Tag Archives: worry

Make Yourself Comfortable, Relax, Follow My Voice

Imagine a darkened classroom with twenty-some seventeen-year-olds laying on the floor nervously wondering what is coming next.  There is a little joking around and then it is time to get quiet.  The only requirement I have for the kids is that they lie quietly and don’t disturb anyone else.  The tape begins, there is a little nervous laughing and then it goes quiet. 


When your body is suffering from stress what do you to release that tension, to return your breathing to normal, and to give your mind a break?  There seems to be no age group that doesn’t suffer from stress these days.  I heard a discussion this morning about the stress levels in young children.  I know from my work experience that adolescents are handling huge stress loads and as a middle-aged person, there is still stress!


We all need to have ways to deal with our stress.  Sadly, this doesn’t come naturally to us.  Yesterday I wrote about stress week and our stuffed animal day as a simple way to bring a smile to your day.   Today we pushed back all the desks, the kids laid on blankets on the floor, and I played two different guided imagery relaxation ‘tapes’.  There are two main types of these.  One where you go step-by-step from your toes to your scalp tensing and then relaxing your muscles.  This technique is used a lot in sport, yoga, etc. and I think works really well for bodily kinesthetic learners.  Since I don’t like that kind I don’t use it.  The other type engages the imagination to see and feel images, safe places etc.


The first track we use is by Jim Folk.  In this routine you are led on a lovely walk through the woods, by a river, a waterfall etc.  I got it from anxietycentre.com.  The second track is an awesome general wellness routine by Belruth Naprastack  from healthjourneys.com.  This one goes through a series of images such as a light and a breeze glowing and blowing through your body.  Before the end of the first tape you could hear a little bit of snoring. 


Whether you pray, meditate, do yoga or tapes like these, we all need some time like this to practice calming ourselves.


Stuffed Animal Day: How A Little Bit Of Fluff Can Make Your Day

Today is Stuffed Animal Day in my Family Living classes.  In our unit on stress I get the kids to bring a stuffed animal of any size or type to school with them and to carry it around all day.  I’m sure this sounds unusual but bear with me.

We all have stress in our lives and some of it is really positive and motivates us and gives us the energy to get things done, make changes, ask for help etc.  For many of us though, our stress load can overwhelm us with disastrous consequences!  Ulcers, heart attacks, asthma, digestive issues, all can be caused or made worse by too much stress.  At the beginning of the unit we do two self-evaluations.  One looks at the load of stressors (events and issues which cause stress). The other looks at our bodies stress load level.  Out of almost 60 students we had none who were in the low risk category on either scale, very few in the middle, and most people were off the scale.  And we wonder why there are issues with teen suicide!

Our environment can have a major impact on our stress levels.  For some people there is nothing which pumps up their stress like a messy desk.  For me, too much quiet, or too much noise can be negative.  When you wander around a positive office area you will see little personal touches that people have brought into the space to make it their own.  Having something handy to make you smile is a powerful stress busting tool.

At several stress seminars I have attended we began by putting on clown noses.  It is really hard to take yourself too seriously if you have a clown nose on with your business suit.

When we were babies our parents likely gave us some sort of stuffed toy, soft to the touch, a little squishy, with a pleasant face.  This is often known as a comfort toy and that is exactly the role they take on.  Some kids carry their stuffed toy everywhere with them.  They can use them to reflect their own emotional state, and just holding them and stroking their fur has a calming effect.

Adults usually don’t have a stuffed toy with them wherever they go.  Many actually got rid of all them as a sign of being “grown up.”  That being said, the basic effect of a stuffed animal does not go away.  If you don’t agree go to the toy section sometime and watch the adults when they are picking out a teddy bear for their child.

Back to Stuffed Animal Day; I can’t do very much to relieve the stress with which my students are struggling on a daily basis.  I can teach them about what it is, ideas for relaxation techniques etc. but when they arrive in my classroom with their stuffed animals, even if they have been hidden in a backpack, I see them smiling, sharing stories with others about where they got them etc. I don’t think it is possible to look at your stuffed animal sitting there on your desk or peeking out of your bag, without at least briefly feeling positive.  That one moment can make a difference in the way you approach things during the day.

Are you still skeptical about the idea?  Many of my students are even after doing the activity.  You can’t reach everyone with the same strategy, of course.  One young man this morning brought a large stuffed lion.  He is a very pleasant student who dresses a little differently and doesn’t really socialize in the class. Throughout today’s class he had his lion on his lap and rested his chin on its head.  He looked so relaxed.  As I sat at the front with my little stuffed dog I knew that for at least that one student a little bit of fluff made his day!

Pick Up And Move, Lock Stock And Barrel: Would You Move At God’s Command?

This morning the reading for Lenten study was the story of the calling of Abraham.  (Genesis 11 & 12) Abram, his name at the time, and his wife Sarai lived in Ur.  If you have taken ancient history you would know that one of the great pieces of ancient architecture from this area is the Ziggurat at Ur.  Ur was a city in what we know today as Iraq, and was quite close to the Black Sea.  One day God told Abram to pack up all his goods and chattels, his wife and all the household and head west.  Along with his father and his nephew Lot, this is exactly what Abram did.


If your boss came up to you tomorrow and told you to pack up everything you had and head west I bet you would have a lot of questions and would at least ask for time to consider it.  Where will you be headed, what is the job at the other end, do they pay travel expenses, will there be a raise involved?  Abram didn’t ask any of this.  We know that he ended up all the way at the other end of the Euphrates river, against the Mediterranean Sea and then headed further south.  There were no trucks, no professional movers, this was going to be a long walk of around 600 miles and not a feat to be scoffed at!


I don’t know what I would do if I was called in this way.  First, I hate moving!  I have really done all the moving I feel I ever need to do.  Second, I’m pretty sure my husband would wish me luck and say that he is staying right where he is.


Think of the kind of faith God was expecting from Abram!  To pick up all you have and head off to an uncertain destination and an uncertain future on the basis of a couple of dreams and the promise of God.


I think the reason this came up in the context of Lent is that we need to be thinking about our faith and just what it might mean for our lives.  Things are not always rosy.  Your faith may end up costing you comfort, security, friends, etc.  I believe that we receive calls to action a lot more frequently than we think we do and we fail to recognize them or fear the change and resist them.   Who couldn’t come up with a list of justifications for not moving to another town, another job, etc?


Are you ready to extend your faith this far?  Pray like the man whose daughter was dying and had gone to Jesus for help, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Previously Loved Clothing: “Consider the lilies…even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”

Second Showing Boutique

I had a lovely visit this morning at my favourite clothing consignment store.  For the better part of two years now I have avoided buying new clothing, at least for myself.  This does not extend to the unmentionables of course, but I have perhaps three items of clothing from the past two years that were purchased at a regular store.  I like to think of my things as previously loved and just as my clothes I got rid of when I lost weight were perfectly good, the items I buy have lots of life in them.  I save a little money, get brand name clothes I wouldn’t normally pay for, and do a tiny bit to save the planet at the same time.


I have been looking longingly at the cool rubber boots you can get



Second Showing Boutique

now.  $70.00 rubber boots are not in my future, but I am hoping that someone takes a pair in to the consignment store.  Perhaps last year’s design just won’t do for them this year.  Perhaps they bought them last year and haven’t worn them at all…I’ll wait and see what turns up.


I don’t really know where this inclination has come from.  I have never been noted for being frugal.  My mother always says that I can go in a store and unerringly choose the one most expensive item.  I can still do that of course, I just won’t buy it anymore.  It amazes me that stores get away with charging so much for clothing and that we put so much effort into having the latest fashions.   


Jesus tells us that we needn’t worry about what we will eat, or what we’ll wear…

luke 12:22-32  ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;* yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his* kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

 So when you go to bed tonight remember to thank God for providing you with what you needed today and for the fact that he will do it again tomorrow.  Take a little time as well to ask how you might be of help in providing for others.


Under A Great Weight: When Life Weighs You Down



Today, more than anything else, I feel heavy.  I don’t mean that the scale was unkind to me this morning, but I feel a weight within me, dragging me down.  I am aware of most of the causes for this weight right now, some social, some practical, and at this moment do not see an end to those particular tunnels but I know an end is there.  I know because I’ve been here before.

In theory I know all the things I can or should do to deal with this weight;

  1. eat well even

  2. lots of sleep

  3. physical exercise

  4. let go of the small stuff

  5. listen to music

  6. go to my happy place

  7. refocus on something positive

When I first wrote the list above I was busy typing in a, “Yeah, but…” for each item.  Then I came to the one about focusing on something positive… and I went back and deleted them.

I am well aware that my weights are like feathers when compared to those of people living with disabilities, in war-torn areas, living in the wake of floods, mudslides, or those who are literally starving to death.  I have everything I need and almost everything that I want and yet, the weight remains.

The items on the list above can indeed help as can writing, or talking with someone.  As I’m sure you are expecting to hear, nothing has ever helped me as much as prayer.  At my darkest times when I was unable to make myself take any positive steps for myself,  I have repeated Psalm 23 over, and over.  Repeating this Psalm I can actually feel the weight lift from me.   Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28 

Cast your burdens on the Lord.

“Dee-dee” means I love you: lessons from a chickadee

Karen and the chickadees

A very good friend of mine posted some new pictures on Face Book today from a day of cross-country skiing.  There were an assortment of poses and some candid shots. Three of the pictures particularly got my attention as in these shots there were black-capped chickadees perched on the people’s hands and even on their hats.  I love chickadees, they are my favourite birds and I was fascinated to see them behaving so tamely.

 I must admit, I was also a little jealous.Chickadees are awesome little birds. Around the 12 to 15 cm in size, it would seem that this little bird would be very delicate like a little pet budgee or canary. This impression would be totally incorrect. On a day in New Brunswick at -30 degrees Celsius, when I don’t even want to go out with heavy coat, scarf, hat and mittens, these birds can be seen flitting among the branches or having a snack at a feeder.

According to Hinterland Who’s Who at http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?id=29 chickadees are found throughout Canada, from the island of Newfoundland to British Columbia (except for the coastal islands) and extends northwards into the southern Yukon and Northwest Territories and except for rare occasions they do not flee o the south for the winter.  They puff up their feathers to stay warm, conserve energy by lowering their body temperatures for a portion of the day, and they adapt quickly to new circumstances such as the availability of backyard feeders.

Communication is another of the things that distinguish the chickadee.  One of the reasons I am so fond of them, other than them being cute and our provincial bird, is that I learned a little about their vocal repertoire a long time ago at an interpretation evening at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia.  The two main things that I have learned of their calls are their characteristic “chick-a-dee-dee” which is one of the ways that couples locate each other, like saying, “I’m over here!”  The other is when they sing, “Dee-dee, dee-dee” which has been said to be , “love you, love you!”

I would argue that the chickadee has possibly been better naturally equipped than we have been.  Despite their petite stature they are well suited to change which most of us find it very difficult to handle at the best of times.  They are adapted to survive and thrive in the harsh winter weather without having to add any extra layers or rely on heaters etc. They care enough about each other to keep track of their mates, and perhaps most importantly,  they know how to say  I love you.  If only we could be more like the black-capped chickadee.

What To Worry About? How To Choose?

Up until around 11:00 this morning,  if you had asked me how I was doing I would have said things were pretty good.  But with a combination of a couple issues, I quickly discovered just how stressed I already was.  Without a preexisting stress load I think I would have been fine, but in this case I felt totally deflated, almost sick.  Today’s “crises” were just the proverbial straws that broke the camels back.  And from that moment I have definitely felt like a broken camel!

About what things do people worry?

bills/money/job security, health, popularity, competence, our children, our relationships, issues of injustice in our communities and the world, climate change, time/schedules, keeping up, technology or lack there-of, commitments, failures, love, blog stats, phobias…

The list could go on but I’m sure we are all too aware!  The question is, regardless of the number or nature of our worries what do we do about them?  “Don’t worry, be happy!” was not the phenomenal hit that it was by accident.  It speaks to one of our common issues.  Does that mean that we should just let go of everything and do nothing to manage our stressors?  I hardly think so.

There is the Serenity Prayer; God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. This idea is sound.  If I am not able to change the weather, there is no use in my worrying that it is snowing outside even if it might result in having to make changes to my plans.  It doesn’t let you dodge the responsibility for things like changing your spending habits if you are having money trouble.  It acknowledges our struggle to discern which things we should be responsible for and which are beyond our control, but most importantly it starts with asking for help!  This is not something I will be able to handle on my own, but I have help with me all the time.

Another popular approach to worry is summed up in the expression, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”  In fact Christine and Richard Carlson have written several top-selling books with that title.  This idea could help us with choosing.  Many things in our lives may be irritating, but most things won’t matter even tomorrow, let alone years from now.  My only quibble with this idea is that if you have enough small stuff built up with which you have not bothered it may come from nowhere and knock you to your knees.  It is fine to say don’t sweat it, but that doesn’t actually mean to bottle up your response convincing yourself, as you do, that it doesn’t matter.

Somewhere in the middle there lies the answer.  I know that my situation will work out just as it always does.  I know that I tend to assume how other people will react based on my own tendencies to perfectionism and control.  So here is my plan.  I went out to lunch with a good friend and vented a bit.  Now when I go home tonight I will resist the temptation to curl up in a ball under a blanket and block out the world.  I will spend some time with my daughters, some time with my dog, get supper ready and then spend the evening with my husband.  After that when I do curl up, it won’t be on my own to block out the world, it will be with God who will listen to my prayer for help.