There I was on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, lying in a hammock. It was my 19th wedding anniversary and I was completely alone. But it wasn’t a good kind of alone. The kids were at my parents’ house for the next 24 hours so my husband and I could celebrate, but we were furious with each other. As my head spun, I wondered: How did we get here? I replayed the fight in my head and it suddenly hit me—long-term stress.
When my husband and I had a simple conflict, instead of resolving it quickly, we both exploded. When stress lies beneath the surface, it easily can control you. Here are 5 things that will help you keep your peace when it feels like the stress is unavoidable.
Believe that long-term stress is not forever.
We can endure hard times when we know there is an end in sight. But what if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel? It can feel like you’re stuck in a fog, not knowing if the sun will come out tomorrow or next year, for that matter.
Believe this is not forever. Like reading a book, a chapter may have 20 more pages or just one. We don’t know until we flip the page—but it will have an end.
Be aware when your cup is already partly full.
Picture a tall drinking glass and a pitcher of water. The glass represents your capacity for stress, and the water is the stress itself. Ideally, your glass would start out empty every day. But if there is a constant stress in your life, the glass is already partly full.
On our anniversary, little did we know that our cups were already nearly full of all the stresses that had come with COVID-19: trying to work from home, keep the kids busy and healthy, and determine the next steps for the unforeseeable future. There was very little room left for a marital issue to be poured on top.
And yet, there it was. My husband forgot it was our anniversary. Normally, one of us would have brought it up days before so we could make plans together. But for some reason, I thought he should remember it on his own this year. And I was deeply offended when he didn’t.
Little things might seem bigger than they really are.
With the understanding that your cup is pretty full already, any new challenge is going to feel bigger than it really is. So try to hold back those knee-jerk reactions and give yourself time to think before you act.
One thing I like to do in those moments is get away and pray. My prayers sound something like this: Lord, I know this is not a big deal, but it feels like it is. I’m struggling and I’m really upset. Would you calm my nerves? Would you help me see this the way you see it?
EGR: Extra Grace Required.
When you or your family are under long-term stress, consider it an EGR time. Cut everyone some slack. One definition of “grace” is “a temporary exemption.” Don’t we all need a temporary exemption from time to time?
When you’re under a ton of stress, sometimes the one you need to give extra grace to is yourself. This can be the hardest one of all, but it doesn’t make sense to give everyone slack except yourself. You need it, too. Here’s how to do it.
When you’re under a ton of stress, sometimes the one you need to give extra grace to is yourself.
Know that God is in control.
When stressors are plaguing us, we often feel out of control. But God is still in control. While we see only this one chapter, God sees the whole book. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing goes to waste! The best part is this: He wants good things for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
So, our 19th wedding anniversary wasn’t ideal. We spent most of the day apart and I cried a lot. But we finally talked things out that evening. We went out for breakfast the next day, and we even were able to laugh about it. And you know what I learned? It’s OK to have an anniversary that isn’t perfect.
How do you handle long-term stress and not take it out on your family?