If the devil can’t hinder our relationship with God by making us immoral, he’ll simply make us busy.
That’s a sad, yet true, reality. For many of us, we are doing everything possible to stay grounded in our faith, trust God, and seek His peace in the midst of stressful circumstances, and trying to stay positive and optimistic like I talked about on Monday’s post. But despite that effort, our to-do lists seem overwhelming, pressures run rampant, and the stress of life is is about to push over the edge of sanity.
This week’s chapter readings (Chapters 7 and 8) focus on overcoming the giant stressors in our lives and the dangerous role that an addiction to adrenaline can cause in our stress levels and whether or not we are able to reap God’s peace.
So today I’m so excited to break things up a bit, and share a post from my precious friend Glynnis Whitwer, who knows a lot about stress hormones and how they affect our ability to manage our workload. And I’ll be giving away a copy of her new book Taming The To-Do List!
To enter to win a copy of this week’s giveaway, just answer one of the questions below in the comments section! And be sure to read the bottom of the post to find out how everyone can get two free time management planner sheets from Glynnis.
I work better under pressure!
Maybe you haven’t spoken these words, but have you thought them? Most of us have.
There is something about pressure that motivates us to work harder. And there’s nothing like an approaching deadline to light a fire under us.
But do we really work better under those conditions? Well, that’s somewhat of a myth.
Perhaps you’ve felt the rush of adrenalin to meet a deadline. It can be exhilarating. Your mind finally feels focused, your energy level high, and you might even enjoy doing the work. But very few, if any, of us are glad we waited until the last minute.
But the idea that we work better under pressure is a myth we tell ourselves to justify our delay. As with many myths, this one gets its start in some truth, and with a helpful hormone called adrenalin.
Adrenalin is a stress hormone released from the adrenal glands above our kidneys when we are afraid, angry or excited. It’s God’s gift of energy to prepare you for action. If you’ve ever slammed on your brakes and barely missed getting in to an accident, you’ve probably felt it surge through your body. This is an adrenalin rush.
An adrenalin rush can be very helpful when facing the stress of an approaching deadline. On the surface, you might think you are working better under the pressure. The truth is, some people need the stress of an approaching deadline to just do the work.
Working “better” requires time for most of us. Time allows me to think without pressure. When I’m at deadline, deep processing is an extravagance. In my rush to finish, the results will be superficial and lacking richness and depth. Depending on the severity of the consequences of missing the deadline, sometimes I can’t think clearly at all.
This is because that same adrenalin rush infusing us with energy has a side effect. It hinders our executive processing, which makes it hard to problem solve, thereby compromising the quality of our work.
Researchers Amy Arnsten, Carolyn M. Mazure and Rajita Sinha, professors at Yale University, have studied the brain’s response to stress, and have uncovered the detrimental affect of stress hormones on the prefrontal cortex where our executive processing happens. When life is calm, the prefrontal cortex acts as the manager of our brains, overseeing and solving problems, and keeping our emotions under control.
Researchers are learning, however, it doesn’t take much to upset this delicate balance of mental processing and emotional response. Authors Arnsten, Mazure and Sinha write, “Under even everyday stresses, the prefrontal cortex can shut down, allowing the amygdala, a locus for regulating emotional activity, to take over, inducing mental paralysis and panic.”
So how do we deal with this limitation? How do we create situations where we can focus to the best of our ability?
The answer is to protect our touchy prefrontal cortex by building in time for calm consideration. Just knowing I’m compromising my ability to concentrate when I rush, motivates me to build margin into everything I do.
So whether it’s driving to an appointment, preparing for a meeting, or making a shopping list, I need time to think clearly and wisely. I like to add a cushion of time to everything I do, knowing things usually take longer than I expect.
Keeping a schedule can also help. Take some time on a quiet Saturday morning to think through what needs to be done in the coming week. Make a list. Then assign tasks to certain times in the week, allowing an extra 15-30 minutes to get them done.
The Lord designed us with great intentionality, and our stress response is for our good. We just need to learn to work within God’s design and not against it.
Taking time not only reduces our stress, but we honor God when we work at our best. Doing our best work is a spiritual practice because the Bible says everything we do is for the Lord: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV).
Glynnis Whitwer is a wife, mother of five young adults and executive director of communications for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day is available from Proverbs 31 Ministries. As a bonus for purchasing from Proverbs 31, Glynnis has prepared two time-management planner sheets to help you get control of your to-do list. CLICK HERE for more information.
LET’S CHAT!! DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK
(Please answer at least one of the questions below to enter to win a copy of Glynnis’s new book TAMING THE TO-DO LIST. Leave your comments in the comment section only, email replies will not qualify.)
“Real victory is when we learn to live with more joy and less stress, even when we can still see the giants looming off in the distance.” (pg 145)
Is your view of your ‘giant’ (whatever is causing you the most stress) blocking your view of God and His sovereignty and possibly keeping you stressed and anxious? How would claiming God’s peace in this change your life?
Has my to-do list, or my addiction to adrenaline and trying to do too much, been causing me a lot of stress? What things might I lay down so I can focus specifically on what God has called me to do today?
GRAPHICS TO SHARE ONLINE
& BLOG HOP PROMPTS
Bloggers: right click on the image you plan to write your blog post about, and “save image as” to save to your computer, share in your blog post if desired. Then come back here on Friday to link it up!
Everyone: From the blog home page, there are 3 ways to share the graphics: 1-Right click to save to your computer 2-‘Share Image’ in bottom right corner 3-‘Pin’ to Pinterest upper left corner.