The Importance of Extending Grace to Ourselves

A couple of weeks ago, I shared how I’ve struggled with stress and anxiety quite a bit but have also experienced a lot of healing in that area. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean worry doesn’t still flare up in my mind once in a while. I’m not talking about the fleeting worrisome thought here and there. I’m talking about worry that can occupy lots of time and attention. Last week was one of those times. Usually, when this happens, my immediate reaction is to either fight it, panic, get frustrated with myself, or a combination of all three.

At times in the past I’ve experienced anxiety that has been quite debilitating. The thought that I might slip back there is pretty frightening. The frustration comes because of how far I’ve come and how quickly, and seemingly out of nowhere, I can slip backwards.

I think stress flared up last week because I was preparing for a two-week business trip. But I’ve taken this trip probably 10 times. I should be used to it and shouldn’t be stressed getting ready, right? On top of that, I’m going to Hawaii. It should be totally blissful, right? I shouldn’t experience stress in one of most relaxing places on earth, right? At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

The eastern shore of Kauai. Photo taken Sunday when I arrived in Hawaii.

All of those thoughts just serve to compound the stress and make me feel even worse. In fact, they are much worse than what initially made me stressed. They obviously represent unrealistic expectations. When I step back and get some perspective for a minute I remember that it is totally normal to experience some stress and anxiety from time to time. It can even be helpful. It is our body’s natural way of getting us ready for a challenge. Just because I’m experiencing a little anxiety doesn’t mean I’ll end up where I was years ago. I’ve grown too much for that to happen and I’m so much better equipped to deal with it than I was back then. Also, it is completely natural to get a little tense when getting ready for a long, busy trip, with all of the details that need to be arranged and planning that needs to be done, even if it is to a paradise like Hawaii.

In that place of perspective, I’m reminded I need to extend myself some grace. We all have our struggles and no matter what they are, it is going to be tougher at certain times than others to deal with them. One day it might be smooth sailing, then the next we find out selves in the middle of a torrential storm. Our personal challenges have a way of acting up like that. By not blaming ourselves and showing ourselves some compassion we can really reduce the amount of pain we experience and get ourselves back on track more quickly.

I’m convinced that no matter what our situation or personal struggle, we all could benefit from cutting ourselves some slack. Most of us probably find it fairly easy to extend grace to others but have much more trouble doing the same for ourselves. I know that is true for me. My internal dialogue can be pretty self-berating. I know from talking to others, many people experience the same thing. I wonder how many of us would talk to a friend or a loved one the way we often talk to ourselves. I’m guessing not many of us. So, why don’t we offer ourselves the same grace?

As I go into this trip I’m resolved to be more gracious with myself. I’m going to gently and patiently employ some practices I’ve learned to help reduce stress and anxiety. I’ll remember how much I actually love working in Hawaii and how blessed I am to have this opportunity. I’ll be reciting some of my favorite bible verses that act as a soothing balm when I’m worried (see below). And last, but certainly not least, I’ll to do my best to trust God and try to be in each moment knowing that he’ll take care of it, as well as the next one and all the ones that follow.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT) And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Zechariah 4:6 (NLT) Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.