This weekend, Dave and I will move across several states. While we’re excited for this new opportunity, we grieve the separation from friends and family here. In 32 years, we managed to put down deep roots.
Sweet, life-giving friendships that became family.
We raised our kids in this community.
We’ll trade the mountains for skyscrapers.
We’re 99% packed.
We’re navigating box tunnels.
I wouldn’t want to navigate this transition with anyone but Dave. I’m so thankful for him.
Today, life feels chaotic.
Dave and I find our tempers are short. We speak in sound bites, which is never a good communication practice. 😄 And often, we don’t finish a sentence before we start another thought. Add in navigating the holiday season, and it feels more overwhelming.
Where are you this holiday season?
People talk about experiencing the peace of Christmas.
Yet, you might feel more chaotic than peaceful most of the time. How do you manage your emotions and expectations for Christmas? Perhaps you’re overcommitted. You wonder when you’ll sleep. Or maybe you and your husband are at odds over discovering betrayal from porn use, sexual addiction, or an extra-marital affair. Perhaps you’re dealing with conflicting family expectations.
A few days ago, while praying, we realized we needed to pause. Though life feels chaotic, practicing healthy self and relational care matters.
How do you practice healthy self and relational care during the chaos?
1. Honest communication about the chaos you feel.
Admit your stress.
No human can read your mind. How will they know what you’re feeling, struggling with, upset about, excited about, or anything else if you don’t use your words to tell them? Stop expecting your husband, family, and friends to “just know.”
A week ago, I felt buried by the details of our move and how to finish my planned work before we moved. A dear friend of mine asked how I was doing. Here’s part of that conversation:
Me: I can’t put into words the stress level.
Friend: I’m sure!!!!
Me: I wish I could say I’m good. But I’m not. The last few hours put me over the edge.
Friend: I will take honesty over good any day.🙏
Me: Thank you. I keep leaning into God knowing he has us firmly in his hands. But right now I can’t see the plan. Only the overwhelm.
Friend: . . . Overwhelmed is not from God.
Me:. . .Yes. But it’s my reality. Working through it.
Friend: Take a breath. Get some sleep. His mercies are new every morning. Count on his grace being sufficient.
And I slept better that night. Admitting how I felt without trying to spiritualize or minimize it relieved some of the burden.
2. God-time daily.
It’s too easy to skip your time with God when you feel the time crunch. Not a good plan ever. If anything, you need more time to get anchored in God. Jesus spent hours praying before he faced crucifixion. He needed the strength only God can provide. What makes you think you don’t need that same strength when the chaos overwhelms you?
Prioritize this time with God. Read your Bible. Talk with God about your day. Ask him for strength, peace, perseverance, joy, discernment, and anything else you need to manage the chaos. An amazing thing happens when you do this—God gives you peace in the chaos.
Chaos, stress, and damaged relationships can suck the life out of you. You might not sleep as restfully. During the day, the constant demands of the issue continually strain your emotional and mental capacities. Taking time to recharge is vital unless you want your body to rebel.
Have you noticed that when life has been especially difficult or chaotic, you get a cold even though you typically sail through the cold season unscathed? Pushing yourself beyond your mental and emotional limits often depletes your physical limits.
Take time to rest and rejuvenate. Sleep, yes. But go for a walk outside to refresh your brain and energize your tense body. Get a massage (yes, please!). Sip a cup of tea while listening to your favorite music. Sit in a comfy chair surrounded by a few lit candles but no other lights. Allow yourself space to rest.
4. Relieve the schedule.
Do you run from activity to activity? Are you attempting to meet everyone’s expectations? Are you annoyed that you “have” to be somewhere but don’t want to go? Perhaps you’re overextended.
I’ve noticed an interesting trend during high-stress times. Time demands seem to increase and become more insistent. It seems like everyone wants more of you when you feel overextended.
When Dave and I were in the deepest part of our relational recovery, we only did a handful of things—work, rest, spend time with God, work on our relationship, and attend church on Sunday morning. Even during the holidays.
Take five minutes today to review your schedule for the rest of the year. Triage it. What means the most to you? Do those things. Then, honestly reevaluate the other items.
5. Drink more water.
Stress elevates cortisol in your body, which wreaks havoc on your systems. God designed our bodies to use this cortisol to escape a dangerous situation. But when the stress doesn’t let up, your body sustains damage from the increased cortisol. You experience sleep disruption, elevated heart rate, increased sweat, and tense muscles. Without realizing it, your body has gone into defense mode, and you release more liquid from your body as it processes the stress.
Pay attention to your thirst level. Are your lips dry, and you catch yourself constantly licking them? Do you feel a sudden headache? You can help your body recover from the cortisol by drinking more water. Drinking a soda, coffee, tea, or other beverage won’t benefit your system as much as water.
6. Keep your “normal” schedule as much as possible.
Maintain your wake-sleep routines. Eat at regular times. Maintain your typical daily routines as much as possible. Routines allow your mind to put the energy where it needs to.
Disruption to your regular schedule creates a sense of being off-balance. Chaos and stress do that. So does a broken relationship. While you probably can’t fix the betrayal damage immediately, you can allow your brain space to process the betrayal by keeping your typical schedule. Too many changes at once only increase your stress, and you’ll feel it in your body.
7. Eat when hungry. Focus on life-giving foods.
Some people forget to eat when they experience high-stress levels. Others stuff food in their mouths. Do you know when you are hungry? Can you identify it? Do you understand when you are full?
Help your body have the resources to work through the stressful situation by supplying it with nutritious food. Yesterday, as part of our quick lunch, we enjoyed an orange. For a few minutes, I savored the freshness and juiciness of the orange. I noticed how my body responded. I felt delighted by the taste and refreshment while sensing a short, calm period. I felt energized. Do yourself a favor and focus on food that sustains, not just meets the need to put something in your mouth. I’m telling myself the same thing in this season.
8. Extend patience to yourself and others.
Sometimes, you experience an extended season of stress, like when you and your spouse deal with betrayal trauma. During that season in our relationship, I quickly lost patience. Dave did as well.
Recognize that even in seasons of high stress, God remains present with you. This week, I received an email from The Urban Alternative with a devotional from Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” I love what Dr. Tony Evans encouraged through this devotional (talk about God’s perfect timing):
Don’t worry that you are not perfect. Don’t worry that you’ve occasionally tripped and fallen along the way. The question is: did you get back up and finish the race?
When you don’t have the strength, Jesus will carry you. He will pick you up when you become weak. He will strengthen you when you are tempted to quit. He will boost you up when you start to lose heart. Sometimes you might think that you cannot run any farther. But here’s the good news: if you keep your focus on Jesus, even when you start to tire, He’ll give you a second wind. When you feel too weak to go on, He’ll put His arm around your shoulder and, if need be, carry you across the line.
Often, when you are in the middle of pushing through the stress (the race), you want to quit. You’re tired. You’re down to your last nerve. You wonder if it is worth it to keep trying. I get it. I’ve struggled all week with being patient. Dave and I apologize often because of our impatient responses or nasty words spoken to ourselves.
God gently reminded me to keep running. He’s with us even in a move. My friends, God remains with you, involved in your life, and ready to help you develop more patience. God understands your needs today.
9. Realize this chaos won’t last forever.
Phew! That is good news!
If you deal with betrayal trauma, there is a way to recover and become stronger and healthier. Get the help you need today. That’s your first step.
Often, women ask me if their relationship can survive. The answer is ‘yes.’ If you and your husband or partner are willing to make significant changes, become humble, own your stuff, and do the necessary work. It won’t happen in a day, a week, or even a month. My question is, are you willing to do whatever is necessary to heal and become a whole person?
Just like recovery from major surgery, acute pain lasts a short while. To avoid chronic pain, you do your physical therapy, submit to the healing process, and allow your body to recover.
As you deal with stressful situations, whether moving or betrayal recovery, if you do nothing, you might deal with more stress a year from now. But, if you focus on where you desire to be in a year, two, three, or more, get the professional help you need, and do the work, you discover your expectations for the future do happen. 🙌🏻
Dave and I see the end of this stressful time.
It’s only a few more days to push through. We know we’ll make it. We’re thankful for those who’ve helped get us to the end. We praise God for his faithfulness and reminders, like the one from Dr. Tony Evans, that God gives us the strength to push forward. We can take the next step.
How about you?
Where do you need to swap chaos for peace?
Reread Hebrews 12:1. Meditate on it. How does this understanding affect your life? You won’t run your race perfectly. That’s not the goal. Your goal is to grow deeper in your relationship with God so you can finish your race well. You aren’t running alone. Look around you. Link arms with others heading in the same direction. And most importantly, grab onto Jesus and run alongside him. He constantly exchanges chaos for peace.