This is how the lovely Mary responded: “It’s easy to get ourselves tightly wound but difficult to release the anxieties that cause it. We might be successful temporarily but not for the long haul. So, how can we release and restore a feeling of calm that will be lasting?”
Great question, huh?! I won’t pretend to have an easy answer or quick formula, but this exercise is my heartfelt attempt to address this issue. I hope it is helpful as we ask the Lord to set us free in ways we never thought possible.
Five Ways to Undress Our Stress
Some definitions of “undress” are: to strip or expose, to remove the bandages from a wound; partial or complete nakedness.
When we are feeling stressed, it is important to undress our feelings—to remove the outer layer and take a closer look at what is going on inside our hearts.
Step 1: Take a deep breath
When faced with a situation that causes stress, take a deep breath, literally (breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth…the kind of breathing they teach you in child-birthing classes). Pause for a beat (or ten) if possible and help your insides calm down before you proceed.
I love the word “Selah”, found in the Bible. I have heard that it indicates a musical term or “a reflective pause”. Yes indeed. When stressed, we need to pause and reflect before we dive in, past the point of no return.
Step 2: Check your reflection
We might want to avoid this step when we are actual undressing but, in regards to stress, it is a good idea to check your reflection. What I mean by this is, stop and evaluate how this situation looks and feels to you. Sometimes we react strongly and negatively to a situation that does not warrant that kind of response.
Look in the mirror or use the selfie mode on your phone. Literally check your reflection and evaluate your facial expressions about this issue. What are other people seeing? On a scale of 1-10, how serious is this stressful situation?
Step 3: Uncover the issue
As we check our reflection we should ask God to help us see what is going on, it is a good idea to ask the Holy Spirit to help us uncover the root of our reaction.
This just happened to me last week. I had agreed to cater a special event but the needs of the group changed and more food was required at the last minute. My friend jumped in and whipped up some other food options to add to the menu. She knew this might be hurtful to me and my “what I have to offer isn’t good enough” wounds. We talked it through. I told her that I knew she wasn’t trying to be hurtful but I was reacting strongly because this situation was triggering memories—when I had offered in the past and it wasn’t well-received. The current situation was not the same but it felt similar, therefore, I reacted to the hurt that had surfaced.
Checking my reflection in this case meant that I evaluated the reality of the situation against my strong reaction to see if I was in line or out of line with my response.
Why did I have such a strong reaction to such a simple problem of more food being needed? Was I so controlling that I didn’t want anyone to interrupt my creative process? Or was there something deeper going on?
The Lord revealed that I had hurts, stored away, that I stuffed inside instead of dealing with them. Often when we have been hurt we either lash out or hide the pain, tucking it away for a rainy day. God revealed to me that there was more going on, than me just being frustrated and inflexible.
When the circumstances began unraveling I panicked and grasped for the control that I did not have.
Step 4: Unlock your heart
After we’ve asked God to uncover the real issue that is leading to the stress we are feeling and the control that we are grasping for, ask Him to unlock your heart. Invite Him to help you open your hands in surrender.
If we really trusted God, wouldn’t we be more at peace on the inside?
If we really believed in His Sufficiency, wouldn’t we rest more easily?
If we really took Him at His Word, wouldn’t we be freed from fears?
Often we tightly wound women want to do it ourselves. We want to muster up the motivation and curb the control. We think we can ignite the change we long for if we try harder and do more.
But guess what? Jesus holds the keys to unlocking our hearts. He is able, more than able, to do the impossible and set us free—to release peace in the areas that we have locked up and are hardened up. It might not be in an instant, it might take a lifetime.
God is able to soften the heart He made within you and help you trust and believe in Him, even in the unexpected.
Step 5: Change your outlook
After you ask God to unlock your heart, ask Him to lead you as you go to the Bible and renew your mind. When circumstances do not go the way I want them to or when there is a situation I cannot control (or has an unfavorable outcome) I need to “change my mind.” I need to stop trying to force an outcome to happen that is a dead end, I need to change my mind and refocus, asking God to help me adjust my thinking and my outlook.
The best way I know how to do this is to go to God’s Word for help, hope, and healing.
When I was at the She Speaks Conference there was a little scroll sitting at my place setting. The conference staff had prayed over each of attendee and asked God to encourage us specifically through the verse that was found on the scroll where we were sitting. I was hoping for a verse about the 5,000 sitting and listening to what was being said, or something like that. Ha!
Here is what mine actually said:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. -Colossians 3:1-4
I wanted my scroll to say something else, but God knew what verse was necessary. He knew I needed to be reminded, again and again, to set my mind on things above. I get so caught up with the stress of life that I often forget that His peace is available, even in the midst of difficult moments.
My life is hidden in Christ, hmm, not the fame I was looking for, but when I change my outlook by aligning myself with the Truth, then I see more clearly and the stress dispels more easily.When my gaze is fixed on Jesus I'm not quickly swayed, stressed or stumped by the unraveling of… Click To Tweet
The point is:
-God knows us (He made us after all).
-God loves us (flaws, faults, and all).
-God is able to reveal the root of our stress, control, and tightly-wound tendencies.
-God can unlock the hard places in our hearts.
-God holds the keys to set us free.
-God speaks truth that changes us.
As we build this community of strong woman, I invite you to share struggles and setbacks and also celebrate breakthroughs and successes, all the while pointing to the All-Sufficient One who works in us according to His good pleasure.
We will not bash ourselves or others, but we will be unabashed about His love and His ability to help us find grace in the unraveling of life.
Let me encourage you today, that being tightly wound can be a good thing. Don’t shrink back from who you are. Remember whose you are and that He has wound you up tightly in His love and care, with oh so much grace.
P.S. Linking-up with Jami Amerine of Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors on Fridays for the #matt1020 linkup. Come join us!
P.P.S. Be sure to subscribe to my blog to receive free encouragement into your inbox as we learn to unwind, together (just enter your email address at the top right of this page).
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