Adapting Stress Management to Your Natural Bent

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Have you ever wished that disability-accommodation laws provided better for people with emotional and autism disorders that make frustration (even) harder to bear? Wouldn’t it be nice to have special checkout lines that guaranteed exemption from long waits, special customer service connections that fixed every glitch within five minutes, special cars that flew over blocked traffic?

Okay, I’m being a dreamer, and perhaps belittling the role of hardship in nurturing Christian growth. But some of us do have lower stress-endurance levels than average, and while you don’t have the right to always get your own way because of that, neither should you berate yourself for not being able to take the same level of stress as the person in the next apartment/cubicle/pew.

If we believe in God’s grace to accept us despite our weaknesses, we should also accept ourselves and work with those weaknesses, not against them. Part of Christian responsibility is being good to ourselves so we’ll be in good condition to do good works.

If you want to minimize your stress to ensure maximum personal effectiveness, plan your day/week/career/long-term goals with the following questions in mind:

  • Have I had any meltdowns or near-meltdowns in the past six months? If so, consider the circumstances that led to the meltdown (not just the incident that set you off, but whether you were already overstimulated or, conversely, bored), and plan on avoiding those circumstances in the future. This may mean shortening your to-do list, leaving more margin between appointments, asking for work that’s more creative/stimulating, or staying out of gripe sessions and associating with cheerful people. Or it may mean modifying your own expectations: no improvement or adjustment will ever satisfy you if you cling to “I have to be perfect” or “everything has to go right” attitudes.
  • Am I an introvert or an extrovert? If an introvert, put at least two hours of “alone time” in your daily schedule–and try not to work in customer service. If you’re an extrovert, reenergize yourself daily through work and leisure activities that involve lots of stimulation and human contact.
  • Do I prefer working by the task or by the hour? Arrange your schedule to accommodate these tendencies. Even if you’re a by-the-task type working a fixed-hours job, you can take your breaks at natural stopping points. And few employers object to your staying fifteen minutes past quitting time to finish up a task!
  • Would I describe my temperament as melancholy, easygoing, get-things-done, or bright-and-sunny? If you have a low-key temperament, keep your tasks list small and slow–you’ll make up for a lack of quantity with an increase in quality. If you’re the driven, high-energy type, stimulate yourself with a long, challenging to-do list. Whatever your temperament, work with it instead of trying to force yourself into a mold that suits someone else (and feeling guilty when you just don’t fit). And never, ever nag a “weaker brother,” or anyone with a different temperament, to become more like you–that only leaves two people stressed, angry, and frustrated.

Finally, feel free to pick, choose, and test stress-management tips from the experts according to what appeals to you. Not everyone is made for aerobic exercise and yoga, hot baths and social activities, protein-rich meals and herbal tea. Above all else, don’t copy anyone else’s approach just because that “someone else” seems to have it all together: God created you as a unique individual with unique responses, and it will only increase your frustration if you expect any guarantee of becoming “just like” anyone else. Besides, most people have stress issues you can’t see. That acquaintance who “has it all together” may be falling apart inside–and perhaps needs support you can deliver once you calm down and rediscover your effectiveness.

COMING SOON! My new e-book, 100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World, will be released this spring. Join the 100 Ways email list for up-to-date news, special offers, and teaser optimism tips!

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Fellowship for the Christian Introvert

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You may be a Christian introvert if:

  • you always look for a seat with elbow room
  • you want to crawl under the pew when the pastor tells the congregation to greet each other
  • you’d rather face a den of hungry lions than a friendly hug from a casual acquaintance
  • in every new Sunday school class, you consider spending the “introductions and mixer questions” part in the restroom

It’s humorous to a point. That point being where you hardly hear the program because you’re sulking over how extroverts and cheerful types run the world and don’t care about your feelings. Or where an introvert decides to quietly slink away from church because they “can’t stand all this touchy-feely stuff.” (1 Corinthians 8 on “weaker brothers,” anyone?) Or where a pastor can feel ashamed of himself, and convinced God is disappointed in him, because he likes spending time alone.

Still, it’s not good for even introverts to be alone all the time. And most of us love our neighbors as much as anyone–what we can’t stand is having our senses assaulted with chatter and crowding at every turn.

So here’s my advice to fellow introverts:

Know That God Loves You as You Are

As Linus said in the old Peanuts strip when his sister presented him with a list of habits she wanted him to change, “These aren’t faults. These are character traits!” Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, especially in a fallen world overloaded with “I do it because it works for me” attitudes. Still, I state with confidence that God made some of us to be introverts: quiet and thoughtful types who come up with our best ideas during time alone. In many ways, our introversion frees us to develop more original ideas than our crowd-loving peers.

To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, this world is a better place because of people who know how to make good use of time spent quietly in their rooms. Don’t feel you must accept invitations to large gatherings because “everyone’s going.” Don’t apologize if you’re first to leave the party because you’ve had enough stimulation for one night. Be assured God isn’t ashamed of you–and you shouldn’t be, either.

Think Quality, Not Quantity

Who cares about being the most popular person in church? Two or three trustworthy friends will do just fine, thank you. Introverts prefer getting to know a few people, at deeper levels–knowing whom they can trust with their secrets and struggles.

A few tips on locating good prospects for “quality-based” friendships:

  • Join a small group–and consider a really small group, about eight people.
  • When you meet someone you’d like to get to know better, invite her to share a cup with you at a quiet coffee shop.
  • Offer to help someone clean up their yard, paint their spare room, or work on another activity that allows for easy one-on-one conversation.
  • Look for a spiritual mentor (your pastor or small-group leader may have recommendations).

 

Remember You’re Never Really “Alone”

Of course, one disadvantage of introversion is that sometimes we feel we can’t make friends at all. If you’re feeling particularly lonely, have a prayerful talk with the One True Friend Who never leaves you. Tell Him just how miserable you feel living with this temperament, just how hard you find it being an introvert in an extrovert-oriented world.

Then be still and listen for His response. Open yourself to receive His comfort and His reassurance that He makes everyone–and every personality–for a purpose.

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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  • About Me

    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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