by Ken Rolheiser
Living a stress free life and self compassion

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” – George F. Burns (lived 100 years)

While perusing an article on reducing stress my attention was caught by the next heading: What to do when nerves, stress or sadness push you toward the fridge. After spending some time on the topic I decided the bible was a better solution than the fridge.

I was startled by Aleteia’s report of a study on parole hearings: “the likelihood of a favourable ruling is greater at the very beginning of the work day or after a food break than later in the sequence of cases.”

A study followed eight parole judges for 10 months to see if there was any truth to it, and the researchers found that “Prisoners lucky enough to face the parole board when its members were well fed and rested had a roughly 65 percent chance of gaining parole.”

Alex Mayyasi at Priceonomics explains, “Yet over time, the odds of a favourable decision deteriorated until the last prisoner before a break had almost no chance of getting parole.” Ouch!

How does this relate to stress? A simple change in blood sugar level can lead to a condition some have called “hangry”. Your bad mood might be related to how hungry you are.

Exhaustion is another determiner of mood. “Sleep on it” is often good advice when something is making us feel miserable. Our problem solving powers may be restored by morning. Research tells us: Sleep deprivation not only makes us think less clearly, it also hurts our powers of self-evaluation.

Another startling discovery in my research describes the “biggest game changer” in reducing stress. We can reduce daily stress with self compassion. Says Dr Greenberg in The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response And Stress Using Mindfulness And Neuroplasticity.

“Self compassion also has a component of mindful self-awareness, in which you acknowledge your own emotions, but don’t get over-identified with them or use them as an excuse not to meet your goals,” writes Dr Greenberg.

He further suggests being gentler with ourselves and giving ourselves room for imperfection and growth, which to me, at least, hints at morality on a higher plain.

On the natural plain, stress is a silent killer. It can lead to high blood pressure, strokes or heart attacks. Check the normal causes: blood sugar level, exhaustion, hormonal imbalance (men and women) and transitions that can cause adjustment disorders.

Then there is the spiritual plain: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Jesus says to us: Be of good cheer ; it is I; be not afraid, as he said to the disciples after his resurrection. There are 365 “fear not” statements in the bible. And “Do not be afraid” appears 30 times. A Bernstain Bear book is entitled Do Not Fear, God Is Near.

To be stress free, we need to surrender to God. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” Psalm 145:18.
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