Friday, January 14, 2011

Caution: Contents under Pressure

“You can have it all. You can work harder, play harder, and multitask your way to squeezing 31 hours of activity into a 24-hour day. That's the finding of a study conducted by the American Management Association.
“The study concluded that people can add almost 50 percent more activity to a typical day of 16 waking hours. Similarly, according to U.S. Labor Department figures, the average yearly increase in U.S. workers' productivity has doubled from 1.5 percent during the period from 1987–1996 to 3 percent from 1997–2006.
“But at what price? Through technology, people are accomplishing more in less time, but they are feeling overwhelmed by the multiplicity of their lives, according to Ed Reilly, CEO of the AMA. ‘There's a sense of fatigue that comes from multitasking,’ he says. ‘You can force yourself to keep doing things, but you may not be as effective.’”[1]
Do you find yourself multitasking more and more often?  Are you finding that you keep adding activities to your day?  Are those activities that you want to do?  Or that you feel like you have to do? Do you find yourself saying things like, “I am so stressed out!”?  Then you can count yourself among most of the people in the world (well the United States anyway).  Most of us feel overwhelmed by all we have to accomplish every day. Even in the shower, we apparently stop: 
“In 2009, the Ketchum Global Research Network asked 1,000 U.S. adults (ages 25–54) what they think about the most while they shower. Here were the top four responses:  To-do lists, Problems [and/or] worries, Daydreams, Work
“What an interesting glimpse into what we obsess over as we wake up in the morning or wind down in the evening—the two times most of us take a shower. While we clean ourselves to start the day, we sully ourselves with stress and disappointment. When we try our best to clear the clutter from our minds with a nice long shower or bath in the evening, we fill our minds to overflowing with thoughts about places to go, people to see, dreams to fulfill. We are a people who can barely go one minute without pondering the many things we feel we need to do, must do, should be doing but are not.”[2]
That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?  We don’t even let ourselves relax in the shower!  Even when our bodies aren’t “working”, our brain is flying around making plans.  We’ve forgotten what it means to really rest.

Part of the problem is our electronic side-kicks – our cell phones, i-whatevers, and our computers, we keep ourselves “on call” pretty much all of the time.  That becomes a problem for every part of our being.
“In December of 2005, a team of Australian researchers scientifically confirmed a long-suspected link between emotional stress and illness. The group from Sydney's Garvan Institute discovered that a hormone called neuropeptide Y (NPY) is released into the body during times of emotional stress. This hormone undermines the body's immune system and literally makes you sick.
“According to the Institute's Fabienne Mackay: ‘During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY, and it gets into the bloodstream where it inhibits the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens in the body.’ She added, ‘That stress makes you sick is no longer a myth; it is a reality and we need to take it seriously.’”[3]
And that article doesn’t even go into more directly stress related illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pain and a bunch of others.  But what can we do about it?  How can we get rid of the stress that dominates our lives?

“How Americans manage stress: Listen to music: 52 percent, Exercise or walk: 47 percent, Read: 44 percent, Spend time with friends or family: 41 percent, Watch TV or movies two or more hours a day: 41 percen, Nap: 38 percent, Play video games or surf the Internet: 37 percent
Pray: 37 percent, Eat: 34 percent, Hobby: 30 percent, Church or religious services: 21 percent, Drink alcohol: 18 percent, Shop: 18 percent, Smoke: 16 percent
*Results based on an APA survey by Harris Interactive of 1,791 adults (June–August, 2008)”[4]
Wow!  Did you notice where prayer and going to church fell on that list?  Pretty low, huh!  How should we manage our stress?  What did Jesus do?  Well several times, the Bible tells us that He and His disciples went out into the country and away from people to have some quiet time:  “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”  Mark 6:31   Sometimes, he spent quiet time with his trusted friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  And, of course, there were times that Jesus went off by Himself to talk to His Father.

Then there’s Ellen White’s remedy for stress:
“Let us turn from the dusty, heated thoroughfares of life to rest in the shadow of Christ’s love. Here we gain strength for conflict. Here we learn how to lessen toil and worry and how to speak and sing to the praise of God. Let the weary and the heavy-laden learn from Christ the lesson of quiet trust. They must sit under His shadow if they would be possessors of His peace and rest.”[5]
Oh, wait, God built our biggest stress reliever into our every week!  Sabbath – a day when we can turn off, shut down, put away everything that pulls us away from Jesus and just feel Jesus’ presence.  The Sabbath didn’t show up on our list of stress-busters, but I’m thinking that it is the only true way of managing the stress that we experience in our crazy end-time lives.  My brother preached a sermon once about Sabbath being the holy ground of time, where we, like Moses, need to take off our earthly shoes and come close to God.
“O soul, are you weary and troubled?/No light in the darkness you see?/There’s light for a look at the Savior,/And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,/Look full in His wonderful face,/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,/In the light of His glory and grace.”[6]

[1] Hugh Poland, Kingwood, Texas; source: Houston Chronicle (6-21-06)
[2] Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky, and Brian Lowery, managing editor,; source: Anne Carey and Sam Ward, "Snapshots: What Do You Think About in the Shower?" USA Today (6-5-09) 
[3] Sam O'Neal, St. Charles, Illinois; source: "Australian Scientists Find Proof That Stress Makes You Sick," (12-4-05)
[4] Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; source: Adrienne Lewis, "How Americans Manage Stress," USA Today (10-7-08)
[5] E.G. White, Testimonies for the Church 7:69, 70 (1902)
[6] Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus, 1922

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