Yesterday I talked about the novels I have read and the global nature of the authors that are on my reading list. We are being globalized in so many different ways and often we don’t even realize it.
This morning I read emails from South Africa, Rwanda, Australia, the UK, Canada and the U.S. Messages zipped back and forth in seconds. Our conversations gave windows into a changing world I could not even have imagined a few years ago. But how in the midst of these rapid and sometimes disorienting changes to we maintain our stability and move our ability to move forward as God intends us to?
Here is a list I put together some years ago of the basic principles and practices that help me to maintain my equilibrium even when the world around feels as though it is in freefall.
- Identify stability zones – what are the principles and practices that affirm what you believe and who you are that you want to make sure do not change? These may be as simple as meals at a regular time and morning Bible study or maintaining a friendship that has seen you through thick and thin. Whatever these are do everything possible to hang onto them
- Move as infrequently as possible. The average American moves every 2 years and all of us (at least until recently) have been tempted to move to bigger, prettier or quieter places whenever we can afford them. Even establishing ourselves in church is often seen these days as a short term commitment but coming together with the same worshipping community each week is as important as the house we live in. These kinds of moves destabilize all of us and often disconnect us from the routines and relationships that provide our spiritual and emotional stability.
- Surround yourself with items that give and “at home” feeling. The more you can do to feel comfortable in a new environment the less stressful it will seem. I have a beautiful painting of Australian gum trees that has always made me feel at home even when all else in my environment seems alien
- Establish friendships that have the potential to be stable. Don’t invest in disposable relationships. Do everything possible to maintain good relationships with friends, join a small group, prayer group, book club or other community group that you expect will be together for the long haul.
- Identify “enemy factors” and ways to deal with them. What makes you uncomfortable o stressed? Identifying these factors and learning how to cope with them – even if it means admitting to your need for professional counselling is very important.
- Affirm the good. When our world destabilizes it is easy for us to blame others, and criticize all that is happening around us. Someone once told me that they believed we should all learn to say 10 good things before admitting to one critical thing about a person or situation. I think that is a great principle. If we focus on the good life seems so much better.
- Avoid surprises. The normal response to sudden change is rejection, so the ability to reject coming changes makes it easier to adjust to them. So keep your eyes and ears open to the fact that changes are coming and if you are moving into a new situation ask others in the community “What took you by surprise when you first moved here?”
- Cultivate meaningful leisure time. The more stressed I feel the more I focus on work and the less time I take to renew and replenish myself with relaxing activities. We all need to know what refreshes us – emotionally, physically and spiritually and make sure that we spend adequate leisure time engaged in these types of activities.
- Get adequate sleep. All of us start to feel frayed at the edges when we don’t get enough sleep. Our ability to cope with other stresses plummets and we can become irritable, argumentative and unreasonable which not only destroys our stability but that of everyone around us too.
- Take time out regularly to evaluate your spiritual, emotional and practical goals and priorities. A couple of months ago I posted an article on “Have You Taken A Spiritual Audit Lately?. I cannot affirm this type of practice enough. Tom and I go on spiritual retreats 3 or 4 times a year and find that when we are doing these regularly we are able to cope with far more change and instability in the other areas of our lives.