Healthy Eating, Less Stress

frss

Stress and Food

               Many recent studies confirm the importance of healthy eating. Starting with a broad study links obesity with stress. If you’re overweight, you may be at greater risk for stress-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study. Moving to more specific studies like this one, showing how fruit and vegetable consumption is not only good for physical well-being, but also mental health.

Foods that fight stress include:

  • High-fiber carbohydrate food
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Foods that enable stress that should be avoided:

  • High fat-food
  • High sugar foods
  • Caffeine

Below are nine nice visualization of how many fruits/veggies you should be eating in a day:FruitandVeggiesThis is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Daily Recommendations. The CDC reported in 2010 that only 33% of adults were eating the daily recommended amount of fruit, and even fewer —27% — were meeting their veggie quota. They went on to explain in a 2000 calorie daily diet a person needs to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables everyday.

 

Better Brain Health

I’ve been studying some stress management techniques. Here recently one of my favorite experts to glean knowledge from is Dr. Daniel Amen. Amen offers several tid bits of applicable knowledge that everyone can use to have a healthy brain and a lot of it we have heard before from our grandmothers, mothers!:

1. Do Regular Physical Exercise
2. Use a helmet when riding a motorcycle, bike or any other ATV
3. Limit toxins to the brain: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, street drugs
4. Get more than 7 hours of sleep per night
5. Avoid chronic stress as much as possible
6. Learn new things
7. Dance
8. Take multi-vitamins, fish oil, Omega-3s, 5 htp, etc
9. Eat healthy-blueberries, beans, pumpkin squash, salmon, tuna, walnuts, yogurt, spinach, broccoli
10. Drink lots of water
Bonus tip- Imagine that your hands are warm. Yes this sounds different and weird but trust me, when you are in a stressful environment your hands will get cold. If you imagine that your hands are warmer than they really are, then this type of biofeedback actually helps your body! Try it!

Monday Manifesto

I believe you! I believe you can manage your stress. I believe that you can be free from the heavy burdens that seem to be pulling you down. I believe that you can direct your thinking, learn to relax and take control of all areas of your life. I want you to live in a world where stress and anxiety are not ruining your life. I want you to live in a world where you are liberated from unhealthy habits and distress. Here is what I know for sure: life is a balancing act. We must take care of our self. This balance is a holistic view of self. Life needs examined and challenged for full potential and growth.
I want to help you live that way. This is my mission and my manifesto.

Where you are, you are

Often times we hold images in our minds from our harshest critic. 
We can be kind to others. We are shepherds and we are caretakers to others.
Although we are awfully hard on our own self. 
In reality both sides are battling it out inside of our heads. Imagine the old cartoons, where there is a devil (or a critic) on our left shoulder and an angel, (the caretaker) on our right shoulder. Both are whispering in our ears, what we need to hear. I challenge you to take five minutes to think through and write down what each voice has been telling you. If you are being honest with yourself, you will hear your own inner-critic first and then notice your strengths, second.
It is natural for our minds to be so focused on the negative first. Although, we can learn to control our thinking. The first step is practicing being mindful. Try being here-and-now. Do not focus on what you have to get done in two hours or later tonight. Be present with yourself, right here and right now. First this starts with breathing. 
Keep your eyes open but just focus on your senses rather than your thoughts. Notice the environment and what you are feeling, sensing, breathing, seeing around you ….
What are you seeing? Look only at one thing at a time. If you are thinking about what you are thinking and interpreting, you are no longer being mindful. Attempt to perceive without judgments, interpretations, evaluations or too much  input from the brain. You should have a running commentary of what you are experiencing right now.
 This exercise was meant to help us become more alert and aware of our surroundings. Mindfulness is “thinking about thinking.” We do have some control over our thinking.  We call this being “mindful.” Being mindful can help us de-stress and relax. Doing this meditation will help you be more present in the here and no, not distracted by thoughts and judgments. At work, be fully attentive and present at work. But then at home, be fully present with your family, instead of focusing on your thoughts and worries of work.
Next week, I will offer some more techniques to help you de-stress and be even more mindful.

Don’t do it alone

This is part two  on the topic of social self-care as a pastor. Here are some ideas for connecting with other pastors in the community:        
1. Make use of and promote Board of Pensions and denominational resources for clergy wellness.
2. Make available clergy and educator support groups and clergy spouse support groups.
3. Contract with local resources to provide confidential therapy services for clergy, educators, and their families.
4. Encourage ―Facebook or other online support/interest groups.
5. Write boundary expectations into calls and covenants for clergy and educators whereby the congregation agrees that their spending time with spouse and family is expected, days off are protected, and participation in the activities and leadership within the local community is encouraged.
6. Either in the church‘s call or the presbytery‘s budget have funds available for clergy/educators recreational activities or hobbies.
7. Form a pastoral care team and/or have a designated pastor-to-pastors and chaplain for spouse of clergy or educator.
8. Be creative in sponsoring clergy and educator retreats and outings (cruises, fishing contests, golf matches, tickets to concerts and civic events, tours or trips).
9. Arrange for corporate contract membership fees for the YMCA, YWCA, or a health club within the bounds of presbytery.
10. Sponsor health fairs and wellness contests for clergy/educators and their families.
11. Form a mentor-colleague program with means for accountability to make sure  contacts are being made. (Don‘t forget retired pastors and ministers serving in a setting other than the local congregation.)
12. Develop a ―First Call‖ program for new clergy retention and wellness.
13. Sponsor annual clergy, clergy/spouse, and educators retreats.
14. Consider sponsoring quarterly district luncheons.
15. Acknowledge clergy/educators‘ anniversaries, birthdays, ordination dates, etc.
16. Sponsor continuing educational workshops and courses for clergy/educators that have nothing to do with congregational ministry (beginner‘s golf or tennis lessons, foreign language series, ―how to‖ water ski, fish, snow ski, bowl, sail, or bird watch – use your imagination!)
17. Make sure spiritual resources are available and their use encouraged by clergy/educators and their spouses.
18. Sponsor movie/theater/concert groups.


Most pastors understand their call to ministry as extending beyond just the activities of their local congregation. In a parallel fashion to having responded to an inner-sense that moved them to enter the ministry, so they develop an interest in some particular aspect of their call that extends beyond their particular congregation. It may be an ecumenical or even inter-faith ministry in the community, a national issue about which they feel passionate, or an activity in their denomination‘s work.
In support of the vocation of pastors, what if the presbytery occasionally lifted up and celebrated these many trans-congregational ministries of their pastors? A first step in support would be simply to have conversations with the pastors about a particular area of ministry in which they feel most passionate. Even the opportunity to name that for someone else and share what they are doing in that area would feel good.
A second step would be to provide a venue by which that area of ministry might be celebrated. That might begin by collectively celebrating the many areas of ministry in which people are engaged. You might say at a public gathering, ―In our conversations we have learned that the clergy of our denomination, in addition to their work in their congregations, are engaged in the following areas of ministry. And then have the body participate in a litany that named and thanked God for having called pastors to participate in these areas of ministry. If the numbers were not too great, it would be good to name the pastors even as you identified the areas. For example, ―John Smith, Ellen Jones, etc have devoted their gifts in a ministry to feed the hungry.‖ To which the body would respond, ―We thank God for their efforts on behalf of the least of these, our brothers and sisters.‖ Then proceed to the next area of ministry to be identified. If it was a large presbytery, you might want to break the recognition down into geographical areas and celebrate one area at each meeting (See the adaption of Psalm 111 Litany of Celebration).

A third step would be to invite a group of clergy with a similar focus to develop a short presentation to the body about their work. Simply drawing them together to talk about their similar efforts would have its own value. The public presentation might stimulate others who might be interested in that area as well. All of this would be a presbytery‘s way of nurturing the larger sense of call among their clergy.

Don’t be a lone ranger

As a pastor, it is easy to go it alone. It is not uncommon for pastors to feel lonely and not have any true friends. This pattern needs to end. God created you to be social creature. Yes you have a calling to be a pastor. Yes, you are called to high things, but you are also called to do this life together with friends. You are not made to be alone in this journey.

 Pulpit & Pew’s 2001 national clergy survey asked pastors how often in the past year they had felt “lonely and isolated in their work.” About 17 percent said “very often” or “fairly often” and another 51 percent said “once in a while.” Only 32 percent said they had never felt lonely or isolated.

Loneliness and isolation were the single greatest predictor of overall job dissatisfaction. Generally, those who had the highest levels of loneliness were the most likely to be dissatisfied in their ministry, while those who reported little or no loneliness had the highest levels of job satisfaction.
Another Pulpit & Pew study also found a strong link between loneliness and clergy dropout. In that study, researchers interviewed ex-Catholic priests who had left the priesthood within five years of ordination. They found that isolation and a lack of close friendships were one of the most important reasons the former priests cited for quitting the ministry, second only to celibacy.
 Here are some ideas to get you started in finding some social care in your life:
1. Don‘t burn your former bridges. Keep close phone and/or Internet contact with best friends or close family members.
2. Seek new friendships in social and community settings that fall outside of the boundaries of your local congregation. You will not develop outside of church friendships without actively placing yourself in social situations where friendships may develop.
3. Form cordial and friendly relationships with church members but be judicious about divulging too much personal information. Other church members get jealous of the clergy and spouse‘s ―in church relationships. Also, many a clergy family has felt betrayed by a close friend when church conflicts surface.
4. Seek other clergy (along with clergy spouses) for support and fellowship.
5. Make it a priority to have some personal, outside of church interests, hobbies, sports, or goals. Pursue your passions!
6. Therapy is good for the soul. Don‘t neglect your emotional self, especially if you are in pain.
7. Become part of a clergy (or clergy spouse) support group, lectionary study group, spiritual formation group, book club, etc.
8. If single, date outside of your church‘s membership.
9. If married or in a relationship with a significant other, have a set weekly ―date night.
10. Take all of your vacation time and study leave and make sure it‘s away from your local community.
11. Your calendar is your friend. Schedule your recreation as you would your church committees. Take your weekly days off. On those days,―Thou shalt do no church work! (Eleventh Commandment)
12. If married, make a list of future goals and activities that you would like to experience together (e.g. hiking in the Andes, skydiving, kayaking the Amazon, picnicking in a secluded meadow, bird watching, gardening, etc.).
13. Seek out someone to be your pastor and/or spiritual director. What other creative suggestions can you add? Share these strategies with other pastors and spouses. Be willing to contact your presbytery committee on ministry if problems arise. 


 This is part one, I will post part two next week.
                 

Jesus, even in high demand, rested

Imagine a situation with me. If you felt called by God to walk into a cancer ward and to pray for an individual and image that God healed that person. Immediately. The newly healed person felt healed and there was absolutely no sign of the cancer in this person anymore. You and this person would be ecstatic and jumping up and down on the bed. The nurses and doctors would not know what to do. Then as you walked out of the room, you felt God call you to another room to pray for someone else. Then imagine a similar situation occurring, where God heals the person you pray for. If this continued to happen time and time again, at the very least another sick person with cancer would be calling you, more likely the doctors would want to know what you were doing and even more likely the news would be putting you on the spotlight.

This is just one fictional example of what it might be like to experience what Jesus might have experienced. Can you picture it? Jesus must have been in high demand! There must have been word out of his miraculous healings and wonders. I am sure that people were well aware of what he was doing and I imagine that people wanted his time and his healing touch.

Jesus models something else for us that we really need to take into consideration. Jesus took breaks. He rested. He went away to be alone with God, even in his busiest season. Even when people were still hurting and in need. Even when Jesus was demanded and reached a celebrity status of his time….He went away to be with God alone:

Mark 1 : 35 (NIV): Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Mark 6:46- Jesus, after a busy day of healing people, sent people away so that He could be alone in prayer. If you continue reading the chapter there are still people lined up looking for Jesus (v. 55). Again in Matt. 14: 22-23, Jesus dismissed the crowds, so He could go to the mountainside by Himself to pray. Jesus’ priorities were very clear.  Luke 5:16 says that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. This was a habit for Jesus. Jesus quietly slipped away again and again, as it is mentioned in Luke 9:10 also.

Jesus rested on the Sabbath and went to the synagogue (Lk. 4:16), the equivalent of going to church on Sunday. The morning before choosing His twelve disciples, Lk. 6 reports that Jesus spent the night in prayer. Throughout His time on earth as a human, Jesus modeled the importance of taking time off to recharge. This involved a lot of prayer. His source truly was God the Father. We too can follow this example and knell before the Lord God, our Father for strength and refreshment as well. 

What I learned selling books door to door

Alright, so during the summer of 2006 I sold books door-to-door in Columbia, Missouri in an attempt to pay for college tuition and rent. As it turns out, I was not much of a salesman. That summer was one of the most challenging summers of my life. I learned a lot about myself, how to sell and ho to work hard no matter what.

While I did not walk away from the experience as a rich man, as others actually did, I did grow as a person in four major areas: time management, positive self talk, self-care and a having a business mentality or mindset.

Let me explain: In time management, I learned to break days into manageable sections. Selling books door-to-door, my team woke up everyday at 5AM. We showered, ate breakfast and drove to our locations. We had to knock on our first door at 7AM. Then we were not allowed to come back home until 10AM where we ate diner and went to bed. This routine started over again Monday -Saturday. Sundays were hardly a day off, since we had to travel three hours to get to an all-day business meeting with other link-minded book salesman in the same larger geographical region.

The thing about time management, first was focusing in. Focus on the first 3 hours. Map out a game plan and work hard for 3 hours. Do not think about lunch or tomorrow, push hard and focus in on the next potential customer.
The second time management tip is the more obvious stuff. There is no time for emails, going to movies, museums, football games, etc….This is not tourism nor a vacation. This is earning wages and working hard.

During the week-long training in Nashville, before heading out to Columbia, we were given a lot of training on selling, thinking like a business person and  we did a lot of practice role-play to get ourselves ready for the actual summer. After the role-plays, mentors and business experts gave us a lot of tips and feedback. They taught us to think positively. They showed us how to do positive self-talk. In between doors, on our drive from home to our locations and even during potty-breaks we were suppose to sing or shout, “It’s going to be a great day!” and “I am a selling machine!” I was pretty unfamiliar with this idea of positive self-talk up until this point in my life. Especially after a complete rejection from a potential customer who is threatening to call the cops, it really is encouraging to look at the positives instead of getting our psyche thrown off by a ragging homeowner. Even if the positive self-talk was just lies, it was still encouraging.

Okay, well with self-care, I learned how to control my energy level. These were long days, even longer weeks. And as I mentioned earlier, I was not very good at selling. So often times, I came away empty handed. The first few weeks I was adjusting to the ridiculous schedule I was not able to focus in on one three hour time block at a time. I was worried about the entire day and that was draining my energy level. Once I figured out how to focus in on the three hour time block, I was able to get my mind off of the worries of the day and just focus on the next street. Each street was a treasure hunt to find a customer. My positive self-talk told me, “someone on this street was going to purchase books today!” I am blessed to have learned this crazy skill of energy preservation. I used this skill again just this past week at a youth-group lock-in. All of the teenagers were napping by 4AM, I stayed away the entire night and didn’t nap until after the lock-in was complete and I was in my bed at home. Mental self-care was all about focusing in on the successes, that was the only way to survive mentally.

Another part of self-care is that I learned that I do not want to be a salesman. I do not want to be a workaholic that does not have time for anything other than making money. I found my true self and many things that I am not passionate about during this summer. But by going through with the experience I can now relate to people who are feeling burn-out of long work days and of the burn-out of sales.

Finally the main thing I learned is about the business mindset. The company, I sold books with, who will continue to go unnamed, had excellent training materials. I still look back at the sales manual today. The training was a great experience. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for not waking up to the dreaded day of selling books in the summer heat of the Midwest.
So I am blessed to have learned a great deal from my time there that summer. Now I can put these things and other things into practice even today. I encourage others to learn also from my experience instead of through the hard way!

One simple way to dramatically improve your life

It does seem so simple. From a distance it does not seem like it is even worthy of a drum-roll. Although, it is worth it and so much more. This simple adjustment in your life can reduce your stress level, lift your mood and help you focus on what is important. This key behavior is an attitude modification.  Let me explain:

Instead of reacting to stress or crisis, learn to respond.
Instead of letting circumstances determine our mindset, master the skill of adjusting your attitude despite the circumstances.
Instead of letting the present here-and-now trouble control our emotions and thinking, contemplate hope, realize the trouble is temporary and maintain a positive outlook.

The simple serenity prayer is a great reminder. I say this everyday:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

*[Serenity = peace of mind.]


How-to:

Let me offer some example. Imagine that there is a last minute office meeting in the board room, completely unplanned. You are put on the spot by your boss (the managing director of the building) to present to his boss (the CEO of the company). You are stressing out! The situation is stressful! Your first initial thoughts are not pleasant (“What am I doing?” “What am I suppose to say?”  ” I want to hurt my boss, he should have given me a heads up!” “I am not going to look good.” “I hate this” – you get the idea). That initial thought is followed with emotions (nervous, stress, anxious, scared, embarrassedunprepared, unworthy) and physical sensation (heart racing, mind cluttered, sweating, nerve pain, shallow quick breathing, blushing, chest tightness, tense muscles, light-headed, feeling out of control and fatigue). All three of these (initial cognitive thoughts, body’s reaction and emotional toll) of these naturally lead to a natural behavior (running to the bathroom, being tense and clamming up in the board room, raging anger towards boss in spite or sarcasm or worse a meltdown). 

All of these behaviors are common natural reactions. Although, instead of behaving naturally, it is better to stop at each step and learn how to respond instead of merely react. The concept is simple in theory but in implementation it takes some practice. So first when we have those initial cognitive mental thoughts regarding a stressor, realize these are natural reactions. Everyone has these fleeting thoughts. The first thing we can do is instead of agree and listen to these thoughts, we can ignore them, or better, we can dispute them by thinking about the situation more rationally. 
The second step is in the emotions and physical sensations, again these are natural feelings. At first it is very difficult to ignore these emotions. We shouldn’t. It is good to acknowledge these emotional feelings and research where they are coming from and why. Bottling up emotions is negative. Somethings just talking to someone is the biggest help.
Finally, our behavior. After having a bad day emotionally and cognitively, it is easy to just react with negative behavior. Although, even after dealing with emotions and thinking, we may still desire to do something negative emotionally. We still have to think about it. We still have a choice to make. We can, with some practice, choice to behave in a positive manner, even after a long negative day full of stressors. 

Going back to the example, instead of embarrassing yourself and making the CEO and your boss like fools, you told yourself quietly  that “I can do this!” and “I am awesome.” Positive self-talk disputes the negative thinking. Second you feel the anxiety but instead of letting it eat away at you, you choose to strike a confident posture and breathe deeply through-out the entire meeting. When the meeting is over you talk to your boss privately about how you were actually feeling. Also when you get home, you deal with more of your negative with your supportive spouse (ideally). Finally the behavior in the board room is driven my the positive reaction you are maintaining. Instead of despising your boss and acting immature, you are flexible and professional. You do your best honest work given the circumstances.