Building a Bigger Beaker


By Emily Robbins

Let’s talk a bit about stress.

We all have quite a bit of stress in our lives. It can affect our physical and mental health, our ministries and our personal relationships.

I have spent a lot of my time in ministry trying to figure out how to decrease the amount of stress in my life. A combination of good things and a busy schedule add up to stress: things like youth ministry planning, listening for God’s voice and direction, time with church and youth ministry staff, social media, life and work balance, training for a marathon…it all adds up to a lot of stress! We all have a different amount of stress that we are able to hold. And we all have different ways of responding when the stress gets too much!

Loosely translated, stress is our body’s physical response to demands or adverse circumstances. It’s our body’s way of protecting us by keeping us focused and alert.

And it is not good for us to live in this heightened state all of the time.

I haven’t been able to figure out how to get rid of my stress. No matter how many Sabbath days I take or how much I pray or how much I run – the stress is still here. And in some ways I have felt like a failure because I haven’t made my stress go away. No matter what I do the stress and stressors are still present.

So how do we live our lives with stress and stay healthy?

Slide1I learned something this past spring that helped me change my perspective about stress. Stress isn’t going to go away. Who knows, maybe we aren’t supposed to make the stress go away. In many circumstances it may be good that we have stress to help us take personal risks or finish projects; but whatever it is, we have to learn how to handle it differently. We need to create a way to hold our stress in a bigger container.

Imagine that you have a beaker and every day your beaker fills up throughout the day with different stresses. Everyone has a different capacity for the amount of stress that they can hold; but at some point your beaker overflows and you can’t handle it. And if your beaker starts to reach the overflow point every week or every few days, that’s not healthy. And its not sustainable.

So… we’ve got to build a bigger beaker!

And the way you can build a bigger beaker is by figuring out what brings you peace and helps you hear and remember that you are beloved! It doesn’t stop the stress from coming, but your capacity to handle the different stressors grows when you take the time to build a bigger beaker.

Take a moment to think about the ways that you are already building a bigger beaker for your stress. Do you do this often? What are other ways that you could continue to build a bigger beaker?

I am not always great at remembering to work on my beaker building. But there are two basic ways I build a bigger beaker each week. One is by spending some time in silence by myself either reading, or praying while hiking; and my other way is lots of laughter, especially with my husband in the evening.

I have been so thankful to realize that I’m not a failure when I can’t get rid of the stress in my life. It’s so much easier to slow down and increase my capacity for holding the stresses.

So let us know – what are ways that you build your bigger beaker?