3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better

Throughout most of my life, I’ve known I need to learn how to manage stress. While I am aware that I need to take care of myself and my relationships (with God, family, others), I also know there’s lots of room for improvement.

I’ve always said, I do well with vacation time, okay with days off, but not so well with the other six days of the week. Given the nature of our work, it’s easy to be “on” 24/7 (or at least when I’m awake). I like to get an early start, and it’s possible to fill all of the “gaps” with work. There’s certainly nothing wrong with working hard (I can’t imagine not being a hard worker), but gap time (devotion, rest, solitude, family time, etc.) are vitally important to health–and effectiveness–too!

I’ve also always thought I handle stress pretty well, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but I don’t think my body handles it very well, physically. A week ago Thursday, I experienced some “warning signs” that I’m taking as a wake-up call to learn how to manage stress. (I may say more about this later.)

The following day, I spent some reflective time in prayer, repenting of bad habits and making some new (or renewed) commitments. Here are three primary actions I’m working on …

1. Play more, especially with Ethan and Sarah.
As a parent, there are some things we do well. For example, we’ve been extremely consistent with family devotion time (even when one of us is at a meeting, the other leads this time with the kids). But there are areas in which I don’t do as well. I don’t play enough. Too often, it’s easy to let the kids play together on their own while I fill some gap time with a little more work. Sometimes this is necessary, but other times I simply need to drop everything and play with my kids.

2. Rest more.
Since our jobs are not Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 kinds of jobs, carving out time for rest becomes even more important so that we do not fill all of our days with work. At a minimum, this means taking a break each day to rest, play, and/or take a nap. I’ve always loved Rick Warren’s suggestion of a “daily diversion.” Biblically, this means building in a rhythm of sabbath time.

3. Call a health coach.
Through our health insurance, we have access to a health coaching network, by telephone. In the next few days, I plan to call a health coach to work on stress management (one of the areas they offer help with). (I will likely say more about this later, too).

So, how well do you handle stress? What have you learned along the way? What warning signs have you experienced, indicating you need to make some changes? And, what commitments do you need to make to take better care of yourself and your primary relationships?

More on Rev. Dr. W. Lee Spottswood

Two years ago, I wrote about Rev. W. Lee Spottswood, a Methodist preacher from the 1800s. Spottswood served here in Clearfield 1858-1860. He wrote a book about his life in ministry called, Brief Annals, in 1888 (thankfully, it’s not too brief).

My previous post focused on his experience in Clearfield, but after reading the rest of the book, I want to share some highlights from the other parts, as well. The book is fascinating from the perspective of Methodist history as well as Pennsylvania history and Civil War history.

Spottswood was born in Carlisle, PA. When he was “a student,” he became a Christ follower at a nearby camp meeting after being “strangely warned of God in a dream” the night before (4). Spottswood writes …

When the invitation was given to seekers to come forward to the mourners’ bench, I said to a friend, ‘Come, let us go.’ We went, though, I had no feeling. I sought earnestly for pardon, and, after a long and hard struggle, I found peace” (4-5).

In 1849, Spottswood moved the Lexington, VA. Things were heating up as the nation moved toward civil war. Spottswood was clearly a Northerner; he says he was “loyal.” Serving in Virginia, at the time, was no easy task. He often refers to Southerners as “seceders” and “rebels,” calling the war itself “the rebellion.”

He mentions a visit by Stonewall Jackson …

The controversy … culminated in Lexington in the old Methodist Episcopal Church there. The chief citizens came in crowds to hear it—among them Major Jackson, then a professor in the Military Virginia Institute, and afterwards the famous General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. (92)

In 1851, after a tumultuous time in Virginia, Spottswood moved to Huntingdon, PA. Years later, Spottswood served in Lewisburg as the Civil War came to an end. He reports …

Richmond, Va., fell April 2d, 1865, and Gen. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, April 9th. The aegis and starry ensigns of the Republic were everywhere dominant, transports of joy filled the land, and a nation’s laurels crowned the head of Gen. Grant, the conqueror of peace. (233)

Spottswood had high regard for President Abraham Lincoln. On Lincoln’s assassination, Spottswood writes …

But how soon was the nation plunged from the very height of joy to the profoundest depth of grief. On the night of the 14th of April, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, a young actor, shot President Lincoln in Ford’s theatre. (233)

Spottswood reports on what it was like in churches at the time of Lincoln’s death …

On Sunday morning ‘from every pulpit in the land came the voice of lamentation over the national loss, and of eulogy to the virtues of the good President, who had been so cruelly murdered;’ and the pulpit of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Lewisburg was not an exception. (234)

Later, Spottswood reports that he was invited to make a speech at the dedication of an auditorium. There, he referred to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address …

I spoke of that speech as destined to be a classic, in the English language, that would live and be remembered and quoted when the great oration of Mr. Everett would be forgotten. (274)

He was right.

Spottswood offered an opinion on the itinerant system used by Methodists. He spoke of his disappointment in leaving Huntingdon …

I fully expected to stay. My removal was a sore blow to me, and also to my wife. Her brother—not a member of the church—said to her: ‘Why, Lucy, I was under the impression that you thought the Lord did all these things.’ She answered him, with tears in her eyes and indignation in her voice: ‘O, the Lord had nothing at all to do with it; it was all the work of the old Presiding Elders.’ ‘There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip’—in the Methodist itinerancy. (122-123)

Spottswood mentioned a camp meeting in Warriors Mark, PA. He said this “camp-meeting was rendered notable by the presence of two personages from New York City, viz, Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, the authoress, and her husband” (145). Phoebe Palmer is a well-known name, particularly in the holiness tradition of the Methodist movement. Spottswood notes, “The people hung enraptured on her lips” (145).

Well, there’s a lot of great information and reflection in the book. I’ll mention one last bit of reflection that caught my attention. In addition to pastoring churches, Spottswood also once served as president of Dickinson Seminary (now Lycoming College). In 1866, he was appointed as a “presiding elder” (i.e., district superintendent) of the Bellefonte district.

Spottswood described his years as a presiding elder, rather humorously, saying …

[W]e, free from pastoral care, and not troubled about such questions as these in connection with a parsonage,—Who hacked this? Who sawed that? Who broke this thing? Who soiled, tore, or smashed that?—we spent some of the happiest years of our ministerial life. (238-239)

In Brief Annals, Rev. Dr. Wilson Lee Spottswood left us a fascinating look at the life and times of a Methodist preacher in the mid-1800s!