We live in a world full of stress and we can't avoid it. We may face stress from financial pressures; health concerns; career choices; family concerns; church and religion; or even our own self-confidence and the list goes on and on. I don't have to tell you that no one is immune from stress; it is in every facet of our lives. Since we can't avoid stress, the question becomes how do we best cope with stress in our everyday lives? I began thinking about stress and what it would be like to have zero stress. What would a stress-free life look like? Several words and terms came to mind, but the one word that kept coming back to me again and again was the word—peace. Living a stress free life is living a life of peace. I have thought about peace in my own life and wanted to share lessons that I have learned over the years, using the letters in the word p-e-a-c-e. These lessons from the school of hard knocks have helped me to live a life of peace.
- Pray to the Lord often. Prayer is an often used answer for many things, for good reason. I spend a lot of time in prayer, not formal "holier than thou" prayers but just simple, private conversations with God about whatever may be on my heart. There's something about prayer and the relationship with God that follows which keeps you humble and reminds you of who is really in control. Regular prayer is the gateway to peace.
- Embrace who you are. I used to spend a lot of time wishing I was more than what I am. I viewed others and what they had and became envious. I saw others who had better skills or experience or who had better social skills or were better students. I saw others who were better athletes or more outgoing. My point is I spent so much time being envious of others that I failed to realize my own gifts and strengths. Each of us is wonderfully made by our Heavenly Father and you have unique gifts and talents you may not even know about. Certainly take steps to improve yourself in whatever areas that may need improving, but not so you can be like someone else. Make positive changes for yourself. Embrace your God-given talents and stop comparing yourself to others.
- Accept what you cannot change. There have been so many things in life that I wanted to change. What would I have given for a 'do-over" in certain circumstances? I think we have all felt that way in one time or another. The trouble begins when we constantly beat ourselves up over decisions we've made or things we have done that we can no longer change. What has happened, has happened. Accept the fact that the past is behind you, stop feeling sorry for yourself, make the necessary changes in your life and move on. Don't let the past drag down your future.
- Care for others. It's so easy to spend all of our waking moments thinking of nothing but ourselves. I know; I've done it. I would get so preoccupied with my own problems and my own issues that I failed to notice others that were hurting around me. When I began to change my focus from thinking about me all the time to showing concern for others, my world changed. Concern may be something as simple as a kind word or a letter of encouragement or it may involve just 'being there' for someone at a time of need. I began to realize that my situations were not so bad after all and that I really should be thankful for what I did have instead of worrying about what I didn't have.
- Extinguish the hate from the past. One of the hardest things we do in life is when we try to forgive someone for how they may have hurt us. Forgiving someone is something that never comes easy. I used to think that when I forgave someone it meant that I accepted what they did to me. I learned that forgiving does not mean acceptance. Forgiving means that I refuse to allow what this person did to control my life any longer. Lack of forgiveness is like a raging fire in your life that burns out of control. Letting go of the hate extinguishes the fire that engulfs your life and enables you to move on.
There are many experts on the subject of stress and I don't pretend to be one. What I can promise you from my own personal experience is that if you follow the principles above, you will begin to learn how to manage the stress in your life and have the true peace you've been searching for.