Track Your Energy to Help Manage Stress

by Rob Basler

Everyone is busy.  Between work, school, kids, errands and everything else you’ve got going on, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed can sneak up on you. The symptoms of stress can include headaches, muscle tension, sleep and digestive problems, trouble thinking clearly and irritability. It can be hard to monitor your stress levels and manage them.

Some things you can do to keep your stress levels in check include getting adequate sleep and nutrition, exercise, using supportive relationships and taking time to relax.  Sometimes, even thinking about trying to do these things is enough to stress us out!

So here is a quick and easy way to check in on yourself and help manage your stress level in the moment. First, ask yourself a simple question: what’s my energy level? Then ask: do I feel comfortable or uncomfortable?

Often when we think of energy, we think in a simple binary fashion; high is good, low is bad. The reality is that all of us have a level of energy that feels best to us. Ask yourself what you like to do on vacation. Do you like to sit on the beach with a good book? Do you like to go out dancing? Hitting that optimal energy level helps us recharge and function at our best. So if you are in a long checkout line, or the boss has dropped a new project on your desk, or if your child tells you they have a project due TOMORROW, take a second and pay attention to how your energy is. If it is high, do you feel energized and excited, or jittery? If your energy is not comfortable, take a few seconds and do something to change it.

If you want to bring your energy down, try closing your eyes and taking three slow, deep breathes. If you want to bring it up, get up and move around for a minute or two. Take note of how that moves your energy. Over time, you can build up a toolbox of quick, anyplace activities to manage your energy and feel better right when you need it most.

A tip of the hat to Kristine Kinniburgh, co-author of Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents for giving me the idea.

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The Beauty of Fall by Jonathan Burchard

I love living in an area that has four seasons. I am easily bored and prone to take things for granted–situations and relationships. I also tend to grump about anything, even good things, so I’m pretty confident that I would find something bad about experiencing perfect weather every day.

The change of seasons makes me stop and reflect, though. I’m reminded that I’m not in control of most things, except my responses. I also take time to consider life–where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Fall reminds me of college days in beautiful Colonial Williamsburg. I remember taking walks with my future wife and pondering the big questions of life.

In this season of my life, Fall reminds me of pending death in the life cycle. Why so much beauty before winter? Maybe it’s because God is the beautiful redeemer who takes the sting out of death and makes all things new. Maybe it’s a reminder that there is beauty and purpose every day, regardless of our limitations, because each moment is full of His purposes.

“For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven:…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Stop Doing These 8 Things for Your Teen this School Year by Amy Carney

Originally posted September 19, 2016 here

 

Don’t judge me if you happen to see my kids eating packaged Ritz crackers for school lunch. Don’t judge me if they’re on the sidelines of PE because they forgot their uniform. Don’t judge me if they didn’t turn in their homework because it’s still sitting home on their desk.

What some may view as a lack of parenting, is what I deem parenting on purpose, as we work to build necessary life skills in our kids.

I stopped making daily breakfasts and packing school lunches long ago. I don’t feel obligated to deliver forgotten items left behind at home. School projects and homework are not any part of my existence. How do we raise competent adults if we’re always doing everything for our kids?

  1. Waking them up in the morning

If you are still waking little Johnny up in the mornings, it’s time to let an alarm clock do its job. My foursome has been expected to get themselves up on early school mornings since they started middle school. There are days one will come racing out with only a few minutes to spare before they have to be out the door. The snooze button no longer feels luxurious when it’s caused you to miss breakfast.

I heard a Mom actually voice out loud that her teen sons were just so cute still, that she loved going in and waking them up every morning. Please stop. I find my sons just as adorable as you do, but our goal is to raise well-functioning adults here.

  1. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch

My morning alarm is the sound of the kids clanging cereal bowls. My job is to make sure there is food in the house so that they can eat breakfast and pack a lunch. One friend asked, yeah but how do you know what they’re bringing for school lunch? I don’t. I know what food I have in my pantry and it’s on them to pack up what they feel is a good lunch. It will only be a few short years and I will have no idea what they are eating for any of their meals away at college. Free yourself away from the PB and J station now.

  1. Filling out their paperwork

I have a lot of kids, which equates to a lot of beginning of the school year paperwork. I used to dread this stack, until the kids became of age to fill all of it out themselves. Our teens are expected to fill out all of their own paperwork, to the best of their ability. They put the papers to be signed on a clipboard and leave it for me on the kitchen island. I sign them and put them back on their desks. Hold your teens accountable. They will need to fill out job and college applications soon and they need to know how to do that without your intervention.

  1. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you. We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

  1. Making their failure to plan your emergency

School projects do not get assigned the night before they are due. Therefore, I do not run out and pick up materials at the last minute to get a project finished. I do always keep poster boards and general materials on hand for the procrastinating child. But other needed items you may have to wait for. Do not race to Michaels for your kid who hasn’t taken time to plan.

This is a good topic to talk about in weekly family meetings. Does anyone have projects coming up that they’re going to need supplies for so that I can pick them up at my convenience this week?

  1. Doing all of their laundry

“What? YOU didn’t get my shorts washed? This response always backfires on the kid who may lose their mind thinking that I’m the only one who can do laundry around here. Every once in a while, a child needs a healthy reminder that I do not work for them. The minute they assume that this is my main role in life, is the minute that I gladly hand over the laundry task to them.

Most days I do the washing and the kids fold and put their clothes away, but they are capable of tackling the entire process when need be.

  1. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches

If our child has a problem with a teacher or coach, he is going to have to take it to the one in charge. There is no way that we, as parents, are going to question a coach or email a teacher about something that should be between the authority figure and our child.

Don’t be that over involved parent. Teach your child that if something is important enough to him, then he needs to learn how to handle the issue himself or at least ask you to help them.

  1. Meddling in their academics

Put the pencil down parents. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t tell you what my kids are doing for school work. We talk about projects and papers over dinner, but we’ve always had the expectation for our kids to own their work and grades. At times, they’ve earned Principals Lists, Honor Rolls and National Junior Honor Society honors on their own accord. At other times, they’ve missed the mark.

These apps and websites, where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our over-parenting epidemic.

Every blue moon I will ask the kids to pull up their student account and show me their grades, because I want them to know I do care. I did notice our daughter slacking off at the end of last year and my acknowledgement helped her catch up, but I’m not taking it on as one of my regular responsibilities and you shouldn’t be either.

What is your parenting goal? Is it to raise competent and capable adults?

If so, then let’s work on backing off in areas where our teens can stand on their own two feet. I know they’re our babies and it feels good to hover over them once in a while, but in all seriousness, it’s up to us to raise them to be capable people.

I want to feel confident when I launch my kids into the real world that they are going to be just fine because I stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own. So please don’t judge me if my kids scramble around, shoving pre-packaged items into that brown paper lunch bag, before racing to catch the bus.

It’s all on purpose my friends.

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What do you need to change in the new year?

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

Happy New Year. As the Christmas season settles down we quickly turn our attention to the end of the year “best of” lists and begin thinking about what the new year holds. As one year gives way to the next it is all too easy to make simple comparisons and even begin to become anxious about the changes that may come with the new year.

We can even become nostalgic longing for the better days we remember from our past. Although the hope contained in the promise of a new year can, for some, contain limitless possibilities, yesterday had some comforts that tomorrow just can’t hold a candle to.

Remember when people used to take the time to write? I came across this quote, and I began to long for simpler times.

“The art of letter-writing is fast dying out…Now, however, we think we are too busy for such old-fashioned correspondence. We fire off a multitude of rapid and short notes, instead of sitting down to have a good talk over a real sheet of paper.”
—The Sunday Magazine, 1871

So, it seems, the internet did not destroy the art of written communication any more than a tweet or a text has. King Solomon once lamented, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) He was right. “The good old days” have always appeared better, while our limited perspective creates a perception that things today are rapidly deteriorating.

The above quote from almost 150 years ago seems as if it could have been pulled from a blog or a conversation today. Perhaps there is some truth to it, but then again perhaps there is also as much misperception to it as well.

It is helpful, and I argue healthy, to not only study history but to learn from it. Learn more than just from the mistakes of the past so that we don’t repeat them, but learn from the past to see how much some of the same issues that we once struggled with we continue to struggle with.

In 1891 there was a claim that, “Intellectual laziness and the hurry of the age have produced a craving for literary nips. The [brain] has grown too weak for sustained thought. There never was an age in which so many people were able to write badly.” —Israel Zangwill

Complaints that world is devolving was not limited to our prose. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and the like, have created a consumer culture that has been charged with no longer appreciating art in any lasting manner. We upload nearly 2 billion photos each and every day, but is this anything new?

I love this quote from 1892 decrying how quickly society goes on from one image to the next in their insatiable desire for new images. “The art of pure line engraving is dying out. We live at too fast a rate to allow for the preparation of such plates as our fathers appreciated. If a picture catches the public fancy, the public must have an etched or a photogravure copy of it within a month or two of its appearance, the days when engravers were wont to spend two or three years over a single plate are for ever gone.”

Sure, times have changed and not all for the better. To think that this is anything new is both inaccurate and an incomplete understating of history. We tend to look at our past through rose-colored lenses and often miss the beauty in today. Newer is not always better, but neither is the way things used to be inherently better. We need to approach life, circumstances, and each day of our relationships with an open and honest assessment of where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.

There is health in asking God for discernment of where we need to grow and where we need to dig in our heels. The tabernacle gave way to the temple, the Old Covenant was completed in the New. Read through the book of Acts and you’ll see the early church struggled with change; truly nothing is new under the sun.

Whether you are a newlywed, a married couple going through empty nest or change of job, or circumstances in life are throwing you a curve ball and you need to figure out how to respond, take a step back and understand that, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” —Louis L’Amour

Focus less on the change itself and how you are going to choose to respond. You might just find that things really aren’t that different if your perspective is that of healthy growth. In fact, you may end up changing more that the change that was stressing you out in the first place. Our girls still hand write letters to friends, at a Christmas party last night someone gave a box set of vinyl, God is still holy, and the world continues to spin in the same direction at just about the same rate of speed as it did back in 1871.

Focus on how you can improve your relationships, your communication skills and embrace enhancements in technology. I’m grateful it does not take years to see an image develop by an engraver, but I’m also grateful that I have thousands of photos of our kids over the past few years to enjoy. Perspective truly does have the power to shape and create our perception and the realities that follow. Choose to create a better reality and decide to make the best of what may come.

With the new year upon us, make a decision to take control of your perceptions and subjective reality and decide to question your limited and incomplete perspectives and see a much bigger picture. Choose to be a “better you” in the new year by changing more than just what you do, but how you see.

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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I believe Jesus can…turn your world upside down to put things in place.

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Although that may hold true for two-dimensional objects, life has taught many of us that you can’t always get where you are going by following a straight line. As we look through the stories in the Bible, we find that very rarely do any of the stories in both the Old and New Testament include any straight lines. Sometimes the detours and chaos that ensue are due to sin, disobedience, or the lack of faith—think the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years for a trip they should have been able to complete in under 40 days—and sometimes there seems to be no easy explanation on why things had to turn out the way that they did.

Recently, my family has seen our entire world turned upside down. Ours has been a rather exciting journey that has come as the answer to many, many, many prayers, but it has turned our world upside down none the less. Perhaps I should be a little more specific for those of you who have not been following our journey on my blog (june3rd.com) or on Facebook (facebook.com/DrJasonKarampatsos). My wife, Jennifer, and I have not been praying that God would turn our world upside down, but knowing that is how God often works, it should not have come as a surprise when He chose to answer our prayers exactly that way.

Sure, it would have been simpler if God answered our prayers precisely as we prayed them. After all, who would know better than us what we need? Of course I joke, because so often we haven’t the faintest clue about what we need when we are asking God to meet our needs. Scripture reminds us that God’s perspective is so far above our understanding that we can’t even begin to comprehend it.

Why did Abraham and Sara have to wait so long to have children? Why did Joseph have to go through Potiphar’s house and prison to deliver his family during the great famine? Why did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have to be tossed into a fiery furnace if they were going to walk out unscathed? Why did Daniel have to spend a night in the lion’s den when even the king did not want him there? Great questions to which theologians can posit logical sounding and possibly even valid answers (see Gen 50:20), but remember, even after all of Job’s questioning, God’s response was, ‘Who are you to even be asking?’ While you and I may be able to offer God some suggestions and remind Him that there are shorter distances between two points, He would remind us that our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).

In addition to serving as a counselor and clinical supervisor for Safe Harbor Christian Counseling for close to a decade, I am an ordained minister and have served in the greater Baltimore/Washington D.C. area since 2005. It was about a year and a half ago that I felt that God was calling me to prepare for a ministerial transition and my wife and I began to prayerfully walk through that process with some trusted colleagues and friends. We had our ideas on how the transition should go and we diligently offered them to God in our daily prayer time. God, on the other hand, must have felt that our timeline was too neat and tidy and felt that we could use a little turning upside down.

There were several moments along the way, as we crisscrossed the country for interviews, that we felt the pressures of uncertainty concerning where we would be a year from now and when the transition might take place. We served at an amazing church located between the two beltways that was gracious and supportive during this season, but it was hard planning for what God had next when no one knew where we would be and when we would be transitioning. Once we shared what we were sensing from God with our children, then they too felt their world begin to turn upside down as they didn’t know when (or how) they would say good-bye to so many great friends. Our hearts and minds were torn between what God has for us and what God had for us.

I believe that Jesus can, and often does, turn your world upside down to put things in place. I believe that Jesus loves us so much that He spares no expense for His children, and out of that abundance of love and compassion He knows what is best for us. Sure, it is easier to never spend a day on unemployment or to never spend an evening in an oncology ward, but sometimes God truly has greater purposes that we just do not see. Are there things within us that God needs to remove, or is there a powerful testimony or another life that we will come in contact with only if we are where God wants us at a particular place and point in time (see Esther 4:14)? Do you want to know the honest truth? Nobody knows, and we may never know this side of eternity.

It is still too soon to tell why God threw us a few curveballs along the way and made the “along the way” as long as He did, but there are a few things that we believe that we have learned along the way that might bring comfort, guidance, and peace for you the next time you find your world turned upside down for a season. I share these with you, not as one who has figured it all out, but as a fellow traveler who desperately wants to honor and please God with his life and to help others whom God has cross my path along the way.

God knows best. We have to believe this and never doubt it. I know how I like to order my hot chocolate at Starbucks, and I know what temperature I like the thermostat set at, but when it comes to what matters most we need to simply have faith that God knows best.

God knows you better. Again, you and I are capable of ordering our favorite drink, but God knows you in deep intimate ways that we will never comprehend during our short time here on earth. He made you, loves you, isn’t fooled by facades, and truly knows us for who we are.

God loves you. Not only does God know best, knows you the best, but He also loves you—might I add that He loves you the best too! Many of us have come to a realization that God has sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for us, but His love for us did not end there. He loves you today with an everlasting and unconditional love.

God has given you free will. This one is a bit tricky to understand. Why would someone who knows best hand over the decision-making process to someone who does not know best? Although I struggle to fully grasp this one at times, I do defer to principle #1: God knows best. With free will comes the chance to make mistakes, but it also gives us the chance to seek God’s will for our life. Thomas Merton once wrote, “…I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to authentically strive to find God’s will for our lives and please Him in all of our decisions (including the decision to find His will for our lives).

God is not always to blame. Sometimes God turns our world upside down, and sometimes we do a fine job causing that all by ourselves. We need to be careful not to blame God for our mistakes. Perhaps you have heard the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then when sentence was about to be pronounced pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.” Perhaps this one point deserves its own blog entry, but suffice to say that we need discernment to know when we have gotten ourselves into trouble by our own actions and decisions.

God is a God of order. The natural state of the universe is towards decay and disorder, and the natural—or should that be supernatural—state of God is towards order and reconciliation. God is not going to turn your world upside down because He prefers chaos, but He will use the chaos to bring about order. I personally do not enjoy omelets, but if God wants an omelet in our lives then we need to be prepared for a few cracked eggs.

God will never leave you, nor forsake you. No matter how upside down your life becomes, or how long things remain upside done, you must remember at all times that God is still right there beside you. Save your energy from wondering where God is and focus on what He desires to do in and through you during this turbulent season.

The truth is we need to live by faith (Romans 1:17), we need to be obedient to God (1 Samuel 15:22), and we need to embrace God’s will and plan for our lives not because it makes sense but often in spite of it making any sense at all. As the aptly named hymn reminds us, ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

My family is finally seeing life settle down a bit. We have sold our home, I was elected as the new lead pastor of New Life Assembly of God (nlag.net) in beautiful Janesville, Wisconsin, we have said farewell to the church family that has been such a part of our lives during this past season of ministry, and we bought a new home just down the street from the church. Well, more accurately, our offer on a new home has been accepted.

Technically, today as I write this blog entry we are enjoying 30 days of homelessness. As beautiful as the Outer Banks are, and as much as we are looking forward to spending some time visiting family, we all long for the steady rhythm of life to resume once we settle into our new home. Selling a home is ranked up there as one of the most stressful events in one’s life, add to that buying a home and living out of suitcases for a month and we are daily praying for God’s grace. We are learning to enjoy the journey and appreciate that God is not done with us yet. We marvel at His grace and unmerited favor and are prayerfully anticipating the next curveball that God will throw our way as he turns our life upside down to put things right in place.

Despite moving from the east coast for the first time in our lives and 20 plus years of marriage, I will continue to write for Safe Harbor’s blog and bi-weekly newsletter from Wisconsin. If this is your first newsletter, I invite you to subscribe and share this with someone you know who might be feeling their world turned upside down. In the meantime, I leave you with this short prayer.

PRAYER: “Oh lord, today may be easy, or it may be not. Today may make sense or feel like utter chaos. Give me discernment to know when it is an attack of the enemy or your perfect plan and to trust that my feet will land precisely where you desire them to as I trust and obey.”

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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