation not wanting to offend anyone. At the moment, you chuckle at the blessed with friend’s life you have, until you realize you need to be in seven places on every weekend evening until the end of the year.
Adding to the stress is the strain on the wallet that causes one to not quit your job and continue the slave labor role. Christmas presents for all and you cannot spend less than last year lest you disappoint. We fill up the cart at the dollar store with all the full price $5 gift exchanges, meanwhile, wishing you had bought this junk a year ago and put it in the attic when they were on clearance. But in the name of friendship or fellowship one must participate. Giving requests come from every corner. We almost want to shut off our social media sites and chop down the mailbox to avoid all the GoFundMe and charity requests that come at the holidays.
I have thought about starting a ‘worrying for you’ business, wouldn’t that be great to pass your anxieties over to someone so you do not have to deal with them? Well, reality does not provide such an avenue, so how do we get a grip on all of the demands that are dumped upon us?
My tendency is to say, ‘suck it up buttercup’, and start plucking away one at a time at ALL of these things and just shut up and do them. The hard work monster inside says this is what you are paid to do, do it. The do-gooder badge I wear says in 25 days it will all be over and then I can rest. Then one feather at a time I start plucking away.
Instead, the first thing to do should be to STOP, take a step back, and evaluate.
A recent study revealed that a lack of sleep and rest reduces the very productivity the pushers that cause stress intend to create. In dollars and sense terms, the Popular Science study made its way into many business journals as it estimated U.S. businesses lose $411billion a year because of having stressed out workers. According to the Center for American Progress Americans are the most over-worked developed nation in the world working more hours than ever, sleeping less, and are stressed to the maximum. If you are finding yourself losing sleep from nightmares of compounded stress, it may be time to create a get-rid-of list, not a to-do list. I recommend reading the articles previously mentioned or this one for good tips on dealing with an overloaded work schedule.
After stepping back you may just see it is time to learn to say NO . Or perhaps you need to establish Boundaries, the book by Cloud and Townsend. It is one we keep and re-pull off the shelf at times when we have had enough.
We are in the midst of the Holiday season, let me save you from the nightmares, enjoy the season before you are crushed Under the Holiday Pressure.
If you dare to enter into the Portico, I will bet you will think I am going to tell you how Jesus was always at Peace and we should do the same – do you want to find out? then…
(If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, please read the Do you Dare tab to understand the shift, tap the red line before you read below and come on back ‘if you dare’)
In my earlier described dream it was not only work that showed up that was bringing pressure:
In my dream I was about to do a Sunday church teaching (which I do not do for a living, it is called taking on more responsibility than need be). For some reason it was at my house that somehow was converted into a church. People were sitting in chairs upstairs over our garage with chairs aligned like a local church. I thought everything was perfectly set up and in order, until I saw a pile of dog-doo right by the entryway. Next, my brand new iPad fell apart, which is where my notes for the teaching were, causing a near panic attack.
I scrambled around to find my Bible to get the verses I was going to share, but I could not find it. As I was looking for the Bible people kept interrupting me, asking where this was and where that was and if this had been done and that had been done (all with no specifics). One person rolled their eyes with a look of ‘how could you not have the coffee made before people arrived’? As I looked for the Bible, I continued finding more items out-of-place. The finance clerk came by with a pack of bills and said there was not enough money to pay them, so I should sneak some preaching on money into the message. Ahhhh!
Upon awaking, aside from being glued to the bed sweating; all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep hoping for a better dream.
Is this the way Life is meant to be lived? Perhaps it is. (yes, I said is) I have heard teachers considered the best say, ‘we should never feel stressed out or overwhelmed’. ‘We should never be anxious about a thing’.
A question I want to ask back; have you ever been under so much pressure that you sweated blood? Jesus did:
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:42-44.
2nd question Mr Preacher – Have you ever been in strong need of support from people, yet been terribly disappointed because they were not there when you needed them? They would probably say, people and fellowship are important, that is why we have church meetings (17 a week). Jesus did not rely on people to boost himself; he relied on God, alone. Really? I think Jesus was, just like us at times, in need of people support:
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matt 26:36-41
I know I am just an Average Joe and not a theologian with degrees but I challenge the notion that ‘stress’ in and of itself is sin; stress and pressure is a part of life. I challenge the notion that being upset about a lack of people support should not create any anguish. If you read the whole section, you’ll see Jesus went to seek their support three times total. The more we become involved with people, position and power there will be an onslaught of pressure coming from many angles. People were trying to kill Jesus; yes, he felt extreme stress and pressure. It was not sin though that caused Him to feel the way He did. In addition, yes, He was not happy about the lack of support from his best friends, which also was a natural, not a sinful response.
The big however (for those who think I’m off my rocker and miss the main point) on dealing with outside pressure and disappointing people; Jesus was prepared for what He knew was about to happen to Him. Shortly thereafter, He went through horrible torture and abuse, being crucified, and suffering a death via a method more painful than any other known to man. Why was He prepared? Because He had learned along the way in his 33 years on earth how to rely on God for strength, having spent much time in other gardens like the garden of Gethsemane, alone with His Father. Often he got away from the crowds such as mentioned in Matthew 14:23 ‘After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.’
Pressure is something we grow from, as James, who learned from his brother, stated
James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.’
Therefore, in and of itself stress and pressure can be a good thing, but I am not advocating waiting until you have a nightmare to reveal you are under TOO MUCH stress. There will be seasons in our lives where we need to be ready for it. There are seasons to evaluate whether it is good stress or bad stress. In addition, we may need to evaluate if we should make changes to alleviate un-do pressure, whether it is from sources we can control, or figuring out ways to cope if it is from sources where we have no choice.
At other times, we just need to do as Jesus did and get away for a while and recalibrate. The Holiday season should be a time where we celebrate what Jesus did for us. Room should be set aside for rest and allowance for peace to become the most prevalent controlling entity we carry. We are so much more effective when we are in a season of peace, not one filled with anxiety. We are so much more effective when we have clarity with our own goals and God-led aspirations. But if we have allowed the pressures from both outside and inside to dominate and take us out of control, then we can redefine stress as the bad thing theologians teach about.
Certainly, Christmas is a time to spend with family, friends, people we share our faith with, and help bring good cheer to the underprivileged and oppressed. Jesus had twelve very close friends. Sadly, they were not there when He needed them the most to cover His back. (Fortunately, He had full support from His and OUR Father.) Disappointment with people can do one of two things; it can make us bitter and resentful at all people, OR for the better, it can cause us to want to be different and be to others what we want them to be towards us.
Many people feel and remember losses during the Holidays. It is a time to reach out to those we know and show them we care. Many people actually feel a need to give and if you are a recipient of an invitation, even though the schedule may be overflowing, what better time than to be a gracious (and non-judgmental) receiver. Many people feel lonely or are under immense pressure and may need your help or just a word of encouragement. Do not fall asleep on them as the disciples did, find the moment to reach out and be that one that supports them or passes on an encouraging word to lift their spirits.
It is also a time of giving to those who are in our lives and to those less fortunate than us. Undoubtedly, it is the season of giving. However, if we are doing it with an empty tank it will turn cheerfulness into grudge giving. If we are doing it out of guilt, we will feel internal pressure that is guided by the wrong spirit. If we are doing it because of pressure from people who, I hate to say it, may have their own anxiety-filled agendas, we may need to recognize it and just say no. (Note on giving, make and keep a budget, it makes saying no make sense at times – Here’s a helpful Christmas budget article)
Maybe, before all of the above, and before you have a dream like mine that causes you to wake up and evaluate why you feel so much pressure, it is a good time to walk your garden and inspect your own personal space. Let God restore, establish and strengthen. Only afterwards, connect with family, church, friends, work and community.
I am no expert and as I have stated in other mini-stories, nearly everything I write comes from what I need to do in a better way myself. If you too are Under the Holiday Pressure maybe, there is a need to recalibrate and find a better balance.
“May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” Ephesians 1:2 NLT
Here’s a much better balanced calendar: