Theresa Thomas
Everyday Catholic
July 17, 2018 // Perspective

Navigating the stresses of life

Theresa Thomas
Everyday Catholic

A trick to staying positive and relaxed each day amidst life’s stressors is to build yourself a little mental “ponder box.” Imagine a cardboard box that you might buy at a craft store. Decorate it mentally with some pretty fabric, perhaps some ric rac, lace or a satin ribbon. Choose a color or pattern you love. Blue checks. Subtle florals. Whatever it is you like.

Is it in your head?

In that mental box you are going to gather memories of things you love. An unexpected kindness that someone showed to you that knocked your socks off. A compliment received. The pride you felt as your child played his little tune on the piano at a recital or simply in the living room. The day your husband proposed. How you felt when you sneakily did a kindness for someone. The smile on that person’s face. When your child overcame some challenge. The way the ocean looked as the sun set the last time you were there. The smell of a baby’s breath. The decorated altar at Christmas. The way your cold, fluffy pillow envelops you and smells fresh. The feel of your toes in the sand. The way the glass vase sparkles in the kitchen when the sunlight hits it just so. A really good conversation when you felt understood. A chance meeting with an old friend. How you felt the day your daughter was born and you realized you were a mother. And so on.

How about adding some little meditations of truth just for good measure? These might be the following thoughts: God loved you into existence. He didn’t need to create you but He created you out of love so you may one day enjoy heaven and all the glories there with Him. Your existence is His gift to you. Even if you were the only person in the world, God would have sent His Son Jesus to die for you on the cross and redeem you. You are worth just that much to Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Simply, God loves you. Even if … even though … yes.

Put those things in your mental ponder box.When you are doing some menial task, pull out one of those memories from your ponder box and simply enjoy the thought, contemplation or memory. Come up with more if you wish, and your ponder box will grow. When you get a phone call that jolts you, or have a conversation with a person that upsets you, pull out one of those memories from the ponder box. When you feel your stress level rising, or something suddenly comes up that you need to do, get out the ponder box.

When you do this, when you shift your thoughts from the negative intrusion to the positive truths, your load will automatically be lightened. You will often find an unexpected smile on your lips. And that automatically resets your brain. There is a science behind smiling and you can read about it easily by Googling the topic. Basically, smiling, even a forced deliberate smile, biologically and psychologically relaxes you. It’s your refreshment. Results from testing indicate that people who smile often enjoy lower heart rate levels and less stress hormones in their systems. I’m guessing they are also more pleasant to be around and can more easily be channels of grace to their family and friends when relaxed.

It takes practice to shift from negative to positive, to take good thoughts from your mental ponder box and replace those with the thousand annoyances in front of you, but with a little effort, you can do it almost automatically.

So, build a lovely, mental ponder box and fill it with all that you love. Then practice pulling out the contents at the moments you need them most.

You have a lot of wonderful life experiences that God has blessed you with. Take them out with gratitude, and let them help you become a better person.

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