I have an occasionally stressful relationship with my keys. Years ago, when my now grown children were younger, I was alone with my two youngest and since I’m not a cook, we headed to Burger King where they played for quite some time in the indoor playground. Once done, we were heading home.
Only I had swapped cars with my eldest that day, had left the keys in the car and accidentally hit the automatic lock. So, the kids played longer while I waited for the lock expert. Fifty dollars later, the door was open. I hit the lock switch, paid the guy and shut the door. Collecting my kids from the playground, we went out to the car (have you guessed?) to find the doors locked again and the keys still in the ignition. Instead of unlocking I had locked the doors.
This is how I discovered there are two lock experts in town (I wasn’t going to call the first one back!). The story is funny—now.
Little stresses like that add up. So when we face something bigger—sickness, finances or even death—we struggle more than we should.
One strategy to deal with daily stress is a positive morning routine. Whatever the rest of our day holds, nothing is as irritating as feeling unprepared or wondering what we have forgotten. Small stresses build into bigger ones. We become distracted, less productive and enjoy everything less.
So, how do we begin well each day?
Start the night before. When I go to bed I like to set out my clothes for the next day. I also think if there’s anything I need to especially remember and I put that with my clothes. When I neglect to do this, my morning is disorganized (and stressful).
Have a place for all your routine things. I keep a plate on my dresser for all the things I need daily. Because I have a number of items to remember (pager, phone, wallet, etc.), I have also started to count to “nine” out loud. I don’t have to wonder if I have remembered. I just remember nine. Among the nine are my blood pressure pill and a quick check of my daily calendar.
Give yourself enough time. I have learned that “hurry always hurts.” When we rush we often forget things, and we certainly don’t start the day confident and peaceful. An extra five or fifteen or thirty minutes can relax your morning and start your day well.
Leave the fun distractions for later. We like to check Facebook or play a game on our phone. If you have set aside some time for that, go ahead. But don’t we enjoy those things more when we know other little tasks are accomplished? Use those distractions when they can change the pace of a day for a moment, not to avoid starting right. Perhaps take a moment to practice being mindful instead.
Recognize what’s most important today. Is there a task at work, a special event or is it your anniversary? Take a moment to assess the day—what do you most want to get done, and are you ready to do it? Remember that these important things can sometimes get bumped by what seems to be urgent (like finding the keys!).
Stress is part of life and in right quantities helps us get our work done. But if we begin our day stressed by ordinary things, the feeling can be quite unenjoyable and overwhelming, and it can take a toll on our health.
Mark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for 35 years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.