I once heard that life overseas is a life of relentless stress. Then I moved and I knew it was true. Several months ago I told my husband I was a pressure cooker releasing only a bit of pressure at a time only to quickly fill up again. The last year especially has been stressful.
It seems ironic to me that as I write this article on relaxing I am thick in the middle of a transition. We are in between countries, having left our home and getting ready to move to a new one. We landed back in the US and hit the ground running doing all kinds of work to relaunch. As a mom of three young kids living in transition, I am T I R E D.
Relaxing hasn’t come easy, partly because of the endless tasks, partly because my husband and I relax differently and partly because of all the people we are trying to connect with. Even as I long for rest, the Lord has allowed our son especially to jet lag much longer than the rest of us, to struggle with sleep due to teething and even to get sick.
Relentless stress can take its toll on us. It affects our ability to have perspective on life, our joy, and even our health. Personally, when I don’t rest well and when I am stressed, my autoimmune symptoms flare up and inflammation and pain follow.
I have been praying for a season of refreshment. I am dreaming not of a White Christmas but maybe more of a Blue and Green Summer somewhere near a big body of water. I would love at least two weeks completely off for both my husband and me. I would love help with the kids and yet I don’t want to be completely away from them. I would love to have time to sleep, be outdoors, exercise, read and write.
But the truth is, I am still not sure if it will come before we relocate. As relaxing sometimes seems elusive, I am learning a few things:
- It is good to soak in the moments God does give to relax. I may not have a whole day off (or even a whole morning off) but I can slow down for 30 minutes, read a book, drink tea, lay down, or watch something on Netflix.
- Waiting on God is the way for fresh strength. Isaiah 40: 31 says, “Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” It is counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I wrote more about this here.
- I need to accept that my husband and I relax differently and look for ways to compromise. If I am aware of the things that help me de-stress, it really helps him when I communicate to him what I need. He is so happy to give me time away, but he doesn’t always know when I need it or what exactly I need.
Over the past few years, I have learned some things that can help my body release some of the stress that builds up. These are ways I can relax even when I can’t take significant time off.
- Go for a run and if it can be outside, even better.
- Do an Epsom salt bath (and add lavender essential oil)
- Drink tea – especially rooibos or chamomile
- Watch a movie by myself
- Sit outside by myself and enjoy nature, especially good thunderstorms
- Get off social media. Taking a day off once a week has been a very helpful practice for me.
- Read a fiction book
- Drink bone broth (it helps with inflammation and so helps offset the effects of stress)
- Worship God. His presence is a place of true rest. When I recognize He is God and I am not, my spirit humbly worships Him. I stop striving. I rejoice. I am still and know Him to be God.
- Listen to music. Some songs that have greatly blessed me over the past year have been Andrew Peterson’s Is He Worthy?, Shane and Shane’s Psalms album, Christy Nockel’s lullaby album Be Held, He Will Hold Me Fast by Matt Merkel and Shadows of the Dawn by the Gray Havens
Some may think relaxing is a waste. Others may make of it an idol. Relaxing is not an end in itself. For the overseas worker living in relentless stress, it can be a means to know Christ better and to equip you to more effectively make Him known. And that is never ever wasted.
What helps you relax? How have you and your husband learned to compromise in relaxing?