Sunday, November 28, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On This Holiday

Keep calm and carry on. That phrase apparently appeared on a rarely used poster that the British government developed in 1939 as it faced the real possibility of invasion from Nazi Germany. Now it's slapped on everything from t-shirts to necklaces. Why is it popular again now? Maybe we all feel like we're on high alert all the time. That's certainly true when you are a caregiver. 

You can't be calm when you are rushing about multi-tasking for all you're worth. The slogan, to me, is an invitation to be a little more sane than that.  To slow down, be more conscious and get more done.

The call to slow down appears many places ... everywhere from Christopher Richards' site  slowdownnow.org  to Bill Hybel's great book, "Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing down to be with God."

As the year winds to its conclusion, we may find the forces that want us to speed up, speed up, speed up pushing even harder that usual.  So how do we stay slow enough to stay calm?

Richards urges us not to try to slow down quickly.  Even finding one special hour a day ... a slow hour ... can be a start. He notes that this was originally what a lunch hour was for, but all of us who eat over a keyboard know that this has changed.  Maybe slowing down will improve the quality of our thought and our work. Maybe this could be an early Christmas present to ourselves: actually taking a slow hour every day.

For Christians, slowing down has become more of a clarion call over the years as pastors point out the devastating impact of excessive work on families and lives. And then there's this: You can't have a strong relationship with God if you don't spend any concentrated time with Him.

Hybels begins by pointing out the importance of acceptance that an authentic Christian needs to protect his or her time to do God's will.  He suggests taking the time to begin a three-step process:  journaling, writing down your prayers and listening to God. This, too, can be an early gift. 

Slowing down brings calm and teaches patience. Caregivers of people with mental illness need that in abundance. The wonderful book, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" by Daniel G. Amen, M.D., also suggested that slowing down, doing breathing exercises and having minute vacations with visualizations, will help the parts of the brain, such as the basal ganglia, where fear and anxiety are sparked. 

So take a step to keep calm and carry on.  You may find a source of strength that you didn't expect.

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