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Faith and Stress

answered 11:32 PM EST, Wed January 02, 2013
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anonymous anonymous
I am a father of 3, a small business owner and a caregiver to my elderly mom who has dementia. I am just feeling so stressed and so totally overwhelmed. I have tried to cut out non essential responsibilities and commitments so what I am left with is just the core of it and I can’t cut down any further without becoming a neglectful father, a neglectful businessman and employer or a neglectful caretaker. I am Jewish and I believe in God and I pray every night. This feels weird to be writing this but I need to get more from my faith. Is this a wrong thing to want? It feels selfish but I feel like my faith could be a comfort against the stress that is killing me…but I am not sure how to make this happen. This is hard to explain. Do you have any recommendations for how my faith can help me to deal with stress?

Rev. Christopher Smith Says...

Rev. Christopher Smith C. Smith

The questioner raises an example of a situation where obligations create a buildup of stress resulting in a turning to one's faith to be able to better cope with the situation.

The example situation describes having examined everything that is going on and having eliminated anything that is not essential. This is a good step to engage in as often there are things in our life that we can get rid of to be able to relieve some of the stress in our life. However, there is a non-intuitive truth that occurs here as well. There are some nonessential things in our lives that help to relieve stress as well. When we cut them out, we end up removing some of the way we deal with stress. For example, someone may enjoy running a few times a week but recognize that this is taking a few hours out of their time, yet the very act of running is burning off some of the tension and stress that is building up. Social outlets may also be an area like this.

In terms of looking to one's faith, there are several ways to look at how one's faith interacts in the situation.

The first faith perspective would be to consider whether there are accounts in your sacred texts that relate to your situation and which can offer you hope. Coming from a Jewish perspective, what was G*d's response when the chosen people were working too hard and not having enough time to live full lives? What cries have the people made in the psalms? What do these, along with the answers you are getting from prayer, tell you about your situation?

Looking at your prayers, what are you praying for? From where have you modeled your prayers? Are you praying just for yourself? Are you praying for your children, workers and mother? Are you remembering others in the world? How have you used the special prayers that come along with the festivals and feasts that occur during the cycle of the year?

Have you asked what your vocation is? What does G*d require you to do in your life? What is G*d's calling on the lives of the people around you? These are questions that we often do not ask but often these contain great insight into our situation. Sometimes we are called to address things in a different way that when we first thought about them may have seemed neglectful.

Drawing on a Jewish background, what are you doing to ensure that you take a sabbath break each week? If G*d rested on the seventh day, why do you think that you can go seven days a week around the clock without a break? Observing the sabbath is a discipline that has a purpose. It will take some effort to get into it, it may seem like something that is impossible, but once you start to do it it is easier to do than you thought.

When looking to your faith, use the fullness of your faith as you approach a situation. As you do this, you will find that you can achieve the shalom that you seek and that G*d really does wish for you to experience wholeness and peace.

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Page last updated Jan 03, 2013

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