Summer is coming to a close. This is a time of new beginnings, perhaps just as much as Spring-time. Back to school, back to heavier workloads. Summer is considered to be a carefree time, with less worry and woe. Perhaps this is not truly the case for many, but it certainly calls into question what it is we are to do when a more busy, post-“summer” time is approaching.

This introduces my topic for this month of understanding and reducing stress. Are you burdened by relationship troubles, financial strain, or work pressure? Perhaps the responsibility of caring for your children and getting them back to school. You may be feeling alone in your battle with an illness or with some other daunting obstacle. I am willing to guess that you and stress are familiar with each other, and that if you were to take a moment to consider your personal needs and goals, one of the first things you would mention is to “not be so stressed out.”

So let’s start thinking about what that means.

The first thing I invite you to do is to retire the phrase “stress reduction” altogether. This double-negative phrase can in fact perpetuate a tendency to focus on the negative, which allows unhealthy stress to take hold of us. Also, consider that there is in fact a healthy kind of stress. Stress can be motivating, and can give us clues about changes that need to be made in our lives. So, rather than targeting stress reduction, let us envision a positive addition to our current state of being that might help feel closer to where we want to be, emotionally, physically, and/or relationally.

What will your new focus be? I encourage you to formulate an idea of what you want more of, rather than less. Is it peace? Freedom? Hope? What are some tools that get you there? Forgiveness? Self-care?

Future posts in this category will help us learn together what stress really is, and how to be free from the negative effects of it.