I have come to realize that I started down the topic path of the fruit of the Spirit, quite unintentionally mind you. We have been discussing this with my youth group and naturally the fruit of the spirit has been on my mind which is how I come up with topics for my posts. Whatever has been on my mind and I feel will be an encouragement to others are my topics of choice. As a result of my preparation to teach the youth group, I have landed on the topic of peace. When I think of what takes away my peace, I think of worry and anxiety. Although I have spoken about these to a point, I feel it could use further consideration. So, what does it mean to have true peace?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has a few good definitions of peace.
1: a state of tranquility or quiet
2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3: harmony in personal relations
b: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
5—used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
: in a state of concord or tranquility
Almost two years ago, I struggled with stress and anxiety quite often. I learned at some point that there were many physiological reasons for how I felt. Some of how I felt was due to external reasons and much was due to my mental state at the time.
First, I was drinking quite a bit of caffeine and using tobacco, mostly cigars which eventually led to me smoking again. These habits were the first ones I changed that started my journey toward peace. I will tell you it took prayer and meditation to quit doing these things because I had been a smoker before and had quit for about 10 years. That is why they say, “Once a smoker, always a smoker.”
I still have moments, even in my current wisdom, when I feel the desire to partake in a cigar or cigarette again. Thank God for the power to resist this temptation each time it comes to me. I have so many things I want to do, and smoking just doesn’t fit my plans. This is the key to quit by the way, other things become more important than the habit.
Caffeine was not so much of an addiction as it was just a habit, so replacing this with non-caffeinated herbal teas was not really a problem for me.
Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants which increase the stress hormone cortisol, which means you are more likely to either stress or be anxious throughout the day.
Someone might say, “I started smoking because I was stressed and thought or was told that it would calm me down.” It might have given you a very temporary feeling of calmness because your mind told you it would, however, every time you feel the need for another one, the only way to reduce the stressful feeling of needing the fix is to have a smoke. Now, you have added an element of stress to your life that was not there before. You be asking yourself, when and where can I have another smoke, do I have the money to buy another pack, can the people around me smell it, am I being judged by others, etc.? Smoking is just way too stressful for me! If you are currently struggling with either of these habits, stop now if you are hoping to find peace.
Second, I started meditating and changed my diet. Just these two things alone make up the bulk of my peace providing activity. I hadn’t even started working out yet! Knowing that I was an emotional eater who was quite mal nourished even though I was eating so much food, I knew that beginning to eat better would change my stress level for sure. I spent some time watching Food Matter TV and reading up on meditation and health topics so that I knew what worked for me and what didn’t.
Third, I started practicing Yoga, a very easy yoga that could be done mostly from a seated position, and going on more walks. I also started getting better rest, ending my evening closer to 9pm rather than 11pm. Nothing beats a good night of restorative sleep. I was amazed in the difference in how I felt both physically and mentally after making these changes!
For a non-believer this is about the best advice I can give toward feeling at peace and lowering your anxiety. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we have so much further to take ourselves to a state of peace and tranquility, which encompasses the rest of the definition of peace.
I was given the following video to watch by a student at school. The student who gave this to me is one who struggles daily with “…disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions” and with his faith in God. This video from Clayton Jennings has given him, and me for that matter, a reminder of the freedom and hope offered through Christ against anxiety.
Finally, the verses found in Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:28 have been a great encouragement to me that I am taken care of, removing my need to worry. To summarize these versus; God loves and cares for us so much that he will meet our physical needs. We should not worry about the future and whether our needs will be met because each day has enough worry of its own. I encourage everyone reading this to read the scripture I have given here so that you can see for yourself why you should not worry as long as you have a relationship with God. If you haven’t noticed, I am a believer and I struggle daily, sometimes hourly with sin and bad choices. I do not profess to be perfect, I am far from it, only that I will try to move closer to perfection as my relationship with Christ grows. I do not get anxious or worry as often any more because I remind myself whenever it starts to happen that God has always and will always provide for me. Through Him, I can truly be at peace.