Today I’ve been thinking about something.

Stress.

Work stress, family stress, stress in a crisis, stress with pressure from around you.

What do you do when you are stressed out?

Do you get busy and try not to think of whatever it is that is bothering you?
Or do you cry and fret and get upset at everyone around you?
Do you get quiet and not let anyone know about the lava flow of emotions that threaten to erupt at some late time?
Do you grind your teeth or get a rash or have some physical manifestation of your stress?
Do you eat or not eat or sleep all the time or stay up into the wee hours?

When I feel stress pressing in I may do a few different things:

I may sleep less and stay up way too late.
I might snack more on things that are oh-so-bad for me…comfort foods like chips, ice cream and cookies.
I know I am great at bottling up my emotions and my stress so that I appear okay, but a slightly more silent and sullen version of myself. I try to keep it all in, out of the way, not dealing with it, even though I know that heading down route just makes the journey of getting through my stress so much more difficult and bumpy.

And then…Something funny that happened this week when I felt stressed: I bought a fish.
(as yet unnamed betta)
No, not some salmon for a good and healthy dinner.
I bought my second Siamese Fighting Fish (or betta) in the past month.
(My first, Samson, has since gone the way of the White Porcelain transportation device to fishy heaven. Poor little fishy guy!)
This time I did my new friend justice. I picked up a very small glass tank that came with a light, filter and I also bought a heater. (I think poor Samson keeled over since it is actually quite cool in my house and without a heater the bowl he was in never got warm.)

Yesterday I also picked up some more pretty polished river rocks and some silk plants to give him shelter and decorate his new home a bit. Today he is active and eating well and exploring.

But back to my topic.

I didn’t realize what I had done or why until I got home with the new aquarium and began setting it up.



Note: At one point in my life, not too long ago, I had many, many fish and aquariums. Eventually I sold them and got down to one, but decided when I got my puppy over 2 years ago that I didn’t have time for my fish upkeep so I got rid of the last tank.

Why, oh why, did I suddenly decide to buy another one?

This past week a very close relative was very ill in hospital with the outlook seemed very bleak and the day I got word that he had passed away I went right out and bought my new fish and tank.

How did that happen?

I know now it was from a mixture of wanting to distract myself, to feel good about something and not dealing with the emotions that came with the bad news. I felt the stress of losing someone, with memories and worry bubbling up I had to do something and what I found myself doing was a bit of retail therapy and distraction.

Have you ever gone this route? Or something similar?

I can see a new marketing campaign by pet store chains now: Stressed out? Buy a Pet! They -never- add any more stress to your life…ever.

Are you still with me after all that rambling? Good.
Here’s the kicker.
An important lesson I’ve learned this year about stress is that nothing good can come of either holding the negative emotions inside or of letting them get so entangled into your personality that they change the person you want to be.
 I’ve been stressed before and I held onto that negativity for so long that it changed me. I held on to it so tightly that if it had been my physical hands that were holding that stress they would have lost all circulation and started to become dead and rotting along with the disgusting pound of stress they clung to.
This summer I had a quiet and emotion-filled few moments when I finally realized that the tugging on that tightly-held stress that I had been resising and fighting against was God trying to get me to give it over to Him. It was difficult and painful and I almost felt like I had to let Him pry my fingers loose as He pulled it from my grasp, but I laid it all at His feet. The best part was that He took it. All my doubt, all my anxiety, all my anger and bitterness, He took it all and filled me with His tender love and hope and peace.

Of course I have to make that choice daily to give it over to Him, but it’s working. Slowly I am learning how wonderful it is to be free of that black cloud of stress that enveloped me. I can see the brightness ahead and I can feel the peace that is beyond my own understanding.

So what do you do with your stress?
Let me tell you….if you give it over to God, He’s got some amazing peace for you! 

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust. ~ Psalm 4:8

 Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] ~ John 14:27

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