Back to School Stress: A Survival Guide
When a hiker decides to leave the comforts of civilization and enter into the thrilling yet dangerous climate of untamed nature, tools for survival are necessary. I have hiked through Yellowstone and Yosemite, I have encountered bison and grizzly bears, but nothing I saw in nature was as stressful as what I see in my kitchen every morning before school!
Here are some Biblical principles to help you transition from summer to the school year with more peace and less stress.
1. Be proactive and not reactive: Jesus said it is out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 15:11). Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” One of the hallmarks of Christianity is heart transformation is needed before true behavior modification is possible. In other words, the heart of the problem is the problem of our hearts.
If we begin the new school year, the new sports season, the new job or taking care of a new baby with a weary old soul, we should not be surprised by the stress we feel. The hope of the Gospel is a new heart filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Ezekiel 36:26, Galatians 5:22-25). As you pack fruit into your child’s lunch box ask yourself, “Do I sense the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ at work in my life today?”
2. What the kids really crave: More than a peanut better and jelly sandwich for lunch, more than the newest video game, more than sports instruction, more than music lessons or dance skills, what kids really desire is for their mommy and daddy to be less stressed.
In her “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three through twelve. Galinsky asked the kids to grade their parents in a dozen areas. Overall parents did pretty well, with both moms and dads receiving a B. Most parents got an A when it came to making their children feel important and being able to attend important events in their lives. The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management. More than 40 percent of kids gave their moms and dads a C, D, or F on controlling their temper. The kids biggest concern was not for more time with their parents, but for their parents to be less stressed (See DeYoung, Crazy Busy, pg 70).
Over-scheduling and over-extending your family, even if they are for good things, can crossover into a loveless home. Jesus’ word to churches can also apply to families, “You have persevered and have endured hardship for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5).
3. Stress is a part of life: Let me be as clear as possible – on this side of heaven, stress will always be a part of life. Our goal is not to eliminate stress. That is an exercise in futility. Our goal is not even to battle stress. That will lead to even more stress. The game-changing principle is this: Don’t focus on your stress, focus on your Savior.
More than busy schedules and high demands, the true root of stress is sin. More than longer vacations, less hours at work, and a stiff drink at night, the solution to stress is the Savior. We desperately need peace with God. This peace that only God can give, will touch every part of our lives.
Jesus reassured a woman with a bad reputation in Luke 7, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” In John 14 Jesus told his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Lastly, in Ephesians 2 we are reminded Jesus HIMSELF is our peace, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”